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Fordham Graduate School of Education Mental Health Counseling Students Earn Prestigious APA Fellowships


“We are thrilled that three of our outstanding first-year mental health counseling students have been selected to participate in the prestigious American Psychological Association’s (APA) Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) Minority Fellowship Program,” stated Eric C. Chen, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling Psychology and coordinator of the Graduate School of Education’s mental health counseling program. “I am also excited to note that this continues a record of recognition and success for our students,” added Chen. “In 2020, Jamez Anderson was the first Fordham MHC student awarded an APA STAY Minority Fellowship, followed by Jennifer Akotoh and Nella Zaini receiving the award in 2022. Previously, in 2017, counseling psychology program Ph.D. student Kabeel Dosani was awarded a similar fellowship for doctoral level psychology trainees.”

This year’s fellowship program, which begins October 1, 2023, provides a number of benefits to each student, including a $13,000 stipend for one year and a one-year associate membership in the APA. There will also be a possibility to renew the fellowships for up to one additional year. According to Janice Haskins, Ph.D., head of the APA Minority Fellowship Program’s Leadership Development Institute, “It [the fellowship]is uniquely tailored to provide our Fellows with support and training beyond what is offered by most fellowship programs and other institutions. In addition to funding Fellows receive trainings, professional development, mentoring, and lifetime access to our network of over 2,000 Fellows.”

The three mental health counseling students, David Arizmendi, Brianna Perez, and Brittany Perez, each shared their perspectives on earning this honor.

David Arizmendi
“I was motivated to apply to the STAY fellowship because it aligns perfectly with my goal of working in minority communities with transition age youth. My interest in the mental health field began when I was growing up in the Bronx and I saw the need for mental health services in my community. Being able to give back is one of my biggest goals and this fellowship will equip me with the tools needed to support this community. It is such an amazing opportunity to be part of this fellowship and I am so grateful for the opportunities that will be made available to me.. I am confident the classes in Fordham’s mental health counseling program, particularly the multicultural counseling class, have prepared me to work with this population.

I am also looking forward to attending the APA conference and traveling to Washington, D.C., for specialized training during the Psychology Summer Institute. I intend to take advantage of every opportunity made available to me this year, all of which will help me further grow into the clinician, student, and person I want to be.”

Brianna Perez
“The Minority Fellowship Program Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) Fellowship’s mission of serving underrepresented youth appealed to me, particularly in regards to tackling substance abuse issues, mental health illnesses, and life transitions faced by minority youth. As a Latina woman raised with my siblings by a single mother in the Bronx, I understand the cultural stigma around mental health in the Hispanic and Latino communities; the training provided by this program will be instrumental in helping me become an effective clinician with cultural humility. Overall, I am excited to make new connections with colleagues in my field and gain insights from clinicians who have completed this program. Ultimately, my objective is to apply the knowledge gained during this fellowship to benefit my community, especially by supporting young people of color who are facing myriad mental health challenges.

Being selected as a fellow is a great privilege and honor. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from professionals and enhance my counseling skills. Without the support of my faculty and Fordham GSE’s resources, I would not have been chosen for this fellowship. The curriculum, diverse course offerings, and experiential opportunities in the program demonstrate a clear commitment to preparing students to become successful clinicians. I am also especially excited to share this opportunity with my triplet sister, Brittany Perez, who has been a tremendous support throughout the pivotal moments in my life.”

Brittany Perez
“I have always been passionate about working with adolescents and young adults, especially in low-income communities. Within this population, especially the underrepresented groups, I want to offer guidance and therapeutic interventions with cultural humility. As a Bronx native and young Latina who was raised by a single mother of seven children, I was exposed to my family’s financial burdens, which took a toll on my development and mental health. As a result, I understand the hardships of not having access to quality and affordable mental health resources.

Being selected to participate in this fellowship is such an honor and privilege, an opportunity I’m prepared for because of Fordham GSE’s mental health counseling program curriculum and excellent teaching and guidance from the faculty. Further, Fordham University’s program emphasizes social justice and addresses the need for mental health awareness, which resonates with my objective as a future mental health counselor: to integrate my skills and experiences when advocating for my clients to create a meaningful practice that serves diverse and underrepresented communities. Lastly and importantly, I am very grateful and excited to begin this opportunity with my triplet sister, Brianna Perez, as she has been a huge part of this accomplishment and continues to be my rock in all aspects of my life.”

More About the Minority Fellowship Program Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY)
The Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) Minority Fellowship Program is funded by a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The) fellowship was created to support the training of master’s level practitioners in mental health services, and is designed for students in terminal master’s programs in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition age youth (ages 16 through 25) and their families.

In addition to fulfilling basic eligibility requirements, students seeking the fellowship must sign a letter of commitment attesting that they will work for a period of two years in a capacity that addresses the behavioral health needs of communities of color.


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