It was a pleasure to speak at Making Waves Academy in Richmond, California to an AP Psychology class and participate in a round-table discussion, with high school students considering a career in the mental health field. Students at Making Waves Academy were interested in many elements of working in the mental health field, not limited to degree type, cost, income after graduation, working with clients, and more.
I knew I had to bring my A game because the day before my visit, I received this list of questions from the students in the AP Psychology class. Kids that come from the struggle don't want nor need any sugar-coating, and can read people like a book. I had to give it to them straight, because, well...I used to be that kid.
1. How much money do you [or people in your profession, on average] make? Is it enough to support living in the Bay Area?
2. Do you recommend getting a master’s degree?
3. What do you like most about your job?
4. Have you ever had a patient you didn’t really know how to help?
5. How long did it take to get your license?
6. What surprised you about your job?
7. What made you want to pursue this path?
8. What is the most common reason why people visit your office?
9. Have you ever questioned your career path?
10. What do you see in society that worries you?
11. What is your day to day life like?
I shared about working in community mental health clinics, providing mental health services in Spanish, working with victims of violent crime, working alongside law enforcement and first responders, collaborating with psychiatrists and psychiatric hospital staff, submitting reports and correspondence to probation officers, and starting my own practice.
It was a pleasure to share some personal anecdotes of my beginnings, growing up in a low-income household, with family members with little to no knowledge about how to apply for college, let alone have the means to pay for it.
Looking at the many faces in the crowd that appeared worried, interested, overwhelmed, stressed, and....bored....(hey, it's high school)....I saw myself in many of them, and offered my very best words of inspiration, strategies, and hope to the student body.
I was excited to be invited by school staff to return for Career Day in March 2018, to offer up more opportunities for one-on-one conversations about the vast array of career options in the mental health field...and personal experience with navigating the many existing obstacles for low-income students of color, to getting there.