Meet Misty Nelson, a Gates Millennium Scholar and School Psychology M.Ed./Ed.S. student. She’s an Atlanta native who grew up in a two-bedroom, 800 square foot home with ten people. You’ll hear more of that below.
Nelson shares her experiences and her academic journey.
Q: Where do you come from? How did you choose Georgia State and Counseling and Psychological Services?
I grew up in an extended home. It was a two-bedroom home in a predominantly white neighborhood. It was, maybe, 800 square feet. There were ten people in that house.
It was very unexpected how I arrived at Georgia State. I had no intentions or desires to attend college when I was in high school. It was due to financial constraints and the fear of taking on debt.
I was a high-achieving student, though, throughout high school. But I had no plans after my senior year.
In my senior year, my counselor insisted I apply for a scholarship. The Gates Millennium Scholarship (http://gmsp.org/), to be exact. It’s for students who are high achieving, engaged and involved in their communities.
At the time I applied, I had not applied to colleges. After selected as a semi-finalist for the scholarship, I began applying to colleges. I only applied to two, though, and Georgia State was one of them.
After I found out I got it (I was one out of 35,000 applicants in 2011) I still wasn’t accepted to a university. But with high hopes, prayers and persistence, Georgia State accepted me for Fall 2011.
I had full funding from the scholarship to cover graduate studies. That meant I did not have to apply as a graduate assistant. This limited my interaction with faculty in the School Psychology program. I worried that limited interactions would be detrimental to my success.
Instead, a position opened as a receptionist for the department and I applied. This helped me get to know the people of Counseling and Psychological Services.
I served for two years until my internship. During that time, I saw how much the faculty and staff invested in their research. And invested in the growth and potential for their students.
Q: Tell us more about the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
The scholarship is for African Americans, Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Islander minorities. It’s meant to help increase diversity in universities across the nation. Partners include:
- The American Indian Graduate Center Scholars (AIGCS)
- Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF)
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF)
1,000 students received the scholarship. You apply per cohort year (for 20 consecutive years). It provides full tuition and housing. That goes for undergraduate study at the university of the student’s choice. It caters to seven fields of study for graduate studies if students wish to do so. The fields include:
- computer science
- library and information science
- public health
- science (biological/life sciences and physical sciences)
The scholarship provides full funding for ten educational years per recipient.
I have been fortunate to meet great people with loving spirits. I’ve learned so much! Having the ability to take various classes changed my perspective on how I see ideas. It changed how I look at information and issues, not only in my own home but in this country.
The wealth of knowledge, skills and abilities I am privileged to partake in… learn… and call my own, came to me debt free. And that has resulted in long-term benefits, including financial literacy and stability. But also countless friendships and relationships gained along the way.
I am forever grateful for this opportunity to attend college and graduate school.
Q: What sparked your interest in School Psychology?
I knew I wanted to study psychology when I was in middle school. It sounded interesting at the time. But given my experience growing up… and living with extended family… I was eager to understand the disparities and differences I saw as a young child. I compared myself and family to how my peers were living and acting. Like how my mother could be so strong and resilient. She put her education on hold to care for a family of ten when she was 16. But she’s never looked back and neither have I.
I surveyed fields of psychology while looking for a graduate program. I decided I wanted to work with children from a different angle that would have the most impact on them. I chose this in hopes of leveling the playing field for students with disabilities. This includes advocacy and inclusion. I want to help them discover their difficulties and their strengths.
I also want to help other professionals who work with students with disabilities. I want to help them discover their “why.” It’s crucial to make improvements in children’s lives that we serve every day in the school system.
Q: What has your experience in the M.Ed./Ed.S School Psychology program been?
It’s been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Many highs, many lows, lots of laughs, countless tears. Through strong family, peer and faculty support I got through. I made it with dedication, determination and perseverance.
I remember sitting in an assessment class and feeling like I was completely lost. Nothing made sense for an entire year. I went from that to being able to test, interpret, consult and counsel. I made memories that will stay with me with children and teachers I worked with. I can now say that being in this program has been life and perspective altering. The final cry of this program will come at my graduation in May, 2019.
Q: What have you been able to do so far at your internship site?
Score. Interpret. Write. Write. Write. Consult with teachers and staff. Counsel students. Meet. Meet. Meet.
My site supervisor, Ebonie Poythress, has taught me an indefinite host of knowledge. She has led me, laughed with me and given me phenomenal ideas. She’s given me direction and feedback about my progression and professional growth. She is a supervisor and now a colleague, but most importantly, my mentor.
Q: What keeps you engaged in this work?
Knowing children go under the radar and are never detected. Meeting fifth graders who read on kindergarten levels. Meeting children who are nonverbal. Being with teachers who have data and are genuine about their work. This fuels my passion to work with students with disabilities. And the individuals who work with them.