Three Portland State University master’s students are among just 30 students in the nation to each receive a $10,000 fellowship to further their service to underrepresented populations.
NBCC Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate of the international certifying organization National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), announced today that it had selected PSU’s Marissa Cano, Sofia Jasani and Haley Jones as among the recipients of the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program Mental Health Counseling-Master’s.
The Foundation administers the program, which includes training and collaboration activities. The program’s purpose is to increase the number of culturally competent behavioral health professionals (those who foster positive interactions among cultures) in order to improve behavioral health care outcomes for diverse populations.
PSU students in the College of Education “make up 10 percent of the 2019 awardees,” Jasani pointed out. She also said that she was thrilled to receive a phone call notifying her of the honor.
“As a woman of color and daughter of Muslim immigrants, I carry both the responsibility and the pride of my family and community close to my heart,” she said.
Cano talked about the shock it was to receive the call about the award.
“I couldn’t believe I was the recipient of something that seemed so unattainable,” she said. “I was overcome with gratefulness.”
Jones feels validated by the recognition.
“I feel incredibly passionate about doing counseling with a radical social justice lens, and to meet others with the same passion, who support me in my goals, feels so uplifting,” said Jones, who thanked everyone in the counseling program.
All three students received a letter of support from Rana Yaghmaian, an assistant professor of counselor education and the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program coordinator. Yaghmaian said she’s been honored to get to know them and that while they are her students, their insights and expressions of their unique experiences also have taught her a great deal.
“I have learned so much from them individually and collectively, and I just continue to feel humbled by their knowledge and conviction and commitment to advancing social justice in the counseling profession,” Yaghmaian said.
Jasani, a graduate of Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, is in the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program. Clinical rehabilitation counselors help people process the outcomes of crisis and traumatic situations that include chronic illnesses and disabilities. Cano, a graduate of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, is in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, which is for counselors who plan to offer mental health services to a wide range of clients. Jones, who attended Mount Hood Community College in Gresham before earning their bachelor’s at PSU is also in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.
This fellowship will afford Cano, Jasani and Jones with the opportunity to attend counseling conferences and find out more about evidence-based practices to better serve underserved populations. As a fellow, Jasani plans to establish a state division of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development.
Jones said that, with the funding, they will be able to take additional training in eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, a type of therapy for individuals dealing with the effects of trauma. Jones has also made connections in NBCC who are supporting them in their goal to obtain a PhD in Counselor Education.
“I have this new community of amazing and brilliant fellowship winners and counselor education faculty from all over the country supporting me in my dreams,” Jones said. “It’s truly a gift that I will never forget. This money will also help pay for cost-of-living expenses throughout my final year of my master’s in counseling, taking a lot of stress off my shoulders.”
The funding will also support additional training and education opportunities for Cano. She said that it is “an honor and privilege” to receive the fellowship.
“It has given me the support in my journey as a counselor dedicated to helping the most vulnerable and overlooked populations,” Cano said. “It is extremely validating to know that my work and effort is being seen and encouraged.”
When Cano graduates, she intends to conduct trauma-focused therapy with children and people of color. She plans to dedicate her time to bridging gaps in mental health services for children and people of color. After graduating, Jasani plans to work with children, adults and families affected by chronic illness and disability, as well as people with multiple marginalized identities, such as women of color.
“I’m honored that my voice is taken seriously within my profession, and I’m grateful that my efforts to make change have been recognized,” she said. “This fellowship, and the mentorship and support that comes with it, will help empower me to make a significant impact in the community!”
The criteria for an applicant include being expected to graduate within three years of the date of the gift of the fellowship funding and demonstrating knowledge of and experience with historically marginalized or underserved groups, including minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals. NBCC received funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration starting in 2014 to offer master’s-level minority fellowships each year.