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Janae Williams

3245

Bold Points

1x

Nominee

2x

Finalist

Bio

I am a tenacious inquirer who has a passion of advocating for adolescents from underrepresented identities. My goal is to become a high school counselor who empowers students to exercise healthy coping mechanisms and promote positive life choices through counseling, hands-on service, and mentorship. I want to use my skills to better my community and encourage the people within it!

Education

CUNY Hunter College

Master's degree program
2021 - 2023
  • Majors:
    • Student Counseling and Personnel Services

Elon University

Bachelor's degree program
2014 - 2018
  • Majors:
    • Applied Mathematics
  • Minors:
    • African Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

Academy Of Mount Saint Ursula

High School
2010 - 2014

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Student Counseling and Personnel Services
    • Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Education

    • Dream career goals:

      School Counselor

    • Student Lead of Technology

      Elon University
      2016 – 20182 years
    • Teacher

      Daystar Academy
      2019 – 20212 years

    Finances

    Finance Snapshot

    • Current tuition:

      15,000

      per year
    • I’m paying:

      15,000

      per year
    • Paid by family/friends:

      per year
    • Paid by grants:

      per year
    • Covered by student loans:

      per year

    Loans

      Sports

      Tennis

      Junior Varsity
      2010 – Present14 years

      Stepping

      Varsity
      2010 – Present14 years

      Basketball

      Varsity
      2007 – 202114 years

      Research

      • Mathematics

        Elon University — Researcher/Presenter
        2017 – 2019
      • Clinical, Counseling and Applied Psychology

