Archive for the 'Education in the news' Category

#BlackLivesMatter: A Statement of Solidarity and Call to Action from the Department of Education Policy & Leadership at Marquette University

“It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.” 

—James Baldwin, “A Talk to Teachers”

As scholars, we are acutely aware of the long history of structural racism and oppression in the US. Whiteness and white supremacy have been working for over 400 years to subjugate, criminalize, dehumanize, silence, and kill people of color, particularly Black people. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade are some of its most recent victims, but they are not alone: according to the National Academy of Science, Black men are 2.5 times more likely and Black women are 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than white men and women.

As members of the Milwaukee community, we are acutely aware of how racialized disparities and violence play out in the day-to-day life of our city, including our schools. Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in America and one of worst cities in America to be Black, as measured by educational outcomes, health outcomes, life expectancy, incarceration rates and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of these inequalities, with infection and mortality rates far higher in our Black and Latinx communities. Yet Milwaukee also has a robust community of Black resistance, joy, and organizing, a community that has long been working against racism in our city.

As educators, we are most acutely aware of how schooling perpetuates this racialized violence. We perpetuate this violence in curricular silences, in white-dominant narratives, and in one-dimensional representations of people of color. We perpetuate this violence through zero-tolerance discipline, the disproportionate suspension of Black and Brown students starting in pre-school, and the school-to-prison pipeline. We perpetuate this violence when we leave narratives about ‘achievement gaps’ unquestioned without attending to education debts, when we over-identify Black students for special education, and when we refuse to engage students of color in intellectually meaningful learning experiences. We perpetuate this violence when we say nothing about systemic racism because ‘teachers shouldn’t be political’ or because ‘it’s inappropriate for children.’ We perpetuate this violence when we insist that all students assimilate to an impossible target of whiteness and when we refuse to let Black and Brown children be joyful, playful, thoughtful, complicated, and fully human.

We cannot be silent in the face of this deeply ingrained racism. As educators at a Catholic, Jesuit institution, it is our responsibility to actively teach anti-racism daily. Catholic social teaching tells us we must act in solidarity with the most vulnerable, and that we must affirm the dignity and divinity of every human, but especially those who are marginalized. This will not dismantle white supremacy on its own, but it is the heart of our work as Marquette educators. Therefore, EDPL commits to:

  • Examining our teaching practices, in the same way we are calling on other educators to examine their practice, using the thirteen guiding principles of Black Lives Matter.
  • Supporting students, educators, and staff of color. We are a predominantly white institution, preparing educators for a predominantly white profession. We must do better to recruit, support, and retain colleagues of color. We must leverage resources in support of our colleagues of color, speak out against a culture of racism on campus, and decenter whiteness in our curriculum.
  • Building racial literacy with our students, who have likely experienced their own miseducation. Our courses must integrate racial literacy, cite scholars of color, and challenge dominant narratives.
  • Cultivating anti-racist relationships, communities, and pedagogies. In K12 teacher education, specifically, we must dismantle ideas of ‘management’ and behavioral control that inflict violence on youth of color. We must pass the mic to abolitionist teachers who show us what freedom is.
  • Working for anti-racism in education more broadly. We call for abolishing disciplinary and special education practices that perpetuate systems of racialized violence, building anti-racist partnerships with practitioners, and using our university-based privileges to advocate for racial justice.
  • Working for intersectional anti-racism in our society more broadly. Education does not exist in a vacuum. We must work in partnership with community organizations, anti-racist leaders, and policy makers to root out white supremacy and racism in our communities beyond the school building.
  • Celebrating joy, love, healing, and resilience with our Black and Brown students. We acknowledge that antiracist work too often focuses only on naming inequalities, injustices, and traumas. If that’s the entirety of our work, then our work is also dehumanizing. Instead, our classrooms must prioritize the beauty, resistance, resilience, and joy of communities of color.

These are our commitments. They will guide our work in the next academic year and beyond as we create tools of accountability and action steps for our department. We also invite you—particularly our students—to share feedback on the steps we need to take toward intersectional, anti-racist education.

However, we also call on you, our community of alumni, students, and practitioners, to take action. We especially urge this of our white community members. The teaching force in Wisconsin, like elsewhere in the US, is overwhelmingly made up of white women, many of whom consider themselves kind, well-meaning, and not racist. But this has never been enough to dismantle white supremacy, and this ‘not racist niceness’ masks our complicity in these systems. Without active and ongoing work to become anti-racist, we can too easily retreat into our otherwise invisible whiteness when convenient. Amy Cooper’s verbal assault on Christian Cooper in Central Park is a reminder to those of us who identify as white women that we are often the perpetrators of systemic, racialized violence.

