The ability to give sound advice has long been a source of hope for Kyra Addison.
“I have always loved helping people,” she said. “I remember friends in the community and older people coming to me seeking advice when I was a preteen. I am very optimistic. I can lend an ear to people — especially now that I am older.”
Addison doesn’t just talk the talk — she walks the walk. The Greenwood, Mississippi, native is enrolled in the online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Lamar University. She is on track to graduate in 2021.
The positive experience of a friend who attended the university as an undergrad steered Addison in the same direction.
“I always heard her talk about the school and the on-campus activities,” she said. “The moment I thought about going to graduate school, Lamar University came to mind because my friend had been talking about it for so long.”
Initially, Addison planned to enroll in the online Master of Education in Counseling and Development with a Specialization in Professional School Counseling program, but she did not meet the requirement of having a teaching certificate.
However, she landed a job as a teen programs facilitator at Step Up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and moved to Texas shortly before she enrolled in the Clinical Mental Health program in October 2018. The degree coursework is a nice fit for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit mentorship organization.
“I work with 11th-grade girls and advocate for them about college readiness and career exploration,” she said. “I have also learned through this program how to advocate for mental health with teenagers.
“The communities that I work in are need-based — they need resources, assistance and guidance. I deal with a lot of students who deal with a lot of issues. They have tunnel vision and only worry about what’s going on right now, in the moment.”
Addison graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Mississippi in 2018. She worked as a receptionist and a tutor at the school during her four years in Oxford.
“I had no idea what I was going to do after graduating,” she said. “I am a first-generation college student. No one in my family has graduated from a four-year university let alone went graduate school, but I jumped right in. I was sitting on the couch one day and thought about applying to graduate school.
“When I called Lamar University, one of the coordinators said, ‘Hey, you don’t meet the requirements for school counseling, but you could do clinical mental health counseling.’ She walked me through the entire process to apply until I clicked ‘submit to pay.'”
Addison enjoys the flexibility of the online format — especially since she is also a guest educator at Enriched Schools.
“It’s very manageable because I am able to set my own schedule and go at my own pace,” she said. “Being able to balance everything with school, family, work and other community-based things I am doing is nice. It’s definitely been better than a traditional classroom.”
CNDV 5320: Multicultural Counseling and CNDV 5310: Counseling Skills have been Addison’s two favorite — and most applicable — courses in the online M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling curriculum, so far.
“Multicultural Counseling is very relevant to what I do,” she said. “I am from a small town where I worked with predominantly African-American students. Since coming to Dallas, I work more with Hispanic students. I have been able to utilize what I learn in class to my work as an educator.
“In the Counseling Skills course, we had to coordinate mock sessions where we recorded ourselves with our classmates. I was not only able to step out of my comfort zone, because I don’t like recording myself and thought it was so awkward, but it helped me with my social media platforms. It took a lot of flexibility and discipline.”
Addison is pleased with all of the information that she is learning in the master’s degree program, although she isn’t sure which specific direction to take her career after graduation. It’s a safe bet she’ll be helping people somewhere.
“I lacked a lot of resources growing up, but being able to be a resource for other people is a big goal for me,” she said. “I want to utilize my degree in the best way possible with whatever I am led to do… I am taking it as it comes. I think some opportunities will open up for me because of the hands-on experience I am getting in the program. I have already gotten good value out of it.”
Especially since Addison lives in Texas, she plans to make the trip to Beaumont to walk in the commencement ceremony. She hopes her family will also be there to help her celebrate her big accomplishment.
“They are excited,” she said. “They’re rooting for me, and I am happy to have them on board with me. My parents, Jimmy and Tracey Addison, have supported me throughout this journey by helping me with everyday life while trying to balance school and work as an adult. They have loved on me and helped me at times when I faced personal adversity while in the program. My siblings and immediate family have been supportive by helping me practice self-care by spending time with them and enjoying life while I am at the beginning of my blossoming future.”
Addison didn’t end up where she expected when she decided to continue her college career, but she’s glad that she made her way to Lamar University.
“Going in, you should know that you will be able to utilize all that Lamar University has to offer in this program and apply it to your daily life,” she said. “This information will help you be successful when you’re interacting with other people.”
Take it from her. She should know.