        Hunter College — Researcher/Presenter
        2021 – Present

      Arts

      • Elon University - Ghana Study Abroad

        Dance
        2018 – 2018

      Public services

      • Volunteering

        Young Life — High School Leader
        2019 – Present
      • Volunteering

        iMentor — High School Mentor
        2019 – Present

      Future Interests

      Advocacy

      Volunteering

      Philanthropy

      Entrepreneurship

      Bold Bravery Scholarship
      I live boldly by mindfully checking in with my body. If something feels “off,” I ask myself “why” to get to the root of the issue and show bravery by seeking professional mental health services even though it is highly stigmatized within my culture. As an aspiring school counselor, I will encourage my students to do the same as I advocate for them. I enjoy uplifting the students that schools may disengage with either because of their perceived race, behavior record, or socioeconomic status. It takes bravery to hold the school’s administration accountable for implementing the necessary recommendations listed within the IEP and/or 504 plans of the student. I am committed to living boldly as a professional by putting my students first. I intentionally chose a career that would allow me to combat the social issues of systemic racism, oppression, and inequality that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students face within the educational system. As a system change agent, I intentionally am determined to obtain the necessary resources for my students. These resources are then able to cater to the improvement of my student’s social, emotional, academic, and mental well-being. I believe being honest and standing up for my students as well as myself are the best ways to live my life boldly. I continuously remain true to who I am by standing up and advocating for the betterment of others daily.
      Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
      My mental health struggles did not become evident until I was in high school. I performed well academically and participated in varsity level sports, yet something felt off inside of me. I began to lose interest in things that initially brought me joy and began to live my life on autopilot - simply going through the motions of each day. Growing up as a Black woman, I cannot recall a time when mental health was openly discussed due to its stigma within the majority of BIPOC communities. My guidance counselors upheld this stigma by focusing on my A’s and ignoring the mental health concerns I tried to vocalize within our quick 15 minute sessions. Thus, I tried to smile and push through each day as a coping mechanism. I did not realize that I had been unconsciously conditioned to respond in these ways in a failed attempt to be viewed as a strong Black woman although I was only a teenager in high school. Eventually, I broke the stigma within my family and sought professional help throughout my college journey. I was diagnosed with chronic depression and prescribed medication. To my surprise, the medication and weekly therapy session worked! I slowly began to feel more like myself and this renewed hope allowed me to dream. My experience with mental health has shaped my life goals as I dreamed of becoming a high school counselor. I want my students to feel heard not only for academic assistance, but also in their social-emotional expression. My desire is to advocate for students who society may ignore because of their perceived race, socioeconomic status, or mental health issues. I want to combat the social issues of systemic racism, oppression, and equality by empowering BIPOC students who are directly affected by a lack of mental wellness to speak up and receive the necessary resources they need for help. Acknowledging my renewed experience with mental health has greatly strengthened my relationships with others. I have become more empathetic and strive to spread kindness wherever I go because I never know what internal struggles people are combatting on a daily basis. It allows me to see people as human beings in need of love, validation, and affirmation that the world can use more of. The world is a hard place to navigate and its stressors can negatively impact one’s mental health. I am living proof that taking control of one’s mental health is extremely challenging at first, but the end results will greatly outweigh the work put in. I aspire to see mental health become destigmatized within BIPOC communities through honest conversations. I hope to receive real answers to the question “how are you doing?” instead of “fine” if things are truly not fine. I look forward to encouraging these conversations and advocating for more school-based mental health resources so that all students have an opportunity to thrive socially, emotionally, mentally, and academically.
      Bold Mentor Scholarship
      I have the honor of mentoring whom I consider the most amazing people on this planet - teenagers. I love how direct and bluntly honest this age group is, something I wish all adults would aspire to. By volunteering with a faith-based organization called Young Life, I am able to do life with high school students on a daily basis. This includes sending them texts filled with affirmations, cooking/sharing a meal together, or playing games at weekly meetings. I love my mentees and am grateful for them trusting me as their mentor. I have made them laugh by embarrassing myself, did my best to meet their tangible needs, and began to destigmatize religion by displaying the lifestyle of a Christian, but I hope my impact goes beyond this surface level. Within our conversations, there is often a recurring misconception that people with faith do not have mental health struggles - especially within the Black and Brown communities that my mentees and I come from. Unfortunately, I had to learn that my mental health is real, valid, and part of my humanity as an adult. I hope my teens view me as a trusted adult that they feel comfortable talking about anything and everything with. My desire is to validate the emotions of my mentees by normalizing mental health check-ins within our interactions. From our mentoring relationship, I hope to impact my teens by teaching them to trust their instincts in listening to their bodies and encouraging them not to shy away from asking for professional help when necessary.
