MA '98, Rehabilitation Counseling
Tell me about your work in rehabilitation.
I grew up in the Washington, DC area, went to Howard University there, and worked in international finance before going to graduate school at NYU for my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. I'm currently the Deputy Executive Director of Binding Together Inc. (BTI), a vocational rehabilitation training program which teaches printing and copying skills to formerly homeless people who are recovering from substance abuse. It's also a profitable print shop that serves corporate clients. While studying at NYU, I served as an intern at BTI, where I worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. After one year, I was promoted to senior vocational counselor, and when I graduated, BTI hired me on full-time as the program director.
BTI is a social purpose organization (as opposed to social service), a perfect fit for me. When I was growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of having skills so that I could work and be a productive member of society. Now I'm helping others with multiple barriers to employment do the same. Running the business end of BTI also allows me to use my corporate background. NYU provided me with an amazing network of graduates and faculty to call on if I need anything – and it works both ways. These contacts are always leading to other opportunities, like invitations to serve on boards of various organizations or to give talks. Just recently, on the recommendation of an NYU faculty member, I was elected to serve on the Board of the National Association on Alcohol, Drugs and Disability.
Even way back when I was fourteen, I was the neighborhood source for resumes, cover letters, and interview skills coaching. I realize that the people I'm helping now could very well have been those I helped back then, give or take a few decades. There's no divide between us. Many times people in the helping professions gravitate toward professional situations that relate to their own personal experiences. Three members of my family died from addiction and substance abuse. Rather than just letting that be, I'm helping others to transcend the same kinds of problems and live more productive lives.
How did you land at NYU for your master's degree?
I've always had a strong work ethic and a desire to help people, but initially I took a business route. I thought I'd work in banking until I made enough money to start an agency. When I was working at the Bank of New York, I started volunteering at an agency for at-risk youth and I met someone who went to NYU's Rehabilitation Counseling program. She really turned me on to it.
NYU taught me that anyone can be in a rehabilitation process; it changed how I look at myself and other people. You can be recovering from an experience or your relationship to cigarettes, food, or other substances. It gives you a chance to look at yourself in terms of healthy and not healthy, needing change or healing, being conscious of a side of you that needs nourishment.
Today, when one of my colleagues comes to me for advice, I know I can pull from courses I've taken to help her think of the right strategy to help her students overcome barriers.
And what about New York City?
I love New York. I would never have grown so much as a person if I had stayed in DC. The city is so diverse – you can get a taste of so many cultures. After eight years here, New York still has the power to excite me on so many levels. Recently I went to see an acoustic soul performance, and it segued into a rap and hip hop concert filled with kids. I'm in my mid-thirties and I enjoyed every minute of it; it was just wonderful.
New York City and NYU have provided me with an excellent graduate school experience, a wealth of job opportunities, and a thriving network of colleagues. Every cuisine of the world is here, every kind of art and music... it's an education outside of education.