Unlearning racism is also intersectional work. For those of us who are non-Black people of color, the work to be anti-racist will look different than it does for our white colleagues. While we may live and experience the systematic violence of white supremacy, we must still commit to the on-going work of combatting anti-Blackness in our own families, communities, and educational spaces.

In this spirit of collective action, we offer the following lists of anti-racist resources. On their own, they are not enough to dismantle the ideological, internal, interpersonal, and institutional ways of white supremacy. We know this, but still: we offer them as a starting point and as a commitment to action. Words are important but not enough. We must act every day to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter.

In solidarity,

The Faculty & Staff of the Department of Education Policy & Leadership
Marquette University College of Education

 

Anti-Racist Resources for Education

Anti-Racist Action Networks & Communities
National

Local

Resources for Self-Care & Racial Healing

Countering Anti-Blackness

Celebrating Blackness

Classroom Self-Assessment (from the Early Childhood Education Assembly)

Resources for Talking & Teaching About Race & Racism

*Note that many, though not all, of these resources are written for white adults and children

Background Resources on Race Talk

Teaching Materials

Teaching Communities

Books

We recommend buying your books from a Black-owned bookstore

  • Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (free PDF through Juneteenth)
  • Tiffany Jewell, This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, & Do the Work
  • Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You
  • Ibram X. Kendi, Anti-Racist Baby
  • Jennifer Harvey, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America
  • Mica Pollock, Everyday Anti-racism: Getting Real About Race in School
  • Cheryl Matias, Surviving Becky(s): Pedagogies for Deconstructing Whiteness & Gender
  • Bettina Love, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching & the Pursuit of Freedom

Resources for Building Racial Literacy

Web-Based Resources

Books

We recommend buying your books from a Black-owned bookstore

  • Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
  • Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
  • Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
  • Paul Ortiz, An African American and Latinx History of the United States
  • Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Anti-Racist
  • Charles Mills, The Racial Contract
  • Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want To Talk About Race
  • Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
  • Ta-Naheisi Coates, Between the World & Me
  • Craig Wilder, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, & the Troubled History of America’s University’s
  • Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color
  • Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
  • Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

Other thoughtful and heartfelt statements on racial injustice have been provided by Marquette University President, Dr. Michael Lovell, and Vice-President for Inclusive Excellence, Dr. William Welburn. Both messages focus on the University’s responsibility to transcend words and exert impactful action. Marquette students have also taken a stance on this vital issue through their student government association.  In addition, as an institution, our community came together recently both in person and remotely in a Mass for Healing and Reconciliation. It should be noted that statements are emerging from other academic units at the University like the Diederich College of Communication. In the collective, these declarations signal an earnest intentionality on the part of our University, in the Catholic, Jesuit spirit of magis, to do significantly more to eradicate racial inequality.

Dr. Bill Henk, Dean
College of Education

YOU Are Our Best Hope

UnknownDear College of Education Students—

The past few days I’ve literally read dozens of heartfelt narratives sadly highlighting the most recent tragic realities of racism in our country and passionately calling for its rightful ending.

Without exception, I greatly appreciated and admired each one. These texts had been rendered in such reflective, eloquent, and powerful terms that sharing my own perspectives on this enduring and inexcusable injustice, while equally earnest, would add little or nothing to the conversation.

That left me wishing I could otherwise contribute to the cause.  And ironically, I found that pathway in a takeaway that haunted me after each reading, which is why I’m writing to you. Specifically, I kept coming back to the same nagging question, “Yeah, but how do we REALLY end racism in America?

More specifically, I wondered how we might rise above the thoughtful rhetoric and eradicate this social plague, one that is deeply rooted in almost all of human history and thus far impervious to every effort to squelch it.

One pathway is clear if we consider that outrageous episodes of bigotry, violence, and even murder continue to occur despite countless attempts to vilify racism through our words.  Namely, let’s quit talking and take definitive action.  In turn, that conclusion, admittedly obvious, begs the much tougher question of who then most needs to step up.

The cliché answer is everyone.  To the extent that such an ambitious prospect could somehow ever be realized, there’s no debating it.