      Amelia Boynton and S.W. Boynton Scholarship
      Amelia Boynton Robinson and Samuel William Boynton were igniters of change long before the Civil Rights Movement began to take heed. They not only taught African American people better methods for farming, but also methods for gaining political, financial, and educational strength. Growing up, my grandpa would say “a voteless people is a hopeless people” and ensure all family members were registered to vote on their 18th birthdays. I was unaware this saying came from Amelia Boynton’s campaign motto as she became the first African American woman in the state of Alabama to run for Congress. This led to revolutionary action in the voting rights movement with its push to get African Americans registered to vote. The Boynton’s stories have inspired me to pursue my own path of education to become a high school counselor. I seek to address the issues of systemic racism, microaggressions, and equity by empowering those directly affected by it - the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students within the American educational system. Hence, I intend to use my professional role as a counselor to be a system change agent. In the meantime, I am grateful for the opportunity to embody my school’s motto of “mihi cura futuri” which loosely translates to “the care of the future is mine” and fuels my desire to affect positive change in my community. Similar to the Boynton’s, I believe my calling is to advocate for the people who society may disregard either because of perceived race, age, or socioeconomic status. I use my voice to recognize and speak out against the injustices that I notice occurring within Hunter’s School of Education (SOE) with my graduate peers. As an active Student Council and Equity & Advocacy Committee member, I am able to participate in respected spaces to do just that. I lead and take notes at council meetings, serve on the Let’s Talk About Equity student panel, and facilitate break out room discussions during the Dean’s Conversation faculty meeting as well as prospective student events. This guarantees the graduate student voice is present, vocal, recognized, and equal with those of faculty/staff at decision-making tables. I acknowledge that everything I am currently doing to affect positive change is not for me, but for every student who will come after me. If the care of the future is truly mine, then I must do my part to make a positive impact on the world here and now in the present. I believe generating equal opportunities for all can only be achieved through proper accountability. I graciously hold Hunter accountable for implementing its JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) principles daily inside and outside of the SOE classrooms. Thankfully, these efforts have not been futile. This accountability has led to a petition for the increase of BIPOC faculty/staff hires, a proposal for the funding of counseling-specific scholarships, and intentional anti-racist workshops for all SOE members. Like the Boynton legacy, I do not play to stop my advocacy work any time soon!
      Mental Health Matters Scholarship
      Although diagnosed with clinical depression, I take comfort in my ability to support my peers within my community even on the days that I do not feel 100% like myself. The motto of Hunter College - Mihi Cura Futuri loosely translates to “the care of the future is mine.” This motto is one that I take to heart in order to be an active leader in my community. It fuels my desire to affect positive change within my community by believing that every student should have a champion, even at the graduate level. As a mathematics educator in primary and secondary academia for three years, I had the privilege of interacting with numerous students from diverse backgrounds in both public and private schools. I enjoyed educating the next generation of mathematicians, yet my favorite lessons were the ones that occurred on a Four Square court or in the hallways rather than in front of a whiteboard while trying to solve for x. Thus, I decided that it would be in my best interest to temporarily leave the workforce and focus on my career pivot. As a school counselor in training, I believe my calling is to advocate for the students who society may disregard - either because of perceived race, age, or socioeconomic status. Thus, I strive to recognize and speak out against the injustices that I notice occurring within Hunter’s School of Education (SOE). As an active Student Council and Equity & Advocacy Committee member, I am able to participate in spaces to do just that. I lead and take notes at council meetings, serve on the Let’s Talk About Equity student panel, and facilitate break out room discussions during the Dean’s Conversation faculty meeting as well as prospective student events. I am grateful that my active leadership roles are able to guarantee that the graduate student voice is present, vocal, recognized, and equal at decision-making tables. I acknowledge that everything I am currently doing to affect positive change is not for me, but for every student who will come after me. If the care of the future is mine, then I must do my part to improve it in the present by graciously holding Hunter accountable for implementing the JEDI - justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion - principles on a regular basis throughout the entire SOE. Thankfully, these efforts have not been futile. This accountability has led to a petition for the increase of BIPOC faculty/staff hires, a proposal for the funding of counseling-specific scholarships, and intentional anti-racist workshops for all SOE members! I am looking forward to what lies ahead and continuing to be an active leader in my community by acting as a resource for my fellow graduate students.
      Bold Optimist Scholarship
