Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I chose the CMHS/Professional Counseling program because I wanted to learn from the renowned faculty in the Applied Psychology & Human Development department at Penn GSE. In addition, the other schools within the university offer limitless opportunities for graduate students to pursue intellectual growth and professional development––from the frequent conferences and guest lectures on campus, to the plethora of libraries and research centers.
Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: During the program, I interned in one of the most under-resourced public schools in North Philadelphia. The most important lesson that I learned from this experience was that my work at the micro-level is connected to larger social systems and structures. I graduated from the program extremely connected to the kids at my internship, and concerned for them as people, not just students on my caseload. As a result, I developed a deep interest in issues of equity and justice in education, such as restorative disciplinary practices in schools and the school-to-prison pipeline. Exploring these interests in addition to pursuing my professional development as a counselor helped me realize that the purpose of my work was deeper than just helping students on a personal level. Furthermore, connecting my work to social justice motivated me to advocate for my students beyond the scope of my role as their counselor, and now I do so as an activist and writer, in addition to my work as a direct service provider.
Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A: I entered into the program with no interest in working with children. Yet, I branched out of my comfort zone after the first year, and decided to pursue the dual certification in school counseling. During the second year, I completed two internships in K-12 schools that transformed my understanding of social justice, and, since then, I have become committed to advocating for mental health programs and services in public schools. In particular, I am interested in classroom-level interventions and school-based support services that address childhood trauma. Schools serve as one of the only places where children in Philadelphia can access affordable mental health services, so I am very proud to be able to call myself a school counselor.