Student Profile: Ayinde Tate, M.S.Ed. '14

What was your educational/career background coming into the program?

Although I am a California native, I obtained my BA in Psychology from La Salle University in 2007. After graduation, I moved back to California and began working at the San Mateo County Emergency Shelter as a Shelter Care Counselor for abused, abandoned, and neglected adolescents who were removed from their home. In this position, I provided counseling for up to 18 youths who resided in the shelter, as well as provided supervision during family visits and communication with the adolescents, social workers, school administrators and, in certain cases, parents. In 2010 I returned to Philadelphia and began working as the Director of Out of School Time (OST) Activities at Sayre High School. In this position, I coordinated Sayre’s extracurricular activities and oversaw the facilitators and how they administered each group.

Why did you choose SMHC at Penn GSE?

I chose this program due the to its integration of school and mental health. As I discussed with a school counselor and others who work with school aged youth, there is strong link between mental health and academics.  Responsibilities and other factors outside of school can and may affect how successful a student can be, thus having the training in both fields will provide youth the most sufficient support in succeeding not just in school but also in life.

What has the experience of the program been like in regards to time management? How have/did you balance work, family, field placements, classes, assignments, etc.

The program has been extremely helpful in that many of the professors and cohort members are aware that most people are working full time while completing different readings, but they also emphasize taking care of one's self in order to not burn out. Having people who understand the stressors and responsibilities that are in the workplace, and being willing to work with you on any issues with assignments, has truly been a benefit and it has helped me through the program's rigorous courses. Being able to do field work at my place of employment was beneficial as well, and knowing that the professors had an alternative that was literally around the corner from my job was also reassuring. Due to most cohort members working in some capacity, one would think that finding time to work together would be difficult, but because we got to know each other so well during the semester we were able to connect either on social networks, video conferences, or in person around each others schedule, which may not have been possible in other larger less organized programs. Although it is still a challenge, having this type of support system truly helped balance work, school and, most importantly, myself.

How has the diversity of the cohort contributed to your experience?

I rave about how different my cohort is; not just in gender but also in life experiences, socioeconomic status, education, etc.  We may not agree about everything during class discussions, but getting a different perspective has made me a lot more culturally competent and confident that I can work with individuals who come from the same backgrounds, same age groups, and same race/ethnic groups as my cohort members.   

Describe the program's focus on urban education & mental health issues.

My general focus after obtaining my BA was working with urban youth, and with GSE having such a strong presence in West Philadelphia, it is reassuring to see that so much emphasis is placed on urban education, especially since these schools are the ones that get little support.  As far as mental health is concerned, this has been a great help assisting those of us who are not from urban environments; it has made us aware of the stigma that counselors may carry, as well as the issues that affect people’s mental health but that to often go untreated. Becoming aware of these issues and receiving appropriate cultural counseling skills is a necessity in West Philadelphia.