      I have stayed optimistic through the rampant gun violence occurring in New York City by being intentional on how I spend my free time. It is easy for me to endlessly watch tragic news updates, mindlessly scroll on social media, and unintentionally allow the negativity happening in the world to consume my life - this is why I limit my consumption. In addition, I empty my emotional jar and meditate daily. This has taught me that having hope provides power to get through the especially rough days. Thus, I know that one day things will be better for all people and nations. To empty my emotional jar, I set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and ask myself the following questions in order: (1) What am I mad/angry about? (2) What am I sad about? (3) What am I anxious/fearful about? (4) What am I glad about? I find this to be a great reflection exercise to validate my emotions, write down or answer aloud my thoughts, and negate the portrayal of the strong Black woman that society likes to box me into. I love how the timer prevents me from spiraling into a hopeless pit of despair and the last question allows me to end on a positive note of gratitude. Gratitude for what I have - people who love me, food on my table, mental wellness, etc. - is a practice that I enjoy doing through meditation. I strive to practice mindfulness on a daily basis by being aware of my surroundings, present actions, and feelings affiliated with each. I chose not to label anything as good or bad, but rather affirm their presence instead. This practice keeps me grounded and optimistic as I navigate all the occurrences that are happening within the world today.
      Bold Learning and Changing Scholarship
      I have learned that my mental health is real, valid, and part of my humanity. Thankfully, this revelation is slowly being acknowledged by most human beings around the world. Growing up in a Black community centered by the Black church, I was often told that mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety were not real. It was ingrained into me that a mental health disorder could simply be “cured” by praying it away and its lingering was solely due to my lack of faith. Well I took this advice to heart, prayed, and did not feel better. Instead, I felt ignored and as if something was wrong with me. Was I not praying hard enough? Is it un-Christian like to have my mental health suffer? Why does it seem like I am the only person struggling with this? These questions filled my head as I sunk deeper into what I can only express as extreme indifference and living my life on autopilot. I decided to follow my instincts and break my community’s stigma by seeking professional help. This changed my perspective on mental health as I attended my weekly therapy sessions and slowly began to feel like my old self again. I admit that it takes bravery to admit the need for and seek professional help with little to no community support. From this experience, I have learned to listen to my body and openly talk about my mental health so that it becomes destigmatized. My hope is to encourage others to do the same!
      Bold Community Activist Scholarship
      I am grateful for the opportunity to embody the motto of Hunter College - Mihi Cura Futuri, which translates to “the care of the future is mine.” This motto fuels my desire to affect positive change in my community by believing that every student should have a champion, even at the graduate level. I believe my calling is to advocate for the students who society may disregard - either because of perceived race, age, or socioeconomic status. Thus, I strive to recognize and speak out against the injustices that I notice occurring within Hunter’s School of Education (SOE). As an active Student Council and Equity & Advocacy Committee member, I am able to participate in spaces to do just that. I lead and take notes at council meetings, serve on the Let’s Talk About Equity student panel, and facilitate break out room discussions during the Dean’s Conversation faculty meeting as well as prospective student events. This guarantees that graduate student voice is present, vocal, recognized, and equal at decision-making tables. I acknowledge that everything I am currently doing to affect positive change is not for me, but for every student who will come after me. If the care of the future is mine, then I must do my part to improve it in the present. by graciously holding Hunter accountable for implementing the JEDI - justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion - principles on a regular basis throughout the entire SOE. Thankfully, these efforts have not been futile. This accountability has led to a petition for the increase of BIPOC faculty/staff hires, a proposal for the funding of counseling-specific scholarships, and intentional anti-racist workshops for all SOE members!
      Youssef University’s College Life Scholarship
      If I had $1,000 right now, I would put it towards my fall semester tuition. I know, I know. This is not the most exciting use of $1,000 especially as I reflect on the amount of summer outfits I could buy with this money. However, my career pivot takes precedence. My personal experience with mental health has shaped my desire to see my community have fruitful conversations about it without carrying a stigma. Thus, my career pivot from educator/mathematician to high school counselor began. I decided that I wanted my students to feel heard not only for their academic needs, but also for their social and emotional needs. This led to my passion to advocate for students who society may ignore because of their perceived race, socioeconomic status, or recurring mental health issues. In hopes of combatting the issues of systemic racism, oppression, and inequality by empowering BIPOC students directly, I left the workforce and enrolled full-time in my current graduate program. Needless to say, graduate school is not cheap. Receiving this $1,000 scholarship will take me a step closer in turning my dream into a reality. As previously stated, I will use it to pay my tuition so that I may continue my studies without additional financial stress looming over me.
      Bold Caring for Seniors Scholarship
