School Counseling faculty member Dr. Konjit Page, School Counseling students Zeyda Garcia '14 and Dani Keerikoolparn '15 meet with California Psychological Association's CEO Dr. Jo Linder-Crow. (from left to right: Page, Garcia, Linder-Crow, Keerikoolparn)
On March 17-18, 2014 members of the USF School Counseling graduate program participated in the California Psychological Association’s 25th Annual Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Sacramento, California. Throughout the conference, mental health practitioners met with California State Senators and Assemblymembers to lobby for mental health resources.
USF School Counseling faculty member Dr. Konjit Page attended the conference with current School Counseling students Zeyda Garcia ’14 and Dani Keerikoolparn ’15. As Dr. Page explains, “The idea for participating in this conference came out of a discussion amongst School Counseling faculty around what ‘social justice’ can look like. In particular, issues around how one can participate in systemic change to improve the communities in which we live and serve. This led us to think about advocacy, specifically legislative advocacy as one way in which we can participate in systemic change. The CPA Leadership and Advocacy Conference was a great training and learning opportunity for this.”
Conference participants lobbied for proposed Assembly Bill 2015. The bill will increase access to mental health care by prohibiting health care plans or insurers from discriminating against any health care provider that is acting within the scope of their license (leginof.ca.gov). “With this bill, the students that we work with and their families would be able to choose among mental health practitioners instead of being assigned to a particular type of practitioner,” explains Garcia.
The first day of the conference prepared conference participants to advocate for AB 2015 – providing information about the bill and strategies for how to effectively participate in conversations with legislators. On the second day, participants met with legislators in small groups. The groups were arranged geographically by district, giving each person the opportunity to speak with their local district representatives.
Garcia described her experience saying, “Participating in the lobbying conversations speaks directly to the social justice commitment and mission that the School Counseling program is founded on. We don’t just talk about it in our classrooms – we practice it.”
As school counselors, Garcia and Keerikoolparn’s participation was particularly important. “In both our groups we were the only school counselors. This was a great opportunity to educate not only state leaders, but also our colleagues, about the role of school counselors. We offered a unique perspective,” Keerikoolparn explained.
When asked what she learned overall from the conference, Garcia said, “We often talk about the importance of advocating for our students and our profession within our school districts. But the conversations need to be started at a higher [governmental] level - so that people know what we do as school counselors and why it’s important across the state not just in our school district.”
Learn more about the School Counseling Program.