Life of a Fellow: Ciara

Ciara is a Jersey girl and Yankees fan (we don't hold it against her), who graduated from Southern Connecticut State with a double major in Library Science and Psychology and William Paterson University with her master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. Outside of 12+, you can find Ciara running and exploring Philly with her dogs, Rocco and Curtis. Ciara brings her wide range of celebrity impersonations and humor to the Kensington Health Sciences Academy PLUS Center this year. 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I find myself asking some variation of this question daily. As seniors at Kensington Health Sciences are finalizing college applications, juniors and underclassman are beginning to chat about their college plans. My first questions always pertain to, “Well, what do you want to do?” Some students launch into detailed descriptions of their ideal job, degree and even anticipated salary. Other students list five to ten unrelated career paths, with the intention of conquering the entire list. Others still, respond with a blank stare flavored with a horrifying realization of the future. I was oblivious to the pressure conveyed with my question until I was put in the hot seat myself. 

About a month ago, Christie Garton, founder of UChic*, met with female students at Kensington Health Sciences Academy to learn about their stories and role models. As the “grown-ups” in the room, the 12+ staff was asked to share what their dream in life is and what steps they have taken towards that dream. I responded, about my dream to provide family therapy in underserved communities. I backed up my dream with the Master’s degree that I received in Clinical and Counseling Psychology, and experience providing family therapy in a group home setting. I listened to the dreams of my peers and felt inspired, then carried on with my day.

It was not until later that evening that I sat on my couch and realized for the first time, I felt uneasy about my response. Sure, I would love to continue my work as a counselor and provide family therapy where it is needed. The truth is, however, I would also love to pursue a counseling and teaching career at a higher education institution. For a very long time my dream was to be a librarian. I have the bachelor’s degree to support it. My dream to publish a book is not dead yet, nor is my dream to become a yoga instructor with the ability to incorporate therapeutic teachings in sessions. I will admit there is still a large part of me holding onto my stand-up comedian dream. The point is, my dream has changed and will continue to change.

When put in the position to answer for myself, essentially I panicked. I responded with the first thing that came to my mind. It is never my intention to pressure our students to provide an answer for their dreams. Instead, as a 12+ Fellow, I want to accompany them on the journey to figure out their dream, change it, and figure it out again! After this valuable experience I have made an effort to share the message that it is okay to change your dream. I comfort students who may not know yet what they want and spread a more important message -- that you have time to figure out your constantly evolving dream.

* UChic is an organization focused on empowering the dreams of young women and funding the extracurricular expenses of their dream through scholarships.