Article Published: 3/22/2022
Every day since its creation in 2005, the nonprofit NBCC Foundation (NBCCF) has worked to bridge the gap in mental health care for underserved and never-served populations. To fulfill this mission, the Foundation awards scholarships and fellowships to individuals pursuing careers as professional counselors who are committed to serving these high-priority areas after graduation. NBCCF also offers capacity-building grants to communities around the world where access to mental health care is extremely limited to help strengthen or expand their mental health services.
Remarkably, thanks to assistance from generous corporate sponsors, 100% of the donations received by NBCCF go directly toward funding these indispensable programs.
“We’re helping support and connect future counselors who are already working with and will continue to work with and serve in much-needed spaces in the mental health counseling profession,” says Tory Watkins Cherry, NBCCF Director of Development and Communications. “Our fellows and scholars are all doing so many amazing things and are great advocates for their communities and those they serve who are a part of underrepresented, marginalized, or stigmatized communities. It’s so important to make sure these individuals know they have a safe space and safe clinicians who can help them receive access to the mental health resources they need. Our fellows, scholars, and alumni of the programs are doing this day in and day out in their communities and through their work as counselor educators.”
NBCCF Program Director Dr. Amber Khan says the Foundation’s work is more important than ever as the need for mental health services continues to grow.
“In the past few years, the mental health needs of the general population have increased, and the pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain communities,” Khan says. “This has further increased the need for counselors who can meet the very specific needs of all underserved communities. Our programs are designed to increase the capacity of trained counselors who make a commitment to serve these communities.”
Since 2010, NBCCF has provided over $10.3 million in assistance to 973 communities in 18 countries. Scholars and fellows participate in innovation training to expand effective practice in their communities, and the response continues to be overwhelmingly positive.
“While all our fellows and scholars absolutely appreciate the financial and educational support that the fellowships and scholarships provided, we continually hear how their mentorship relationships are impacting their lives, and many of our alumni still stay in contact with their original mentor from years ago,” Watkins Cherry says. “Many of them even end up later presenting together at conferences or collaborating on writing projects.”
Turesa Gilchrist became an NBCC Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Master’s Mental Health Counseling Fellow in 2019 and is now a school counselor in Virginia. Gilchrist says the experience was a tremendous help as she mapped out her career path and made professional connections along the way.
“Being awarded the opportunity to be a part of the 2019 Master’s MFP has been one of the most incredible experiences,” she says. “The opportunities that I have gained throughout my time as a fellow and beyond have undoubtedly helped me solidify my passion as a school counselor. Specifically, the connections that I have made with my cohort and school counseling mentor, whom I was paired with through NBCC and the NBCCF and who is also a previous doctoral fellow, have strengthened my ambition to conduct equity work with underserved populations. I am extremely grateful for NBCC and the funding, training, and support that they have provided me throughout my journey as a new professional school counselor.”
The support that these programs provide is much more than financial, Watkins Cherry says.
“We also hear how their fellow cohort members or those they’ve met through the Foundation have helped support them and helped create a space where they feel seen. Many of our MFP Fellows or Foundation scholars are the only or just one of a few persons of color or openly LGBTQIA+ students in their school programs, and the fellowship has helped them have a safe space where they can meet and grow with other students experiencing the same thing or serving similar communities. These programs give them a way to connect and also gain an entire family of clinicians and support to help them even after they finish their program year.”
Khan agrees that the scholarships and fellowships help counselors-in-training to build key relationships.
“We often hear about the value of mentorship and connections that were made possible as a result of participating in the fellowship and scholarship programs,” she says. “It is common that even years after leaving the program, we still receive feedback about how the program positively shaped their entire graduate experience. Fellows and scholars have also shared that they feel valued, supported, and seen. There is a unique bond that occurs among all the cohorts, which seems to have become a tradition over the years.”
Pamela Fullerton, MA, MEd, NCC, LCPC, CCTP, C-DBT, is a 2021 MFP Doctoral Mental Health Counseling Fellow. In addition to pursuing her doctoral degree at Governors State University and working as a counselor and clinical supervisor, she is an adjunct instructor at Northeastern Illinois University and owner of Advocacy & Education Consulting. Along with two other NBCC MFP Fellows, Fullerton recently started an NBCCF Giving Circle to raise scholarship funds for undocumented counseling graduate students. When she received the call about her fellowship, she couldn’t believe it, she says.
“When I realized it was not a prank, I began crying and thanked the person a million times. I do not see much Latinx representation in the counseling field and as much research dedicated to the Latinx or undocumented communities. For the NBCC Foundation to recognize me for the work I do in these communities was more than I could ever ask for. It has given me the opportunity to find more platforms to discuss these communities with anyone willing to listen and to advocate for underserved communities even more. NBCC also gave me the opportunity to start a scholarship for undocumented counselors-in-training, and I am so grateful for their support in this endeavor as well.”
The Foundation’s team especially enjoys hearing about the good work that counselors are doing in these communities.
“I enjoy getting to hear about the work that our fellows and scholars are doing around the country and world to positively impact and advocate for their communities,” Watkins Cherry says. “It’s incredible how motivated and passionate they each are about their work and the dedication they are giving to make sure that all individuals, including LGBTQIA+, Black, Brown, Asian, Latinx, immigrants, veterans, and so many other communities and people, have the care and resources they need. In a time when so many individuals’ existence in the world is being threatened, there are also so many incredible counselors and future counselors advocating for them and making sure they don’t just get the care they need but are also working to change the systems that continue to negatively affect those who are historically underserved in our country.”
“The most rewarding aspect of our work is the opportunity to experience the development and growth that our MFP Fellows and Scholars experience within in a short time frame,” Khan added. “During each year, we get to see the outcome of our programs and the difference in the lives of over 100 counselors in training. From serving LGBTQIA+ youth, to working with immigrants, to providing services to veterans, we are constantly inspired and motivated by the range of impact that they are making in their communities.”
The Foundation relies heavily on help from volunteers to administer its programs, Watkins Cherry says.
“We get hundreds of applications each year for just a few scholarship and fellowship spots,” she says. “It is 100% due to the dedication and support of volunteer application reviewers who help screen these applications that the final awards can be given. Volunteer mentors are also essential to helping our fellows and scholars while they’re in school and navigating becoming counselors or counselor educators. We have struggled at times, and in the last few years especially, to have enough volunteers to support our programs and ensure everyone has a mentor. We would love to have more counselors volunteer as reviewers and mentors and help make a difference in the life of a future counselor or counselor educator.”
More information about the NBCC Foundation can be found here:
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