How did your journey bring you to Curry?
Growing up in foster care, it was made clear to me that my only option after high school was to join the military. Because of my family history, any interest I expressed in college was mocked. At seventeen, I enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed in Norfolk, VA. After my years in the navy and the unexpected loss of my mother, I found myself grappling with my sense of self identity, but chose to continue making a life for myself in Norfolk. During this period, I worked various jobs and eventually built up the confidence to follow my chosen path by enrolling in community college. I went on to Old Dominion University and completed my bachelor’s degree in human services. At one point, I met with a counselor whose insight and compassion inspired me to strive for a career in counseling. My drive to help struggling youths carve out their own paths made the school counseling program at the Curry School a perfect match.
What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you've been here?
Many of my courses, due the nature of their content, have directly or indirectly sparked moments of great introspection and reflection. In order to be an effective counselor for others, I first had to reconcile my own feelings of self-doubt. Over the past two years, I have worked hard to overcome my own feelings of being “just a foster kid,” predestined to follow in the footsteps of my mother who couldn’t escape a cycle of trauma and abuse. With the help of many people I have felt a shift in the way I think about myself and have realized my own potential to break the cycle and make myself more than just a product of my circumstances. I hope to be able to support others to do the same.
Is there someone at Curry who has made a special impact during your studies?
One of the greatest privileges of being part of the counselor education program has been forming connections with my professors and members of my cohort, all of whom I have grown to respect and admire. That being said, Dr. Julia Taylor has become a great mentor during my time here at the Curry School. Dr. Taylor has encouraged me in areas where I find confidence and challenged me to grow in areas where I have struggled. Her passion for the profession is infectious and her leadership unparalleled. The counselor education program has taught me that listening to understand is very different that listening to talk. Several moments stand out to me where Dr. Taylor saw and noticed things in me that I thought I kept close to the cuff. There is something to be said about someone that makes you feel heard. When done correctly, it can be one of the most powerful mechanisms for personal change, and this is something school counselors excel at. Listening to someone can have a profound impact, and Dr. Taylor is one of the best listeners and observers I have ever known. I have said I want to be like Dr. Taylor when I grow up and that still holds true.
What is one thing you learned here that surprised you?
When I began my studies at the Curry School, I soon realized that the roles of the school counselors in today’s academic environment are far from those of the guidance counselors of my youth. For many people, the mention of a degree in school counseling conjures up images of a person helping organize class schedules and perhaps assisting with college applications. While these aspects of the profession are still very relevant, in the modern era, school counselors play many additional roles. In addition to assisting with academic planning and college/career advising, school counselors must be prepared to help students with their social-emotional needs and to act as social justice leaders within the school. With the role of the school counselor constantly evolving, I am excited to enter the field and to continue to learn and develop my skills within the profession. I am particularly interested in incorporating the use of data to expand on the school counselor’s capacity to address inequities within the education system.
What will you be doing next?
I am currently in the process of interviewing for positions and am hoping to stay in the Charlottesville area.
How are you feeling about being a member of the Class of 2020 in the middle of these unprecedented times?
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly introduced new levels of uncertainty and isolation as I finish out my degree and start my career. I have missed the face-to-face interactions with my classmates and professors over the last semester and am disappointed to miss out on the traditional commencement ceremonies. It remains unclear what the status of our school systems will be come fall of this year, but I know that the Curry School and the professors of the counselor education program have prepared me to face whatever challenges lie ahead.