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Marriage & Family Therapy faculty helps build volunteer programs to empower youth

Nadia Jones, Ed.D., LMFT, is using her Marriage & Family Therapy background to help empower youth and encourage student volunteerism.

For Nadia Jones, Ed.D., LMFT, service learning is a top priority. And as an associate professor for the Marriage & Family Therapy Department at The Chicago School’s Los Angeles Campus and an associate director of Community Partnerships, she has the opportunities to incorporate this kind of work in the community, specifically with one of TCSPP’s main partners in Los Angeles, the Magnolia Science Academy 7.

While painting the cafeteria or designing superhero posters may not be the toughest jobs for the volunteers she works with, Dr. Jones is using events like these as an opportunity to guide her students in community service, volunteerism, and learning opportunities. (She is also the leader behind nine other partnerships where students are placed in the community—including two of the biggest Department of Mental Health contractors in Los Angeles: Penny Lane and The Help Group.)

Nadia Jones, Ed.D., LMFT

Since October 2017, when the partnerships began, Dr. Jones has worked with four master’s level students who volunteer to build a program in which they work with either kindergarten to second grade or third grade to fifth grade.

“In a time when school shootings and bullying are most prevalent, schools don’t have enough funding or support to do psychological well-being for everybody,” Dr. Jones says. “The kinds of interventions that our volunteers work on gives students some variety and a chance to interact with each other. They work with children to improve the culture of the schools when it comes to topics such as self-esteem, anti-bullying, girl empowerment, and character building focused on the schools’ values.”

Two tutors and one practicum student will also be added to Dr. Jones’ current lineup of volunteers, including those who can help immigrant children with language and pronunciation. (In 2016, Migration Policy Institute reports that California is one of the top five U.S. states for immigrants—California with 10.7 million, Texas with 4.7 million, New York with 4.5 million, Florida with 4.2 million, and New Jersey with 2 million.)

“Even with a doctorate in education, there are words that I have trouble pronouncing correctly in English, so I can only imagine what it’s like for working parents, especially those who are illegal immigrants,” says Dr. Jones, who has lived in the United States since she was 23 but still has a noticeable Spanish accent.

In addition to improving academic education, she also wants to empower youth to be more self-confident.

“While every stage of adolescence may have its own challenges, the vice principal told me that something happens with students around April before they start transitioning into the next school year,” says Dr. Jones, who holds an Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology and a master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy.

“Fourth and fifth graders present noticeable changes. The vice principal stated that this seems to be the period in which girls stop wanting to be smart and start wanting to be seen as pretty,” she continues. “Some boys start realizing that they can boss around these young ladies to do whatever they want, so that’s why these self-esteem, safe circles, and leadership workshops are so imperative.”

Their service learning class has developed eight total sessions, and they chose two of the eight to work on with youth at the school. Children had the opportunity to not only listen to different lesson plans but also to express themselves through dance therapy. Gabriela Ramos, a professional dancer and Marriage & Family Therapy student, will be leading these courses under Dr. Jones’ leadership. (Other TCSPP students on the team are Griffin Thompson, Janina Daniels, Sharayne Douglas, and Krisiane Gonzales.)

“I love The Chicago School and how I’ve been given the opportunity to do this kind of work,” Dr. Jones says. “I’m thankful for Dr. Melody Bacon, who originally recommended that I work here. I’m also thankful that my Marriage & Family Therapy Department helped me easily move into combining both roles as Associate Faculty and Associate Director of Community Partnerships.

“I couldn’t be happier. Through my teaching and my community work, I am able to get the two best positions that fit me so I can do awesome work for the community. This university creates all the flexibility that I need to be able to do what makes me happy and then bring all that to my teaching for the Marriage & Family Therapy Department.”

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Shamontiel L. Vaughn joined TCS Education System’s Marketing Department as the Editorial Writer in February 2017. She has previously worked in digital media with the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Defender, CBS Chicago, and Sun Times Network.

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