When Erin Dezell was a child, she told her dad she wanted to be a school counselor when she grew up. Today she is just that — a licensed School Counselor at Harwood High School in Moretown, Vermont. While her path wasn’t as direct as you might expect, she’s landed right where she wants to be.
A native of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Erin pursued her undergraduate degree in psychology out of state. Interested in community psychology and social change, she wanted to work at a systems level. Moving home to Vermont, she worked outside the field at first but was always connected to education, serving on the school board of her own elementary school and working hard to support public education. A family friend introduced her to the nonprofit Up ForMA Counseling Learning, and she worked there for four years, working with teams of high school students and school counselors to make the kind of system-level change she was drawn to.
But as she reflected on her work, she realized something: “The best part of my day was when I met with the students and their school counselors,” Erin said. Then she remembered: “Oh yeah, this is the job that I said I wanted to do a long time ago.”
Evaluating Graduate Schools Through Two Lenses
Ready to apply for graduate school to reach this goal, Erin evaluated her options through two lenses: She didn’t want to take on more debt, and she didn’t want to quit her job. The University’s Master of Arts in Counseling with a School Counseling track on the Johnson campus fit the bill. “The class schedule fit into my life without a total upheaval and provided the path for me to get this specific credential in School Counseling,” she said.
Of the program, she says, “Oh my gosh — it was great.” Small class sizes and so many classes with all of the same people led to some really great friendships that Erin cherishes, and she’s “really grateful for the experiences” — the coursework, learning about the work through her internship, and the variety of faculty and faculty approaches to the coursework.
Reflecting on her classes, the ones that really challenged her — academically and emotionally — stand out as the most rewarding, especially those that called on her to look at her own self and how to support others. “Going to school inadvertently helps you to nurture yourself,” she said.
Today, Erin says, “I’m doing what I wanted to be doing.” With the added layer of Covid-19 and the challenges it’s brought to school settings everywhere, Erin is balancing a mix of safe in-person and on-screen student counseling sessions.
“It’s hard. I’m learning more every day — about how to do my job and about myself,” she said.