Advocating for Health Equity in rural Texas: Analillia Aldama says Amerigroup scholarship and MPH degree will help her open school in her hometown

Analillia Aldama, MPH student at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in San Antonio
Analillia Aldama, MPH student at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in San Antonio

Analillia Aldama is a first-year MPH student at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in San Antonio, currently tackling the ambitious challenge of a dual degree program. While pursuing both an MBA and MPH, Aldama’s long term goal is to return to her hometown of Mission, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, and open a Montessori school specifically designed for children with disabilities.

Jumping into a dual degree program right after finishing her undergraduate degree was a big challenge, Aldama said, but when she got a scholarship from Amerigroup for her MPH degree it gave her the financial boost she needed.

“Receiving this scholarship really set the tone for my first semester here because it felt really good to be acknowledged for my capabilities for making a change in the rural communities around us,” she said. “And it helps me to stay out of student debt. I really appreciate it.”

UTHealth Houston School of Public Health has received $50,000 in scholarship funds from Amerigroup Texas, one of the state’s largest coordinators of health care benefits, for San Antonio-based students who are committed to working in rural health.

Amerigroup has funded rural health scholarship programs at three Texas universities this year, including UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, with a goal of increasing health care access and equity in ways that fortify rural communities.

Aldama spent eight years of her childhood in Mexico before relocating to Mission, Texas for safety reasons, and lived there until she moved to San Antonio to attend UTSA in 2018. She said growing up in the Rio Grande Valley she was able to see firsthand the education and healthcare disadvantages that many face in those communities, and it has fueled her desire to change that reality by creating more educational opportunities. Aldama said she is passionate about addressing healthcare inequalities in her hometown and the communities along the border.

Aldama envisions creating a holistic learning environment in her Montessori school that can be geared specifically to children with disabilities, in particular kids with autism. Her ultimate goal is to impact the entire realm of education positively. She said she hasn't picked a focus for her MPH yet, but feels that this degree will give her a deeper understanding of the public health needs of her community.

“We plan to cater to kids with disabilities, and that’s where I feel like public health is going to provide a guide for the right program for the kids,” she said. “And, of course, the business administration degree is going to help me better understand how to run a business.”

She hopes to open her first Montessori school in the valley, but if it’s successful, she would like to expand and open more schools in San Antonio as well. Aldama said she has fallen in love with San Antonio since moving here and sees it as sort of a second hometown that is similar to the valley in many ways. 

“I’ve always said that San Antonio is just like a bigger version of the valley,” she said. “It’s just more open and the opportunities here are just overwhelming. But the needs in the valley are really what I want to focus on. I mean, it’s the valley, most of the people there are minorities, and the fact that there are so many health disparities in that predominantly minority community just doesn’t sit right with me. There are so many ways we could address these problems.”


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