But the more pragmatic response is this one – those who have the conviction, capacity, and reach to exert a truly systemic impact on society, altering the future through the young lives they touch. In other words, it’s teachers.  And that means YOU are humanity’s best hope.

In the College of Education we expect our graduates to embody the tenets of social justice, we expect them to be Men and Women for others, we expect them to be faith-filled, and we expect that all of their endeavors will be driven by magis, always doing the “more.”  So stop and ask yourself, “What more can I do both as a professional and child of God, for and with others, to erase inequality?”

One profound retort to that question is to make the ending of racism an absolutely integral aspiration of your call to teach.  If you do, then in the best Marquette University tradition, you really can “Be The Difference.”

Sincerely,

bill-henk-signature
Dr. Bill Henk, Dean

 

Dr. Leeza Ong and Dr. Praveen Madiraju Receive $20,000 NCAA Grant

leeza-ong-photoDr. Lee Za Ong and Dr. Praveen Madiraju (Marquette University Department of Computer Science) has received a $20,000 grant from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA)to build an online application to support peer health educators in the Marquette University Athletic Department.

Although peer education is widely utilized as a health promotion method on campuses, the appropriate competency training of peer educators remains inadequate. At Marquette University, peer support for student-athletes is offered through the Athletic department’s Student Health Allies & Peer Educators (SHAPE) program. This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of SHAPE competency training by measuring peer support ability and how that support affects the well-being of student-athletes. This is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Athletics, Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, and Computer Science to provide SHAPE competency training and to monitor the well-being of student-athletes through web applications.

 

Remarks from Dr. Cynthia Ellwood for the Class of 2020

Although we cannot hold our commencement ceremonies as we typically have, many of our faculty and staff have shared their best wishes for the Class of 2020. Below are remarks from Dr. Cynthia Ellwood for the students completing their Masters in Education degrees this spring.

accomplishment-ceremony-education-graduationMy good friends and colleagues:

In some other world, right about now, many of you would be gathering in the Pabst theater to be celebrated by us. That’s not what we’re living right now, but it’s still a milestone. So, let’s take a moment.

When you were admitted into the Educational Policy and Leadership programs, whether Educational Administration or Educational Policy and Foundations, it was because we saw in you someone who shared the values and aspirations of our program – a commitment to justice and opportunity for all people, an appetite for rigor, and the desire to pursue your studies as part of a community.

Now a few years later, here is what I see in you. You have come together as family across many personal histories and educational sectors. “Cohort” does not begin to capture you have become as a community.

High demand and high support has become a watchword phrase among us. You not only speak it, you live it. You have challenged and nurtured each other through this program. More importantly, you have increasingly found new ways to challenge and nurture the young people you serve. We saw this change in you from your first semesters in the program. And as your convictions have grown over the years, we have seen you exercise the courage to advocate among other adults for change that better challenges and supports our young people. You’ve become leaders.

 We have seen each of you grow dramatically more capable and confident in wielding the skills of leadership. But much more importantly, you have become adaptive leaders – people who recognize the underlying complexities and human dynamics of the challenges educators confront. You have become people who know how to pursue thoughtful, creative, systemic change.

Finally I see in you a group of individuals who show a deep, critical, independent understanding of what justice looks like. Each of you has wrestled with what words like “social justice” actually mean, each of you has examined inequities in your own personal and professional worlds, and, in the face of this ever-deepening understanding, you have found opportunities for action.

You have not waited to act, you have already begun. And you have developed a hopefulness and a resolve that absolutely humbles me.

You are the beacons that light our future and the future of our young people. Thank you for letting us be part of your journey.

Please check out our YouTube channel or follow the College of Education on Facebook or Twitter to hear more from our faculty as they congratulate our graduates.

Uneven Schooling in Crisis and Beyond

paper-and-a-pencilBy Dr. Bill Henk, Dean of the College of Education

“How well are our schools educating students when their buildings are closed?” As an education dean, that’s a question I get asked frequently nowadays, second only to, “How is it going with all of your university courses now being online?”

Both questions reflect the enormous disruption that has been thrust upon education at all levels by the insidious coronavirus threat. All things considered, higher education faculty and students seem to be taking the hurdles pretty much in stride. But despite the best efforts of K-12 schools of all types, significant variability exists in their capacity to deal effectively with the abrupt and epic change in the way instruction must occur during this crisis.

My recent exchanges with teachers and student teachers indicate that schools are attempting to deal with the setback in many different ways. In schools that did not have much existing infrastructure in place, limited instruction seems to be occurring, even in some affluent suburban districts. Others remain essentially on standby, waiting for more guidance from their leaders.

