Contributing Editor's Note: The spotlight for this issue is on minority students in school psychology training programs. I asked three students from underrepresented backgrounds to reflect on what aspects of their program made them feel welcome and supported. In their discussions, they took the task a step further and furnished ideas about ways in which school psychology training programs can improve how they approach issues of diversity within the context of the training program itself. In addition, the students outlined recommendations for school psychology training programs to address the disproportionately low number of minority students in the profession and the need for more diversity. -Terry Bontrager
Phakdey Chea Yous
I arrived in the United States in 1981 with my family as a refugee from Cambodia. With little money and limited facility in English, my family's first few years in the United States were challenging and humbling. I learned English through the help of my schoolage sister and by watching cartoons on television. My parents encouraged my siblings and me to do well in school and to strive for a college degree. The value they placed on education was underscored by their work ethic and their dedication to helping others like ourselves achieve academic success. As refugees from a war-torn country, my family saw education as a means to an end - the path that would enable us to improve our livelihoods and realize all the promises of the American Dream.
After high school, I went on to Brandeis University to pursue a degree in anthropology. While at Brandeis, I was actively involved in Asian organizations and the Intercultural Center Programming Board. I cofoundedthe Cambodian Culture Club and the Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Week.
A continual desire to effect change on a broad scale led me to Boston University School of Public Health. My enrollment in its international health program helped cultivate a knowledge and interest in public health issues both at home and abroad. After completing my degree in public health, I found a position at Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, where I have learned how information can empower individuals to make decisions that impact their lives and the lives of their children.
The culmination of these experiences and a deep-seated commitment to social equality, particularly access to education, compelled me to pursue school psychology as a career. I am currently studying at UMass Boston. The exponential growth of minority populations and the challenges that this demographic change will bring to school systems are among the issues I look forward to understanding.
I am currently in my second year of the school psychology program at UMass Boston. I graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 2007.
I arrived in Canada in 1989, at the age of 3 with my family, due to an unforgiving war that still plagues my home country, Somalia. My immediate family were among the fortunate to have escaped the war. The incessant war and current situation in Somalia continue to play a major role in my life and have shaped me into the person that I am today. As I live and work in the inner city of Toronto, I still experience the effects of the war in Somalia. From the death and suffering of my extended family members to inner city youth and community violence, these are part of the same vein of displacement and unrest that is a result of the war in my motherland.
I grewup in a lower socioeconomic community in Toronto, Ontario that faces many barriers - poverty, low educational achievement, and high incidence of crime. I have witnessed firsthand the potential problems that face disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in our society. As a result, I have been trying to understand how the educational system helps reinforce these barriers and how the system could function more effectively. …