      As a product of the city that never sleeps, I tend to rush throughout my day from point A to point B. The elderly (or as I like to call them “seasoned”) people in my New York City community have taught me the value of slowing down. Thus, I seek to improve their lives by taking their advice to heart and doing just that. Genuine in-person human connection is often challenging to find in the 21st century. I notice members of the younger generation tend to ignore and walk past the members of the older generation without so much as a glance or acknowledgment. I strive to change this narrative by stopping to take a moment to smile. A smile can go a long way. I use it to engage with the seasoned members of my community and ask them how their day is going. The majority are repeatedly shocked that I stop what I am doing to have a brief conversation with them. I love to see their eyes brighten and excitement increase exponentially when they realize I am truly listening while awaiting their response. I view this personal investment as mini humbling experiences that I walk away from feeling extra cheerful. This simple (and free!) act reminds the seasoned people in my community that they are greatly appreciated and valued - something all humans should have the chance to experience in life!
      Shawn’s Mental Health Resources Scholarship
      As a school counselor in training, I take pride in encouraging my students to prioritize their mental health. In order to lead by example, I must also be willing to put in the work. I find strength in positively contributing to the improvement of my overall well-being emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. The following are my favorite tips and resources that I personally utilize to help clear my mind! First, I start by emptying my emotional jar. I set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes to ask myself the following questions in this order: (1) What am I mad/angry about? (2) What am I sad about? (3) What am I anxious/fearful about? (4) What am I glad about? I find this to be a great reflection exercise to validate my emotions, write down or answer aloud my thoughts, and negate the portrayal of the strong Black woman that society likes to box me into. I love how the timer prevents me from spiraling into a hopeless pit of despair and the last question allows me to end on a positive note of gratitude. Second, I move my body in ways that speak to me. It is a rare sighting if you ever see me in a gym, but there is a 100% chance that I will be in the middle of the dancefloor at any social function. My free time is often limited as a full-time student, part-time intern, and user of New York’s MTA so I challenge myself to intentionally move for at least 30-minutes each day. When my homework assignments become overwhelming, I take a dance break of 2 to 3 songs to clear my mind. I highly recommend the “Dance Hits 2000-2022” playlist on Spotify :) If I happen to find more time during the day, I take short scenic walks around my neighborhood for pleasure without having a final destination to reach. Third, I meditate on what is happening in the present as well as verses from the Bible. I strive to practice mindfulness on a daily basis by being aware of my surroundings, present actions, and feelings affiliated with each. I chose not to label anything as good or bad, but rather affirm their presence instead. I consider this my internal “check in” to make sure my mind and body are in alignment. Similarly, I greatly value my relationship with God and find comfort in reading scripture. The verse for my current season is “the LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” found in Exodus 14:14 (NIV). This is a reminder that I need to breathe and take a step back so that God can work on my behalf. Last and most importantly, I go to therapy. Communicating with an unbiased third party allows me to externally process anything that has been on my mind. I do acknowledge the fact that 1:1 therapy can be very expensive if uncovered by your insurance and/or not provided by your higher educational institution. With this in mind, I recommend finding a trusted adult who has the mental and emotional capacity to listen without judgment in the case of an emergency. Also, the “Therapy for Black Girls'' podcast on Spotify has conversations on just about any topic imaginable with various professional guests!
      Bold Great Books Scholarship
      As an avid reader, I have read hundreds of books over the years within academia as well as in my personal time. I enjoy all literary genres and easily find myself engulfed by the majority of books that I come across. What I often notice is my lack of desire to reread these books (usually because I already know the outcome) except for one: The Bible. The Bible is my favorite book because it incorporates a plethora of genres - history, poetry, romance, wisdom, apocalyptic literature, prophecies, gospel, letters, etc. I love how the placement of God-inspired Scriptures (with hundreds of years in between) form a cohesive mosaic that still holds relevance even today in the midst of the 21st century. I acknowledge the Bible as the Book to triumph over all books and view it as a sacred literary piece that is greatly a part of my Christian identity. There will always be something new to learn, a story to unpack, a revelation to be revealed, and the truth of God’s grace that covers all the gaps within my faith. Thus, I will never get tired of reading it over and over again. Although various divinely inspired writers contributed to the assembly of the Bible, I consider God to be its ultimate omnipresent author - whom I have adored growing in relationship with. How cool is it to read a book in which the author is sitting right beside you every time you open it? The Bible is an amazing book and I hope more people take a chance on reading it!
      Bold Great Minds Scholarship