By contrast, some very well-prepared schools have already made the transition to full day on-line instruction. Many others are dutifully and thoughtfully preparing weekly printed packets of materials with assignments for students to complete. The remainder reside along a continuum somewhere in the middle using a wide range of different technologies.

What is most striking about the situation, though, centers on the number of students who do not have Internet access. It’s no surprise that urban and rural schools would generally be more vulnerable to instruction that relies on technology. A seasoned urban education leader recently noted that it would take an astonishing 10,000 Internet Service Provider installations to bridge the on-line, instructional access gap in the city alone. Another estimated that 40% of Milwaukee families with school children lack connectivity. Even when urban and rural schools manage to provide students with devices like Chromebooks and iPads and arrange for network installations, technical support is often needed to ensure their proper functioning on the new home network.

“But what about the free hot spot offers?” you ask. There’s no question that they are extremely valuable and commendable in our current circumstances. However, many families are fearful of the charges they might incur after the grace period, or believe they won’t qualify, because of an outstanding debt to the provider.

In short, the educational playing field seems far more unlevel than most of us imagined.  Students in urban and rural areas are likely to be disadvantaged in their learning ALL the time, not just during extenuating circumstances like the current pandemic.

On the plus side, the $2 trillion dollar federal stimulus package does include funding to help address these discrepancies. But it is not clear how soon the help will come, how it will be implemented, or if it will be nearly enough.

If the pursuit of educational equity for our school children represents a sincere aspiration for our state, region, and community, then we need to work together to determine actionable and affordable ways to remedy this crippling technological disparity. That will be no small feat with so many related barriers to overcome.  It will take a broad-based coalition of determined stakeholders joining forces to combat this daunting challenge.

Otherwise, the current health crisis will eventually end, but glaring inequities in educational opportunity will not.

A Message From the Dean

COED center full colorMarch 31, 2020

Dear College of Education Friends—

My heartfelt hope is that you and your families are healthy and taking every precaution to remain so.  Regrettably, on the advent of April 1st, the COVID-19 virus is all too real, all too pervasive and insidious, and all too potentially deadly.

Surely, you’ve followed the emerging situation with great interest and trepidation, particularly as it impacts your own lives. Along the way, you’ve likely noted that colleges and universities across America have been adversely affected by the pandemic, and in deeply significant ways. Marquette University and the College of Education are no exceptions.

The upshot of the situation has been an enormous number of logistical challenges, the most dramatic of which has been the suspension of all face-to-face classes. In our case, that meant faculty had to move more than 70 courses online in less than 10 days, and that our students had to prepare themselves for a very different type of educational experience. Moreover, there were high stakes hurdles to clear with practica, internships, and student teaching, all of which carry major implications for licensure and accreditation.

In addition, the University and College commencements, along with Alumni awards, and our own Mission Recognition event, have all been postponed, and many questions remain about summer school and fall enrollment. To be honest, it’s not clear when genuine normalcy might return.

Despite this monumental disruption, both Marquette and our College of Education have risen to confront this unparalleled circumstance in compelling fashion. Our students, faculty, and staff have demonstrated incredible levels of sensitivity, adaptability, and determination. Their response has been truly inspiring.

As a result, we will be able to march into the future together, united as an academic community, to honor our instructional, scholarly, and service missions. And in the Jesuit spirit of magis, we are exploring what more we can do to be present to our families, alumni, friends, and community.

Make no mistake, though, the way forward will be demanding. There will be problems to solve that we never expected or faced before. And the economic toll will be significant. In response, the University and College will need to be inventive, opportunistic, strategic, and skillful, so as to maintain our intellectual, operational, and fiscal viability.

Through all of this, I have every confidence that we can work through this unprecedented situation with the support of friends like you. We ARE Marquette after all.

Lastly, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or words of encouragement you might have.  And please stay healthy and safe.

