Angel Perry, a University of Montevallo graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in counseling with a specialization in clinical mental health counseling, was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Alabama.
The Alabama Fellows Program is one of thirteen active Schweitzer programs across the U.S. dedicated to developing a pipeline of emerging professionals who enter the workforce with the skills and commitment necessary to address unmet health needs, according to the website. Alabama Schweitzer Fellows are competitively chosen from students enrolled in graduate and professional schools around the state, who demonstrate a passion for cultivating positive change in Alabama communities where the need is greatest.
Perry, a Birmingham native who graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2021, was selected for the 2022-2023 cohort because she developed a project in conjunction with the mental health awareness campaign, No More Martyrs, to address the mental health needs of Black women and girls primarily in the Birmingham area. She will receive a stipend upon completing the Fellowship project.
“I’m a Black woman and know some of our concerns,” Perry said. “Just based on my experience, we’ve had to be strong and carry so much on our backs, but we need help too. I wanted to do this to make Black women aware of how we can better care for ourselves.”
“There’s a high demand for mental health professionals but there’s a short supply. So, with that, I said let’s create access for people to have mental wellbeing and wellness included in their daily routine. I want to empower Black women and girls to take care of themselves, for them to know ways to do that and to provide psycho-education.”
Perry said she applied for the Fellowship after her supervisor, Dr. Jennifer Alexiou-Ray, an associate professor of instructional technology, made her aware of the opportunity.
“I looked into it, saw the projects and thought ‘I can do this,’” she said. “I’ve done community service projects before, but I’ve never led one. I thought it was a good opportunity to gain that experience and address healthcare policies and mental health needs.”
“I think this is one of the best opportunities I’ve had.”
There are 20 people in her cohort, most of whom are medical doctorate students. She said she feels grateful that she was able to get in as a master’s student.
Under the Fellowship’s guidelines, Perry is required to complete 200 hours of work on her project, detail her process, meet with clients to assess their needs and check their progress, participate in monthly coaching calls and meetings and work with two advisors – a site mentor and an academic advisor.
Her project is due in April 2023.
“There is a stigma about mental healthcare and we want to remove barriers blocking access to mental care,” she said. “I’m grateful to UM for helping me do that by introducing me to this fellowship and helping me hone my craft.”