      Euphemia Lofton Haynes (born Martha Euphemia Lofton) is a historical figure who I truly admire. She was the first African American woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in mathematics. I cannot begin to imagine the plight she underwent navigating the white-male dominated higher educational system in America, yet I am grateful for her triumphant degree conferral in 1943. Unlike most mathematicians who pursue doctoral degrees solely for research or selfish gain, Euphemia used her great mind to better her community. She founded the math department at Miner Teachers College (later renamed the University of the District of Columbia), became a professor at said college, and focused on training African American teachers. I am in awe of how vocal Euphemia was in her advocacy for poor students and better schools. She denounced the educational system's segregation-tinged policies by co-founding the Catholic Interracial Council of the District of Columbia. Her devotion to many causes and organizations is evident in her participation with the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, Committee of International Social Welfare, and Executive Committee of the National Social Welfare Assembly. These paths eventually led her to become president of the District of Columbia Board of Education in 1966 as she continued to fight racial segregation and generate resources for the marginalized students of her community. This is why I chose Euphemia Lofton Haynes - I find pieces of myself within her story. As a Black woman, I am reminded by her legacy that I can do anything I put my mind to such as obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. More importantly, Euphemia Lofton Haynes’ great mind for community advocacy ignites a fire within me to continue fighting for equity within my own home of The Bronx.
      Bold Financial Literacy Scholarship
      I firmly believe that creating and sticking to a realistic budget is essential to reaching my financial goals. I do this by monitoring and being conscious of how many times I swipe my credit cards. My aunt taught me the critical finance lesson that “credit cards are not free money” while we were playing “The Game of Life.” I was about ten years old when she decided to take the game a step further and integrate her financial literacy presentation into it. Needless to say, I was not very excited about her “remix” of my favorite board game. This extended edition took hours and weighed the pros/cons of buying a house versus a condo or apartment, choosing a career while comparing benefits/salaries, determining the cost of having children, drafting a comprehensive family budget/savings plan, and calculating the APR for various types of loans. Super exciting, right? Nope, at least not to the preteen version of myself. This was the last time I asked my aunt to play “The Game of Life” with me. I love my aunt very much, and now I am able to reflect on this lesson with gratitude. Her reminder about credit cards stuck with me throughout college and allowed me to avoid the debt traps that many of my peers unknowingly fell into. My aunt advised me to use my credit cards wisely and monitor my spending appropriately. She told me that swiping my card did not make my purchases “free” because its bill would eventually come in the mail. This helpful piece of financial advice taught me responsibility, kept my credit card debt down to a minimum, and increased my credit score all as a college student!
      Bold Financial Freedom Scholarship
      Credit cards are NOT free money. This financial advice was drilled into my ten-year-old head by my wonderful aunt whose career spans various areas of banking. We were playing “The Game of Life” when she decided to take the game a step further and integrate her financial literacy presentation into it. Needless to say, I was not very excited about her “remix” of my favorite board game. This extended edition took hours and weighed the pros/cons of buying a house versus a condo or apartment, choosing a career while comparing benefits/salaries, determining the cost of having children, drafting a comprehensive family savings plan, and calculating the APR for various types of loans. Super exciting, right? Nope, at least not to the preteen version of myself. This was the last time I asked my aunt to play “The Game of Life” with me. I love my aunt very much, and now I am able to reflect on her financial advice with gratefulness. Her reminder about credit cards stuck with me throughout college and allowed me to avoid the debt traps that many of my peers unknowingly fell into. My aunt advised me to use my credit cards wisely and monitor my spending appropriately. She told me that swiping my card did not make my purchases “free” because its bill would eventually come in the mail. This helpful piece of financial advice taught me responsibility, kept my credit card debt down to a minimum, and increased my growing credit score all as a college student.
      Bold Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
      Listen - not to respond, but to understand. Actively listening to people who struggle with mental health is one practical solution for helping them. Growing up in the Black church and community, I was often told that my mental illness was “not really real” and could be “cured by praying it away.” Well I took this advice to heart, prayed, and did not feel better. I felt ignored and as if something was wrong with me. Was I not praying hard enough? Is it un-Christian like to have my mental health suffer? Why does it seem like I am the only person struggling with this? These questions swirled around in my head as I sunk deeper into what I could only express as extreme indifference and living my life in autopilot mode. My mental health worsened and I could barely recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. I decided to follow my instincts and broke the stigma within my community by seeking professional help. I was diagnosed with chronic depression and prescribed medication in addition to regularly seeing a therapist. To my surprise, the daily medication and consistent weekly therapy sessions worked! I slowly began to feel like myself. I reflect back on my journey and wonder what would happen if conversations surrounding mental health were held within the Black church and community. Would things have changed if I was actively listened to? Yes. Would I have gotten professional help sooner if someone took the time to validate my emotional ambivalence? Yes. It takes bravery to admit the need for help. It also takes a person of integrity to actively listen without judgment. The best part - listening is free to do and something that can be easily integrated into any daily conversation with any age group.
