Allison McFarland, Rebecca Parker, and Oscar Widales-Benitez of UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School were named the recipients of the 2015 Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) Fellowship awarded by the American Psychology Association (APA). All recipients are currently students pursuing their M.Ed. in School Psychology in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology.
This very prestigious fellowship is recognizes graduate students who demonstrate a commitment to a career in mental health services for ethnic minority transition age youth students. STAY supports individuals in terminal master’s programs in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to youth from ages 16 through 25 and their families. This award is funded by a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admistration (SAMHSA). All three awardees received $6,000 financial support, travel support to DC for a summer institute, selective training experiences, and the opportunity to engage with a lifetime network of psychologists.
Allison McFarland received her B.A. in Psychology with two minors in Business Administration and Asian Pacific American Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. During her undergraduate career, she helped coordinate an early literacy intervention program for kindergartners who have difficulties with reading, researched early literacy development, and organized a reading carnival for families. Before attending Gevirtz, McFarland taught English at a high school in Japan with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in both general education and special education classrooms. McFarland currently works with Dr. Matthew Quirk and examines school readiness and protective factors among Latino/a student populations. Her research includes improving classroom engagement and is currently¬ evaluating the benefits of replacing classroom chairs with stability balls in classrooms. After graduating from Gevirtz, McFarland will start her internship at Berkeley Unified School District.
Rebecca Parker received a B.S in Psychology and a minor in Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. During her undergraduate career, she helped conduct studies in several labs, volunteered at local schools, worked as an advocate for girls with juvenile justice involvement, and completed an internship with the Seattle Department of Corrections. At Gevirtz, Parker works with Dr. Jill Sharkey and studies topics such as resilience and risk factors for juvenile justice and gang involvement. Parker’s main research project is an evaluation of a program that aims to provide a therapeutic environment to girls in the local Juvenile Hall. She is also currently completing her second year practicum at a junior high school where she provides academic and mental health support to students. Parker recently accepted an internship offer in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District where she will continue her career as a school psychologist.
Oscar Widales-Benitez, native of Mexico, was a high school math teacher in the border-town of Laredo, Texas before enrolling at Gevirtz. Through his teaching experiences and his time as an undergraduate student mentor at Texas A&M International University, Widales-Benitez developed an interest in working with recent immigrant youth and English Language Learners. His current research at Gevirtz focuses on the social-emotional well being of ELLs and Mexican-American youth. Widales-Benitez believes school-based mental health services are vital to this population. After graduating from Gevirtz this summer, Widales-Benitez will continue his studies at Texas A&M’s school psychology Ph.D. program where he plans to further develop his knowledge of ELLs.