Helena, assistant professor at Minnesota State University and U of R alum, shares how her experiences at Redlands shaped her approach towards giving back and social justice advocacy.
My story isn’t a traditional one. I started at University of Redlands as an undergraduate and as a non-traditional student. I was homeless and working two full-time jobs when I was admitted. In my first semester, I was unable to pay my tuition and I received a letter stating I would be kicked out of the school and out of my dorm. I pleaded for more time and the university gave me a chance to figure it out, and I did. Due to various life situations, I did not have the most stellar academic record when I graduated. I knew I wanted to be a school counselor to give back to kids like myself, who grew up in broken homes. Due to my GPA, I had to write a petition for admittance into the master’s program. The School of Education gave me a chance to succeed and admitted me. During my studies, I was a single mother, and experienced first-hand the importance of needing kindness from faculty and professionals. My education experiences at Redlands impacted me, not only to give back, but to also train others to have the mindset of giving back and social justice.
I obtained a PhD from Texas A&M Corpus Christi so that I could teach and train future school counselors to have the spirit of giving in their work. I currently work as an assistant professor of counseling at Minnesota State University. I continue to give back in my professional work by serving in leadership positions that advocate and promote human rights and social justice. I give back by lobbying on capitol hill for more funding for states to hire more school counselors. I present at national and state conferences to inspire others to engage in social justice advocacy in their counseling work. I volunteer in schools to help school counselors increase their competencies for advocacy and social justice. I give back to my community by volunteering to deliver growth programs to aid children and adolescents in healthy development. The University of Redlands gave me a chance and because of that I am where I am today. I want my story to be an example of what can happen when you give someone a chance to succeed. I want to encourage others to seek opportunities to advocate for disenfranchised populations and that they be given a fair chance to succeed in life.