Brenau graduate students receive American Psychological Association fellowships

When Atlanta’s Argosy University closed its doors in March of 2019, LeKeisha Jones was not sure how and where she would finish her graduate degree in psychology. After weighing her options, she decided Brenau University’s Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling was the best fit to help her succeed in her future career and enrolled in summer classes at Brenau’s Norcross site.

LeKeisha Jones

Jones’ degree was back on track, but she still needed help with school and living expenses. So, the following fall semester, she applied for a fellowship through the American Psychological Association. A few months later, she received news that would prove life-changing.

In late March, Jones and fellow Brenau clinical counseling psychology student April Brown were each awarded $10,000 Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) fellowships through the APA’s Minority Fellowship Program. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the fellowships cover school expenses and tuition for one year and recipients must have a strong commitment to working with youth minorities during their careers.

“I was in tears because I went through a lot in the last few years just trying to finish school,” said Jones, who plans on doing internships with clinics that serve minority and underserved youth populations in Gainesville and nearby Cleveland, Georgia. “Prior to Brenau, I was living in my car and trying to finish school. When I got this fellowship, it solidified that I’m meant to complete school and work in this field.”

Jones, who is scheduled to graduate in 2021, said she also hopes to get her doctorate and do some form of ministry to help people in churches.

April Brown

Brown, who currently works as a social services case manager, said receiving the fellowship was a “humbling experience” and will allow her to meet her future career goals of helping underserved populations by doing more than just providing resources.

“My primary focus is to work with foster care families because of the history I’ve had with them,” she said. “That population deals with so many different issues. A lot of it has to do with a lack of resources or lack of education. Also, for children, like the teenagers who are aging out of the system, the stats are not very good. They have higher rates of homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration. I want to help that population meet their needs and just get them to do better.”

Brown said she is also excited about the opportunity to “connect with others who have a common goal” through the fellowship program.

This was the first year the APA allowed students in master’s programs to apply for fellowships previously reserved for doctoral degree candidates, and several Brenau students took advantage of the opportunity.

“This really opens the door for future Brenau students to have continuing success in getting these fellowships,” said Julie Battle, chair of the Darby School. “This particular fellowship provides not only financial support, but additional training, mentoring and networking with people and mental health practitioners throughout the country. It is a fabulous opportunity for LeKeisha and April.”

Jones echoed Battle’s comments and wants future Brenau students to pursue similar opportunities.

“April and I are the first at Brenau to be awarded this fellowship,” she said. “Hopefully, we can make it a tradition where every year we have students who apply and receive this as well.”