Bill Henk signature

Dr. Bill Henk, Dean
College of Education

Alumna Carrie Hanson Named 2020 Herb Kohl Teaching Fellow

hansonCarrie Hanson, ‘Ed 14 and a social studies teacher at West Allis Central High School, has been named a 2020 Herb Kohl Teaching Fellow. The Kohl Teacher Fellowship “recognizes and supports teaching excellence and innovation in the State of Wisconsin.” Each year, 100 fellowship recipients and their schools each receive a $6,000 grant to help them pursue professional development or realize goals for their classrooms.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity and owe my gratitude to the many mentors who have guided me along my teaching path. So many of my first mentors were the educators I worked with at Marquette who helped me to see the bigger picture of teaching, which extends so much further than the walls of my classroom. To be intentional in my interactions with my students and my community, to give freely of my heart, to see the dignity in people even if they might not see it in themselves, those are some of the things that I think about when I try to reflect on what I learned at Marquette.”

Congratulations, Carrie!

Some thoughts on the recent message from President Lovell concerning the College of Education

art-artistic-bright-220502By Kathryn Rochford

I am inspired by where we will take this program, regardless of any possible changes to a college that will shape hundreds of impactful educators.

Hi everyone!

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote on this blog, life has gotten busy over the past few weeks! I wanted to start off by saying I am so happy to be back on campus and have really been enjoying sophomore year so far. It’s been great to reconnect with friends, get to know new professors and explore Milwaukee more and more. I can’t believe we are already at the seventh week of school; this semester is really flying by!

However, a month ago, I received an email that caught me off guard. I remember going about my day, business as usual, when the email from Dr. Henk, the Dean for the College of Education came in. He wanted to clarify a statement made by President Lovell regarding the current affairs of the College of Education and that it would be undergoing an evaluation to examine the efficiency of our college. I remember being taken aback as I wondered what this possibly could mean for our college, for my fellow peers and me, and even for the future students looking to become educators just like me.

My first thought was immediate confusion. How could this be happening? What could this mean? Could the higher-ups in the university have used language that made sense to students? (You may think I’m kidding, but I had friends of mine that were googling specific words we read in the statement and in the emails we received.) I remember walking into an education class that day and feeling this air of confusion, anxiety and concern surrounding my peers and me. We started class off that day asking our professor to clarify what was happening. As weeks went by, I started to hear about it from other students of different majors, asking me what was happening, expressing their concern for our college and for the students in it. I even had friends tell me that they felt it was ridiculous we weren’t getting more information about it and that we had every right to be fighting for our college, and I agree with them.

My peers and I were frustrated with the lack of information, the lack of inclusion of students, and even the constant reassurances that everything was fine. It felt to us like we were being disregarded or that our voice in the matter wasn’t as important. And yet, it caused my fellow students and me to start these discussions on why the College of Education is so important and why it means so much to us. It gave me this immense feeling of camaraderie and this sentiment that while we may not know exactly what’s going on, were going to be a part of a fight that truly meant something to us.

As more information came out, thanks to an email received from Dr. Henk about a week ago, we realized that these changes that may happen to our college weren’t as imminent as originally feared, but it still is concerning me that we might be undergoing quite a bit of reorganization over the next few years. I understand the reasoning behind all of it, but I hope these changes are minimal. I want the best for the incoming future educators of the generation behind me, I want students who haven’t even considered their future career path to have the same opportunities I have been given when I chose this college.

If I have learned anything while going through this process, it’s that I am so excited to be part of a group of people that feels the same way I do about the College of Education and its importance. I love the discussions I have with my peers about what it means to be in a specialized college for our major. I truly feel like I am meant to be here, in this college, and I feel so blessed to be a part of a peer and academic group that is set on making a difference in this world. I feel as education majors we really take Marquette’s mission statement to heart. We all go out into the world wanting to “Be the difference” for our future students and colleagues.

While change may be coming to the College of Education, rest assured we as students want to be involved and informed throughout the process of these changes. We want to be a part of the discussion about the importance of our college and its place in Marquette. In his last email to us, Dr. Henk described how much we inspire the faculty and staff of the College of Ed, and I share his sentiment. I am inspired by where we will take this program, regardless of any possible changes to a college that will shape hundreds of impactful educators. I’m excited to see the difference we, as students, will make in the world and in our student’s lives.

 

Getting to Know Heather Wolfgram

Heather Wolfgram joined Marquette University and the College of Education as a Director of Development in November of 2018. With several years of exerience in development on behalf of nonprofit organizations, Heather is ready to to advance the mission of both the college and the university. Read on to get to know Heather, and check out the rest of our series getting to know faculty, staff, and students!

IMG_9016 I’m originally from Big Bend, WI, and I’ve been back in Milwaukee for five years. My family is BIG and very close. All of my extended family still gets together for every holiday. My immediate family gets together almost every Sunday for dinner. Kids and dogs are welcome.

