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John F. Kennedy University Awards Stipends to 30 Graduate Students in Mental Health Discipline

January 25, 2016

Stipends Support Counselors in Training at Community Counseling Centers and Schools

PLEASANT HILL, CA John F. Kennedy University awarded 30 graduate students in the University’s Counseling Psychology program $10,000 counselor-in-training stipends at a ceremony held at the Pleasant Hill campus on January 15. The stipends provide support to students while they complete fieldwork at the University’s mental health counseling centers in Concord, Sunnyvale, and Oakland, and in counseling programs in local school districts through the centers’ school-based program. This fieldwork provides the opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom underthe supervision of a licensed professional and earn hours toward graduation and licensure.

The stipends are made possible by a grant received from the US Department of Health and Human Services under President Obama and Vice President Biden’s “Now is the Time” plan.  This was developed in response to school shootings and youth violence.  The aim of the plan is to address the mental health needs of youth before they turn to violence in their schools or community by, among other things, providing training for mental health professionals.

Pablo Navarrete-Martinez, one of the graduate students awarded a stipend, will work in the Oakland Unified School District, primarily at middle schools. In his past work with Latino special needs kids, he has been able to counsel not only children, but their parents too.  Because he is fluent in Spanish, he helps cross the cultural and language barriers that prevent positive outcomes.

“I love empowering students and their parents to take control of their own lives and work to better their circumstances,” states Navarrete-Martinez.

When he graduates in September of this year with his Master’s degree, he hopes to continue working with special needs students and their parents.

Another stipend award recipient is DeAngela Cooks. She previously worked at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco as their Teen Program Director. Her dream is to work with educators and assist them in developing culturally competent community workshops that have a mental health component; talking about racial issues, but with a mental health component.  Ms. Cooks will graduate in 2017 with her Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

“I was once a minority youth,” states Cooks, “and I hope to become a resource for at-risk youth where they can be authentic and vulnerable while working towards improving their lives.”

The Community Counseling Centers located in Concord, Oakland, and Sunnyvale, provide confidential and affordable counseling services. The school-based programs allow students to receive free counseling at the school site. Students are referred by school staff and participate with the permission of their parents. If there is a need for counseling for the student’s family, they are referred to the local University Community Counseling Center. Currently the University has partnerships with the Cupertino Union, Oakland Unified, Mt. Diablo Unified, and Antioch Unified School Districts to provide these services.

JFK University’s unique model is succeeding in its two-fold mission -- to provide mental health counseling to people in local communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it, and to provide a place for JFK University counseling students to earn the practicum hours required for licensing in a supervised environment.  This grant will further the University’s commitment to train the next generation of culturally competent, skilled behavioral healthcare providers.