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HPU students serve in Lubbock with Buckner International

BROWNWOOD – April 23, 2020 – Earlier in the spring semester, Howard Payne University faculty and students spent four days in Lubbock to meet and work alongside staff members with the nonprofit Buckner International. The trip represents the first steps in a wide-ranging collaboration initiated by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Dr. Albert Reyes, president and CEO of Buckner International, and Dr. Cory Hines, president of HPU, on Feb. 12.

HPU’s group was led by Rachel Derrington Bourke, chair of the Department of Social Work and assistant professor of social work; Toni Damron, assistant professor of social work and coordinator of field instruction; and Gina Gibbs, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and instructor of criminal justice. Students in attendance were David Manolof, a senior from Midway, AK, majoring in social work; Alex Mata, a junior from Gatesville majoring in social work; Marisa Miller, a senior from Temecula, California, majoring in social work; Benjamin Olin, a sophomore from Howe majoring in the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and industrial/organizational psychology; Destiny Sharp, a senior from Brownwood majoring in social work; James (Andrew) Taylor, a senior from Brookesmith majoring in social work; and Diana Torres, a junior from Houston majoring in social work.

During the trip, HPU’s contingent met with and received training from Lubbock-based foster care professionals and other local Buckner International staff. Students and faculty also hosted a “Parents’ Night Out” event to provide an evening of child care for area foster families and a “Mom’s Morning Out” event for families in Buckner’s Family Pathway program. Additionally, the group spent an evening working with local mission organization Lubbock Impact.

Bourke commented on the value of experience-centered trips, made possible in part through HPU’s collaboration with Buckner International.

“It’s so impactful when students can gain hands-on experience in this type of work,” she said, “especially when they are practicing with and learning from Buckner’s model programs and exemplary staff. The social work department and the criminal justice department at HPU are very excited to collaborate with Buckner in an effort to train our future professionals on cutting-edge practices used to engage with and heal traumatized individuals. Learning how to offer services that include this specialized trauma-informed care creates better outcomes in systems like education, criminal justice and child welfare. Further, trauma-informed care gives professionals the tools to help their clients reach their full human potential.”

For more information about Buckner International, visit To learn more about Howard Payne University, visit Applications are being accepted for HPU’s fall 2020 semester ( For details, including the wide range of available financial aid options, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: Ten HPU students and faculty members traveled to Lubbock to work with the nonprofit Buckner International. Pictured are students Benjamin Olin, Diana Torres, Andrew Taylor, Marisa Miller, Alex Mata, Destiny Sharp and David Manolof. Not pictured are faculty members Rachel Derrington Bourke, assistant professor of social work and chair of the Department of Social Work; Toni Damron, assistant professor of social work; and Gina Gibbs, instructor of criminal justice and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice.