By Dawn-Marie Luna.
Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology,
Pepperdine University.

On May 19th, I graduated from Pepperdine University with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in working with Latinx communities as a therapist. During my 2.5 years as a student my time was spent being the best student leader for my colleagues.

The reason I chose to immerse myself in student leadership was to ensure that I would have an engaging university experience, to build meaningful relationships with professors and my peers, to make an impact on my campus, and to use my voice to advocate.
The program I attended is fairly new, which allows students to hold prominent leadership roles. Fortunately, the program director encouraged me to create my own leadership path that included research opportunities, teaching assistantships and student leadership.

My first year I held a chair position with the Latinx Psychological Student Association. One of my main tasks with the association was to inform students about the barriers many Latinx communities face in this country and in their homelands and how that may contribute to their mental health.

The Aliento Program Students (Back row) L-R: David Argueta, Stephanie Luviano, Stella Rosa, Nathaly Chavez, and Brian Clawson. (Front row) L-R: Dawn-Marie Luna, Bryant Soto, Jessica Sanchez, Carla Peligrino, and Flor Canales..

My second year, I became a teacher’s assistant for the Multicultural Psychology Course. With great pleasure, I assisted the professor with class activities that allowed students to critically self-reflect on their privileges emphasizing how to leverage those privileges for the betterment of those who are marginalized. As a research assistant, I gained experience collecting data that focused on the impacts of art and the destigmatization of mental health.

Another area I focused on was informing the student body about mental health stigma that exists within many communities that leads to individuals not seeking out mental health services. On April 14th, we held a rally in Laguna Beach, CA to raise awareness on mental health. Our goal was to spark a conversation with locals about mental stigma, race and the impacts of utilizing services. I have been able to put into practice much of the knowledge I gained in my classes. Student leadership for me has served a practical component in my education.
For what is knowledge without application?

Pepperdine Mental Health Advocacy Class Students at Laguna Beach, CA.

As a student leader, I built relationships with many individuals who became close friends. As a first-generation college student, this journey has felt lonely at times. Becoming a student leader has been my key to building new relationships that often lead to meaningful friendships. Student leadership has offered me a platform to use my voice to encourage change, hone my public speaking skills along with strengthening my rapport building skills. I highly recommend all students at any level of education to become a student leader; there are many benefits.

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