I have my Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota. I absolutely loved the experience. I learned so much and had the opportunity to build what I think is a really broad skillset. As a social worker I’m drawn to community organizers like Saul Alinsky and Barack Obama. Grassroots community organizing can be incredibly impactful. I’ve always been passionate about higher education and life-long learning. Marquette offered me an opportunity to make education accessible (through donor-funded scholarships) to those who might not have thought it was possible. I also really admire the Jesuit commitment to service and giving back to the community. As I move into my new role, I’m excited about partnering with Dean Henk to build the College of Education Leadership Council.

When not at work, I’m an avid cyclist. I love the combination of being outside, being social, and contributing to my health. When I moved back to Milwaukee, I joined a female cycling club called the Bella Donnas/Cadence. These are some of the most supportive, compassionate, and welcoming women I have ever met. Many of them have become close friends and will likely lead to life-long friendships. I would encourage any women who are cyclists or interested in becoming cyclists to ride with Cadence this spring/summer.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Marquette family and I look forward to learning everything I can about the College of Education.

The College of Education provides outstanding academic programs, generates nationally recognized research, and engages in significant community outreach. With the assistance of those who believe deeply in the importance of schooling and mental health across the spectrum, we can be more impactful in all of these social justice pursuits. To contribute to scholarships or community outreach endeavors, contact Heather Wolfgram today! 

 

The Importance of Mental health: A Letter From One Marquette Student to Another

counselorBy Sabrina Bartels

Earlier this month, the Journal Sentinel published this article on Markus Howard. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.  After reading it, I felt compelled to write a little note to him.

Dear Markus,

To start with a cliché: you don’t know me, but I know a little bit about you. I am an avid Marquette fan, having graduated from Marquette with my undergrad degree in 2011 and my Master’s in School Counseling in 2013. I have watched games where all the odds have been stacked against us, and seen you help lead the team to victory. Earlier this month, you helped elevate the team over Creighton, scoring a historic 53 points and whipping Marquette nation into an absolute frenzy.

And because of your skill, my 8th graders have started taking notice. They talk about how great you are and how much they want to be like you. They talk about going to Marquette someday and playing in the Fiserv Forum. I’ve had kids try to imitate your three-point shot so they can use it during their own games. They talk about someday beating your free throw point average.

You are an absolute hero to them because of what you do on the court. For me, you are a hero for what happens after the game has ended.

You may not know it, but I’m hoping my students are watching you because of the way you portray yourself. You make sure to stay humble. (I just saw an interview you gave after the Creighton game, and when asked about how you are so effective at what you do, your response was “I play on a great team.” Nothing about how you scored about half the points Marquette made that night.) You give back to the fans. You volunteer and work hard. You are a great leader on the NCAA Division I Men’s basketball Oversight Committee. But most importantly, you’ve gone public on the importance of mental health in athletes.

As a counselor, mental health is my daily job, but it’s often hard to put it into perspective with my 13- and 14-year-old students. My kiddos come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and all of them come in with a different perspective on counseling. Some students love having me at school, so they can talk about their problems. Some just think I’m a friendly person to have around. But then there are some who view counseling as weak. They don’t want to ask for help, for fear of how that makes them look. And these are the kids that I struggle connecting with the most. It’s almost like we have little boundaries up that are hard to overcome.

The fact that you talked about seeing a psychologist as “just another practice” has really opened up the door to a lot of my students. Suddenly, talking to a mental health professional is not taboo. It’s not weird; it’s not only for people they think are “crazy.” It’s for everyone who needs someone to talk to. And my hope is that my students start to embody that mentality, that counseling is something that can help everyone, regardless of age, race, orientation, socioeconomic status, etc.

You’ve also opened the door to talking about mental health openly. A lot of my students think that mental health – good or bad – is a very private thing, or something that could never happen to them (“I’m a good student, so I can’t have anxiety”). And while it is in some respects private, talking about how mental health has affected you or someone you know can open doorways to others sharing their own personal experience, which all helps reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

It was also important for my students to hear why spending time with people you love is important. Some of my students are going through a phase where it isn’t cool to spend time with family, or people in general who love them. In an age where isolation is all too common, having someone whom they look up to emphasize the importance of connection is all the more special.

So thank you. Thank you for speaking out and using your voice to inspire others. Best of luck the rest of this season.

We are Marquette!
Sincerely,

A grateful school counselor


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