Dentist, fashion designer, mental health institute worker, environmental educator and juvenile justice counselor. These are a few things I have aspired to be while growing up. Of course, some of them were phases. They came and went as quick as the wind and I moved on to the next career. I had almost gone to a different college to be an environmental educator, but realizing I would not be happy doing that, I decided to come to UMKC and study what I had loved for so long: Psychology. Thanks to UMKC’s psychology program, I was able to find much more than a degree. I found my purpose.
In May of 2019, I was given an opportunity to work for UMKC’s Propel Program that is through the psychology department. Propel is a program where college-age students with disabilities are able to take classes, learn life skills, attend social events and be personally mentored by employees and volunteers. I applied to be a student mentor, and to my surprise, I was hired. For that summer, I was extremely nervous about who my mentees would be. I was hoping they would like me and that I could impact them in a positive way. The thing is, they were the ones who changed me.
Before the beginning of the school year, I was assigned to my two student mentees. They were both freshmen girls who were excited to start college. At the start of the fall semester, I was so scared about whether I would be good at mentoring and if I would connect with the students. As the year went on, however, my fear dwindled down and I began to really develop a relationship with my mentees. I started to realize that I thoroughly enjoyed my job and looked forward to going to work every single day. All I could seem to talk about was how happy mentoring made me and how I loved working with people who have disabilities. I knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
During the midterm period of last fall semester, I found out that I was being promoted with one other co-worker to become the senior mentor of the organization. This meant that we would be the ones to organize and lead the meetings, we would be helping other mentors figure out how to best help their mentees and we would be the bridge between students, student employees and full time faculty members. But once again, I was nervous about being able to fulfill the roles in this new and higher position.
This past spring semester, I had a new-found confidence with my job. Other student mentees recognized me and we started to connect, and I had a great time with my coworkers and my supervisor too. Even when the virus forced us to abandon in-person meetings, we were still able to adapt to the constant changes and keep hope. Because of this confidence, I decided to apply to an internship with The Whole Person. The Whole Person is a non-profit organization in Kansas City that connects people with disabilities to resources in the community such as social groups, employment and life skills. I applied to be a summer work coach intern and I got the position.
Almost my whole summer this year was dedicated to this internship. I was assigned to a work site in Grain Valley where I would supervise two high school students with disabilities as they learn how to work. I documented information, gave them lesson plans and made sure they learned skills such as time management, job etiquette, networking and learning to read their paycheck. This internship was very rewarding, as I got to connect with these students and the other employees at the worksite and gather insight about what I have to look forward to if I continue in the field of working with people who have disabilities.
All of my experiences were able to happen because I decided to take a chance on a psychology department program. They helped me discover that working in the field of special education is my purpose and my biggest passion. This is my senior year of college and once I graduate in May 2021, I am planning on going to graduate school to get a Master’s Degree in Special Education. I want to become a special education teacher and continue advocating for and with people who have disabilities. I have learned so much about myself and other people through this whole journey and I am indebted to everyone who has helped me along the way. If you are wondering what your purpose is and what you want to have a career in, don’t worry. You still have plenty of time to decide. It’s important to keep hope. My biggest advice, however, would be to take risks. It might lead you to discover something that will help keep you happy and passionate and it could change your life forever.