      Bold Creativity Scholarship
      I apply creativity in my life by bringing “fun” into the classroom. As an elementary educator for nearly three years, I noticed that my students were not readily engaged during our poetry study unit. I absolutely love poetry because I view it as the opportunity to create something beautiful from a simple symphony of words. My students, on the other hand, did not. We studied the origins, definitions, and examples of various types of poetry - limerick, acrostic, rhyme, concrete, haiku, etc. Some students were able to feed off of my excitement, but this was not good enough for me. I want all (not some) of my students to enjoy what we are learning in class even if they decide not to pursue it as a major or career choice in the future. I decided to switch things up and the next day I set up a relay race. Each student was assigned to a team that had to work together to create a cohesive cinquain poem. The team members stood in a line perpendicular to the white board and the students would rotate through the line. The first person provided a noun, the second provided a description of the noun, the third provided an action about the noun, the fourth provided a feeling about the noun, and the fifth provided a synonym of the initial noun. The sixth person began a new cinquain and the rotation continued until the timer went off. The teams would receive points for correctly following the 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllable count and working appropriately together as a team. My students loved it! They learned a new type of poem, self-corrected miscounting syllables, and practiced team building skills. I enjoyed being able to apply creativity to my lesson plan!
      William M. DeSantis Sr. Scholarship
      “I can do anything that I put my mind to” has become an important life lesson I have learned over the years. This lesson has been especially helpful as I embark on my career change from mathematician to counselor. Throughout this process, I had to switch from an analytical and problem solving mentality to a reflective and empathetic mentality - easier said than done. Yet, I use this life lesson to move forward into degree completion and combat the negative thoughts of imposter syndrome that may rear its head along the way. This life lesson has transformed into a mantra for perseverance especially when a certain situation seems impossible. It has made me stronger as a person and in life by reminding me that the biggest obstacle to my academic success is me. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the master’s degree in School Counseling that I am currently pursuing. I have been conditioned to believe answers are either right or wrong (no in between), I must stick to the points asked (no extra fluff added), responses are required to be concise, and conjectures without data to back it up are meaningless. As I began my graduate studies, I was told the exact opposite because most of these conditions would be detrimental if I tried to apply them in a counseling session with a client. I had a lot of relearning to do including how to complete homework assignments accurately and timely. Reminding myself that “I can do anything that I put my mind to” taught me to advocate for myself within the classroom. Prior to graduate school, I am positive that my last essay was written during my Junior year of high school. Thus, writing essays was my greatest academic challenge. This is not because I could not write, but rather I would have trouble reaching the page amount given. My mathematical brain was programmed to keep it short, be concise, and not include feelings because only the data mattered. I overcame this challenge by reaching out to my professors for advice and asking them to clarify the various acronyms used within the essay instructions since I did not have a psychology background. I explained my mathematical background, not as an excuse, but as a way to collaborate on ways to set myself up for success within their classes. My self-esteem in my academic ability grew as I advocated for myself and saw that my professors were willing to assist me. I simply needed to push my pride aside and ask for their help. My goal was to learn all that I possibly could, try my very best on all assignments, and seek peer/professor support when needed. I am blessed to say that I completed my first year of full time graduate school with a cumulative GPA of 4.0, which confirmed my life lesson that “I can do anything that I put my mind to.” I am expectant of future academic success in upcoming semesters and will continue to use this life lesson as inspiration to get there!
      Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
      My mental health struggles did not become evident until I was in high school. I performed well academically and participated in varsity level sports, yet something felt off inside of me. I began to lose interest in things that initially brought me joy and began to live my life on autopilot - simply going through the motions of each day. Growing up as a Black woman, I cannot recall a time when mental health was openly discussed due to its stigma within the majority of BIPOC communities. My guidance counselors upheld this stigma by focusing on my A’s and ignoring the mental health concerns I tried to vocalize within our quick 15 minute sessions. Thus, I tried to smile and push through each day as a coping mechanism. I did not realize that I had been unconsciously conditioned to respond in these ways in a failed attempt to be viewed as a strong Black woman although I was only a teenager in high school. Eventually, I broke the stigma within my family and sought professional help throughout my college journey. I was diagnosed with chronic depression and prescribed medication. To my surprise, the medication and weekly therapy session worked! I slowly began to feel more like myself and this renewed hope allowed me to dream. My experience with mental health has shaped my life goals as I dreamed of becoming a high school