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Alumni Donor Spotlight: Nilda Castellanos

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

For the past eight years, Nilda Castellanos (BSW ‘80, MSW ‘81) has served the children of Sun Valley and Sky Harbour Elementary schools with distinction.

A social worker in the Southwest Independent School District (ISD), she has removed barriers to education for the most vulnerable, showing parents how to access food, clothing, transportation and school supplies for their students.

After school, Castellanos continues to serve. As director of education and training for the “Freedom Youth Project Foundation,” she has become a force to prevent human trafficking. Castellanos presents at faculty meetings, parent nights and staff development assemblies. She trains parents, students and staff beyond Southwest ISD. She addressed peers at the Texas School Social Workers Conference last year.

For these efforts, Castellanos has been named Texas School Social Worker of the Year. The award came as a blindside.

“I was shocked,” Castellanos said. “I was so overwhelmed emotionally. I felt very honored, very blessed.”

Marie Phelps, the district’s coordinator of Student Outreach and Services, wrote the nominating letter.

“Since 1993, Mrs. Castellanos has been a true and strong advocate to hundreds of children, families and staff members across Texas,” Phelps wrote. “She has provided countless counseling and mentoring sessions for youth and adults, served in the critical role of crisis responder, coordinated holiday assistance programs, assisted with language translations, conducted numerous home visits, supported military, foster and homeless students, and much more. And she has done this with a peaceful serenity few are able to emulate.”

A former field instructor with the Worden School of Social Service, Castellanos is a regular donor to the Lake Fund.

“I have tremendous respect for the school,” she said. “Not an opportunity goes by that I don’t talk about the amazing education I got there. For me, that was home for years. I love Our Lady of the Lake.”