Sabrina Burress, a graduate student in the MA in Counseling program at Eastern Mennonite University, is one of 30 students to be awarded an NBCC Minority Fellowship Program-Youth by the National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Graduate student awarded Minority Youth Program fellowship from the National Board of Certified Counselors Foundation

Sabrina L. Burress has always had a desire to help young people, especially minorities, successfully navigate some of the challenges she herself faced.

“I have always remembered the support of my church group leaders and other adults who offered that one-to-one experience of feeling loved and held and supported,” says Burress, a graduate student in the MA in Counseling program at Eastern Mennonite University.

Yet it was working as an in-home clinician that helped her decide to earn a second graduate degree and professional licensure. Where before her work may be resulted in incremental or subtle changes, Burress was astonished at the differences she saw working with a client for months at a time.

“You actually see change,” she said. “There’s something more to meeting a person where they are, but helping see how where they are connects to where they want to go and then helping to break down some of those barriers. It’s really beautiful. That was how I knew what I wanted to do.”

Now she’ll have both financial support and professional development opportunities as she moves into her second year of studies at EMU.

Burress was selected among 29 other graduate students for the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program-Youth. The fellowship program, which is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation, is funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The goal of the program is to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care outcomes for racially and ethnically diverse populations by increasing the number of available culturally competent behavioral health professionals.

As an NBCC MFP-Y fellow, Burress will receive funding and training to support her education and facilitate her service to underserved minority populations, with a specific focus on transition-age youth (ages 16–25).

Teresa Haase, director of the MA in Counseling program, says the scholarship is well-deserved. “Sabrina has been in the mental health field for many years working with families and at-risk youth. She is a dedicated clinician and student and highly prized for her compassion, work ethic and fortitude. This award serves to affirm her dreams and goals and we are thrilled that she was chosen as one of the recipients.”

A graduate of Liberty University, Burress also works full-time as an assistant coordinator of therapeutic day treatment (TDT) counselors, an intensive level of mental health services offered to youth in school who are experiencing emotional challenges.

The fellowship requires Burress to show specific work with racially and ethnically diverse populations. Though she is in the initial planning stages of what shape that work will take, Burress says she’s interested in furthering a proposal she developed in the spring semester to create support groups for minority students at EMU to have “open and transparent discussions about race.”

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