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Melina Acosta

Melina Acosta

Turning a negative into a positive
How one student is breaking mental health stigmas with the help of a scholarship


When her father died by suicide in 2013, Melina Acosta was a freshman in college working toward a kinesiology degree.

While his sudden death shocked her family and disrupted her day-to-day life, Acosta decided to turn her tragedy into something positive. That's when she founded Active Minds, an organization devoted to education and eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

"I spent a lot of time healing and trying to figure out how I could take a negative experience in my life and turn it into something positive and productive," said Acosta, a first-generation student. "That's when I changed my major to psychology and brought Active Minds to campus."

A student-led organization, Active Minds has more than 400 college chapters across the U.S. and Acosta first introduced the organization to UTSA. Currently the group has 30 active members and hosts its major events during Suicide Prevention Month in September and National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in February.

"This organization has allowed me to start the discussion about mental health stigma in hopes of changing and saving lives that might otherwise be damaged or lost to mental illness and suicide," said Acosta who also worked as a research assistant in a psychometrics lab at UTSA.

Now a senior, Acosta credits her success to scholarship support, such as the Great Conversation! Scholarship.

"I've received an overwhelming amount of financial support from donors," said Acosta. "It's enabled me [to seize] a lot of opportunities without financial stress."

Great Conversation! is an annual event bringing together some of the city's top leaders from the business, government, culinary, art worlds and everywhere else in between. Hosted at the iconic UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, the event benefits scholarships in the Honors College, allowing students like Melina the opportunity to pursue their passions.

Most recently the scholarship also granted Acosta the chance to participate in the Archer Fellowship in Washington, D.C. The program brings students from across the UT System to the nation's capital to study and intern with government or non-profit organizations.

"If I could tell the donors one thing, I would say thank you so much for believing in my ability. The support that was invested in me has really gone far. It's brought me here to D.C. and enabled me to do so much more than I ever thought possible," said Acosta.

While in D.C., Acosta will intern at the headquarters of Active Minds. After graduating in May, she plans on pursuing a master's degree in social work and administration in policy practice.

- Yvonne Zamora Byrd

This year's event takes place February 28, for tickets click here. Or for more information contact Kristine Garza, at kristine.garza@utsa.edu or 210-458-6384.