counselor. I want my students to feel heard not only for academic assistance, but also in their social-emotional expression. My desire is to advocate for students who society may ignore because of their perceived race, socioeconomic status, or mental health issues. I want to combat the social issues of systemic racism, oppression, and equality by empowering BIPOC students who are directly affected by a lack of mental wellness to speak up and receive the necessary resources they need for help. Acknowledging my renewed experience with mental health has greatly strengthened my relationships with others. I have become more empathetic and strive to spread kindness wherever I go because I never know what internal struggles people are combatting on a daily basis. It allows me to see people as human beings in need of love, validation, and affirmation that the world can use more of. The world is a hard place to navigate and its stressors can negatively impact one’s mental health. I am living proof that taking control of one’s mental health is extremely challenging at first, but the end results will greatly outweigh the work put in. I aspire to see mental health become destigmatized within BIPOC communities through honest conversations. I hope to receive real answers to the question “how are you doing?” instead of “fine” if things are truly not fine. I look forward to encouraging these conversations and advocating for more school-based mental health resources so that all students have an opportunity to thrive socially, emotionally, mentally, and academically.
      Bold Generosity Matters Scholarship
      Generosity, contrary to popular belief, has little to do with money or material items. I view it as the essence of validating those around me. Validation comes in various forms such as offering an encouraging word to my peers or smizing (smiling with my eyes) to people who take public transportation with me. It is a call to make others feel seen and heard - something we as humans can use more of on a daily basis. I desire for every aspect of my life to reflect this generosity in various ways, hence my desire to become a school counselor. My career is tailored to validating and advocating for students who society may write off or ignore either because of their perceived race or socioeconomic status. It is no surprise that social issues such as systemic racism, oppression, and inequality disproportionately affect BIPOC students within the educational system. Being generous includes actively listening to my students in order to seek out the best resources specifically for them that cater to the improvement of their social, emotional, mental, and academic well-being. This is essential to building rapport, validating, and becoming more generous. My passion is to see my students foster personal and academic achievement that surpasses the four walls of a classroom as a result of the validation that I am able to give them. This is what generosity means to me.
      Bold Persistence Scholarship
      Transitioning from an analytical/problem solving brain to a reflective/empathetic brain is challenging. This is what happened when I decided to pursue school counseling, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum from applied mathematics. I have been conditioned to believe answers are either right or wrong (no in between), I must stick to the points asked (no extra fluff added), responses are required to be concise, and conjectures without data to back it up are meaningless. As I began my graduate studies, I was told the exact opposite because most of these conditions would be detrimental if I tried to apply them in a counseling session with a client. I had a lot of relearning to do including how to complete my assignments effectively. The hardest part of this transition was pushing my pride aside and asking for help. I persisted through this obstacle by reaching out to my peers, then my professors for assistance. I asked them to clarify the various acronyms used within the syllabus instructions because I did not have their psychology background. I explained my mathematical background, not as an excuse, but as a way to collaborate on more structured questions to answer. For example, the directions may say “write a 5-6 page reflection on your assigned article.” Our collaborative questions may be structured as “what did the author say that stood out to you - cite at least 3 references,” “what thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories were stirred after reading the article,” or “what advice, critiques, and feedback would you give to the author or someone else reading this article.” My self-esteem grew as I advocated for myself, allowed the opportunity for peer/professor support, and persisted through the program assignments.
      Bold Speak Your Mind Scholarship
      I stay committed to speaking my mind by checking in with my body. If something feels “off” or does not feel right, I ask myself “why” to get to the root of the issue. Upon asking this why, I build up the courage to go with my gut (in a respectful manner) no matter who the audience may be and whether or not they agree with me. As a school counselor, I enjoy advocating for students who schools may disengage with either because of their perceived race or socioeconomic status. I speak my mind by reminding the school’s administration to be sure that they are implementing the recommendations listed within the students’ IEP and/or 504 plans. I am committed to speaking my mind professionally by putting my students first. I intentionally chose a career that would allow me to combat the social issues of systemic racism, oppression, and inequality that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students face within the educational system. As a system change agent, I intentionally speak my mind to receive the necessary resources. These resources are then able to cater to the improvement of my student’s social, emotional, academic, and mental well-being. I believe being honest and standing up for my students as well as myself are the best ways to live my life. I continuously remain true to who I am by speaking my mind and advocating for the betterment of others.