A student in the clinical mental health counseling master’s program at Hodges University, Lourdes Araujo has always been drawn to positions that involve serving others. Setting a goal to earn a Ph.D. in clinical supervision and education and one day become a Hodges University professor, her next steps are to graduate this spring with her master’s degree and spend time working as a counselor in the Collier County area.
As a full-time student, a Health Under Guided System (H.U.G.S.) program manager at the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and intern at IMAGINE Children’s Health Center, Araujo maintains a busy schedule. Trying to find a balance, she admits that every Saturday, on Hodges’ Naples campus, she is in the library studying from open to close. “I love school and I love research; however, due to my full-time job and additional obligations, Saturday is my day to devote to schoolwork,” she said.
Her decision to return to school occurred while working at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office as a victim advocate. “Hodges actually came to the sheriff’s office to discuss their programs and that is what inspired me to go back to school. Plus, Hodges allowed me the flexibility of being able to take classes online and in the classroom,” she said.
Earning her bachelor’s degree in business management, she eventually decided that business was not what she wanted. In 2013, after deciding to pursue her true passion, she enrolled in the clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) degree program at Hodges.
“Lourdes is an amazing student, which is just one of the many roles she has in her life. She sees endless possibilities for herself, and she consistently accomplishes what she sets out to do with enthusiasm, determination and a smile on her face. She is a joy to have in class and an asset to our CMHC program,” said Dr. Mary Nuosce, dean of the Nichols School of Professional Studies.
Referred by a Hodges faculty member for an internship with IMAGINE Children’s Health Center, Araujo met Executive Director Dr. Molly Barrow. “Dr. Barrow has encouraged me to be innovative and creative, and she has really put me out there to showcase what I am doing,” said Araujo.
In January 2016, after spending much time developing a curriculum, Araujo and Barrow started the IMAGINE Leadership Class for middle and high school students, serving as its facilitators. Held at the Greater Naples YMCA, the course focuses on strengthening leadership skills, practicing social coping skills and building confidence. Students also learn about healthy brain food, using music to de-stress and learn, as well as how to address conflict.
“This course is an outlet for these students to come together and use the tools we provided them to learn how to handle certain situations. We want them to take this information and become ambassadors; sharing what they’ve learned with their peers,” said Araujo.
Explaining that many colleges are looking at these types of courses when considering acceptance, she adds that scholarships are available for students who wish to attend, but who may not be able to afford the $60 fee.
“It is important for these students to work with someone who truly listens to what they have to say,” said she.
Her time devoted to working with young children and adolescents doesn’t stop at IMAGINE, but instead, transfers to her full-time job as the H.U.G.S. program manager at NAMI. At the free, community-based behavioral health program for children in Collier County, Araujo works with children ages 3 months to 18 years to address social, emotional, behavioral and mental health issues.
Using free screenings, Araujo and her team are able to identify the issues a child may be experiencing and assist the family in developing a long-term recovery plan through the use of community resources, such as therapy and advocacy centers, mentoring services, and more.
“I wake up every morning and am so excited to be doing what I am doing. Often times, we set up our own barriers and make excuses, but as students, we should never give up on what we want. You should always be true to yourself. At the end of the day, I want to be able to look back and see that I fulfilled my purpose in life.”