A Gator Superhero in the Community
By Sheryl E. Taylor
There are fictional superheroes who fight fictional villains, and there are the real superheroes who fight every day for those in our communities.
Allison Guerra (’18) is one such superhero in her community.
The UHD alumna earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 2018. She chose UHD, like most Gators, because of its proximity to home. “I grew up not very far from UHD, which was across the train tracks from my neighborhood,” she said. “It felt like home.”
While completing her undergraduate degree (followed by a Master of Education in Counseling & Development from Lamar University in 2021), Guerra joined AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) as a part-time program assistant.
“I was a dedicated student when I joined AVDA at only 23 years old,” she added. “I guess you'd say this was my first ‘big girl' job.” After earning her M. Ed., Guerra passed the National Counselor Examination to become a Licensed Professional Counselor-Associate.
Now more than six years later, Guerra is AVDA’s Director for the Battering Intervention & Prevention Program (BIPP). In this role, she leads weekly group counseling sessions. “I’m proud that I was able to climb the ladder to my current role at AVDA,” she emphasized. “BIPP provides educational services to men and women who have been violent, abusive, and/or controlling in relationships with their intimate partner and/or family members. Our discussion-based groups focus on personal change to end abusive behavior.”
She continued, “Our mission at AVDA is to end family violence by advocating for the safety and self-determination of victims, promoting accountability for abusers, and fostering a community response to abuse.”
For Guerra, one of the greatest takeaways at AVDA is “the work does not stop, and it is not always easy work, but it is important,” she said. “In our discussion-based groups, it can be a bumpy ride, but it's worth it when I receive follow-ups from past clients reflecting on how much their relationships have improved, and I hear “Thank you so much, Allison. You have really made an impact in my everyday life.”
October is Domestic Violence Month. How can each one of us make a difference? “October is a bittersweet month for me. It is the start of the holidays, time for family, cooler weather, and also a month that reminds me just how important our work is at AVDA,” Guerra said. “I believe to cultivate change we have to speak up and realize that domestic violence is a pandemic. In 2021, the Texas Council on Family Violence reported that 204 Texans were victims of intimate partner homicide (169 women and 34 men).
“Everyone can make a difference by starting a conversation on change, check-in on friends and family, recognize early warning signs of abuse, and believe victims of domestic violence. AVDA offers volunteer opportunities to assist in outreach and support for our Family Violence Program callbacks. Volunteer work is a great way to be involved in the community and assist in ending the cycle of violence.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.