Finish My Degree

Short Version:
I've had a pretty rough life, worked really hard on myself, and now I'm ready to help others. My community in Alaska needs mental health professionals. I want to finish my degree that I had to stop 6 years ago... but I'm in a lot of debt and I can't take out anymore loans right now. I don't qualify for financial aid at this time, but I am working and saving, and earning scholarships. It's just not quite enough.

If I do finish school, it's my commitment to my community and supporters to offer pro-bono (free) services one day a week for those who need quality mental health care but can't afford it. Please help, please share, and thank you so much!

(Scroll past the long version of this to go straight to seeing a breakdown of my education plan and costs. )


Long Version:
When I initially began college fresh out of high school, I was coming from a place of broken families, trauma, and zero safety or stability. I wasn’t going toward school, I was running away from home. Absolutely I had qualities that made me a great candidate for academic success. I am articulate, passionate about learning and reading, self-driven. What I didn’t have was emotional stability and safety.

            As a result, I made some decisions that were not in my best interest economically in order to preserve my sense of survival. I did love college, but I kept borrowing money to sustain myself and was unable to cope with the responsibilities age-appropriate to myself at that time. After six years, I left school without completing my anticipated degree in Secondary Education.

            I flounced around for a long time after this. It wasn’t until I was desperate and homeless on the streets of New York city 6 years ago that I was able to access the significant services that turned my life around. A family in Alaska who I knew through a video game invited me to come up here, live with them, and start over. So, I packed up and did it. Risk was a normal part of my daily routine and I didn’t give a second thought to leaving that life behind and moving across the country into the home of strangers to be completely dependent on them.

            As it turned out, they saved not only my physical life but the quality of my life as well. They gave me safety and stability. I accessed a psychologist and a psychiatrist and began to balance working full time and addressing my mental health needs. In the past three years, I have been more successful than I have ever been cumulatively in the previous 25 years of my life.

            Because of my financial crisis as a result of poor life skills and choices, I was adamant that I would not return to school. I ended up in a Personal Aide position and began a path toward providing direct care to people in need. This might be a concern to many other people who are caregivers. My psychologist himself addressed a concern about separating my personal issues from those who I cared for and maintaining my own personal care independently. Three years later, I have earned a certificate in Chemical Dependency counseling. I maintained my first real professional position for the last three years as a chemical dependency counselor at a local treatment center with Fairbanks Native Association.

            I could not put a monetary value on my experience. I began to engage with and fully develop an understanding for not only the issues burdening the Alaska Native population, but the entire community of Alaskans who are not necessarily native yet still must coexist in this clash of cultures. I was very careful to maintain my self-care and therapy. Alongside that, with the support of excellent professionals guiding my personal growth, I have developed a sensitivity and empathy for the needs of the people in this community. I can proudly say to you, the feedback to the effectiveness and compassion in the manner that I deliver services and to clients has been consistently positive – both from the clients and my colleagues. Simply put, it turns out I am very good at what I do.

            We are hurting. This community needs access to good care. They need psychiatrists and therapists. They need them well trained and financially accessible. They need them to be culturally competent and professionally empathetic. I want to be part of the people providing access to that care in our community. I want to be a licensed psychologist. I want to offer the level of services that is so rare and so desperately needed in this community. Many counselors have helped me survive from crisis to crisis, but it is the exceptionally well trained and licensed psychologists who made the difference in my life that stopped the cycle trauma.

There’s only so much one can do with my current certification (a CDC I). I’ve hit my limitations of care that I can provide - it is not enough. This community demands better. I am aiming for a PhD in Psychology, and it starts with a BS in Psychology. I am also not able to qualify for financial aid at this time. I've applied for scholarships and I'm working to save money, but it's not enough. Please help me get my degree, in as much of a financially responsible way as I can, so I can provide the services this community deserves.

In turn, please help me to earn my degree so I can give back to the community that not only saved me, but made me a strong person, capable of providing that care and services to others. I am no longer running away from trauma. This is now something I am passionately running toward.

If I do finish school, it's my commitment to my community and supporters to offer pro-bono (free) services one day a week for those who need quality mental health care but can't afford it. Please help, please share, and thank you so much!


My Educational Plan:

My eventual goal is to apply for the UAA PhD program for clinical Psychology. This program is especially suited to my goals and the community I have experience working with. That starts with a BS in Psychology.

After completing the application process for school and I sat down with an advisor and we went over exactly which classes I would need to take that would fulfill all the qualifications to apply to the PhD program. We broke down a plan of about two years’ worth of senior level courses. You can see them here:



A Breakdown of the finances necessary
:

Costs per a year would include 14 to 16 credits a year in tuition, plus fees, and books which are not included in the fees. In addition, there is the cost of living which includes my rent, utility, and food bills.

I plan to both work and go to school full time. Working full time will allow me to cover the expenses of my rent and other bills. It's the tuition and books that I need financial aid for.

As you can see here, the annual cost of tuition for a junior to senior level undergraduate student is nearly $9,000. Applying for scholarships so far has resulted in assistance of $1,000 which I have already begun to put toward the costs of my books and college savings. I plan to continue to work and apply for as many scholarships as possible.


What am I doing to help myself?


As I mentioned earlier, I am applying for scholarships to school as well as working full time to cover the cost of my living expenses.

I have also shown my commitment to this career path through my work experience and the certifications I already achieved. I have my state certification for counseling - a Chemical Dependency Counselor I certification issued by the ACBHC. I earned a scholarship to cover most of these courses and then found a job in the field of substance use treatment first as an Aide to earn the hours of experience and supervision needed to complete the certification. I then worked as a counselor overseeing people's treatment. Currently, I work as a Mental Health technician providing direct care for ascents with mental health issues.

I am also working on resolving my debt with the US Department of Education. Most recently, there was a legal dispute between the creditors handling my account and the DOE, which caused my payments not to be collected at no fault to me. I have since been in touch with the DOE and working on a new payment plan.



Again - thank you so much for even just taking the time to read. Please share if you are able. I'm looking forward to paying your kindness forward.

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Organizer

Talyah Houle-Larson 
Organizer
Fairbanks, AK
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