2022-2023 Military and Rural Scholars
Each NBCC Foundation scholar will receive $8,000 to support their counseling education and to recognize their commitment to underserved communities.
Kalynn Aguirre (she/her) – Virginia Beach, Virginia
Kalynn Aguirre is a graduate of the University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University. She is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at the College of William & Mary.
Kalynn intends to leverage a concentration in military and veteran mental health, her own experience as a United States Air Force veteran, and her mindfulness background as a yoga instructor to work with the military and military-affiliated population that is so prominent in her community. Earning this scholarship will assist her in pursuing the necessary education, gaining access to specialized training, and participating in research opportunities in order to further an understanding of the needs and challenges of military families within the field of counseling. Kalynn intends to take a whole-person approach, as she understands that military concerns are often only one facet of intersectionality facing clients, where other prominent issues such as gender and sexual identity, socioeconomic status, marriage and family stressors, physiological considerations, and cultural factors carry equal importance. She intends to forge connections with mental health providers, human services, medical providers, and researchers to advocate for expanding the pool of available evidence-based interventions and increasing the reach and availability of such support to those who need it.
Marc Fichtner (he/him) – Lake Worth Beach, Florida
Marc Fichtner is a graduate of Coastal Carolina University and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Capella University. Upon graduation from Capella, Fichtner intends to work with veterans and first responders, particularly those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and those who are transitioning out of their service or careers. Fichtner has a passion to help those who have served the American population both at home and abroad. He intends to use his own experience as both a veteran and first responder to serve the community he cares so much about. This scholarship will allow Fichtner to gain further knowledge in the profession by attending counseling conferences, completing residency, and attending workshops on specialized counseling practices such as EMDR and emerging practices such as psychedelic-assisted therapy. Fichtner believes in a holistic model of counseling and hopes to integrate spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health into his counseling practice.
Jen LeCompte (she/her/hers) – New Orleans, Louisiana
Jen LeCompte is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and is currently a master’s student in the counselor education and clinical mental health counseling program at the University of New Orleans.
After graduating, Jen intends to work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence both in and out of the military. She would also like to work within the field of maternal mental health, focusing on advanced maternal age birthing people and racial disparities in maternal and infant health and mortality. This fellowship will allow Jen to focus on the prevention of sexual assault and anti-racism work while in her internship experience and also build a network of care providers and resources in the New Orleans area.
Francis A. Murillo (she/her) – Johnson City, Tennessee
Francis Murillo is both a graduate of and a current master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at East Tennessee State University. Upon graduation, Murillo intends to work with the veteran population. She would also like to bring awareness to and advocate for veterans in the community and the importance of mental health services and resources for this population. Through this award, Murillo will be able to attend different counseling trainings, make connections, and learn skills that will aid her in serving the veteran community.
Tracey Sims (she/her) – Fayetteville, North Carolina
Tracey Sims is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at The Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Upon graduation, Tracey intends to work with military members and their families to help them process and work through issues they are experiencing in order to assist them in living happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. As a member of a military family herself, she understands the unique challenges faced by the members of this population, and a desire to help. Earning this fellowship will enable her to fund the remainder of her clinical mental health counseling program, from which she will gain the theoretical knowledge and practical experience necessary to effectively serve this population. This fellowship affords her the opportunity to gain additional training, professional mentorship, and connections within the counseling community. Furthermore, it solidifies her commitment to this underserved population and her desire to advocate for their needs.
Taneisha (Neisha) L. Stephens (she/her) –Nashville, Tennessee
Neisha L. Stephens is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Trevecca Nazarene University. She is a United States Air Force veteran originally from Chicago, Illinois, who relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2005. Stephens earned her undergraduate degree in multi/interdisciplinary studies from Middle Tennessee State University in 2018 and is currently pursuing her master’s in licensed mental health clinical counseling with a scheduled completion date of December 2023. Currently as an Equal Employee Opportunity Assistant at the Department of Veterans Affairs - VA Medical Center, Stephens’s commitment to mental health includes providing a safe space to everyone that she works with regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender or gender identity, age, disability, and/or sexual orientation. Stephens is passionate about working to address the needs of military veterans, families of veterans, and individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic communities. Earning this fellowship will allow her to attend various counseling conferences and trainings to establish a professional identity as a BIPOC, allowing her the opportunity and skill sets to work with people who are often marginalized, such as those from underrepresented ethnic communities and people living in rural areas, where mental health services are typically lacking.
Jeanne Sterling (she/her) – Carencro, Louisiana
Jeanne Sterling holds an MBA from University of Phoenix and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Capella University.
After retiring from the military, she realized her life’s work would be to help veterans deal with trauma, family reintegration, sexual assault, and any other invisible wounds that she could be trained to help with. Sterling is the biggest supporter and cheerleader of veterans and their families, as she understands the challenges, having walked the path as a soldier and spouse of a resolute Army soldier who spent many years away from his wife and children serving his country.
Sterling plans to continue and complete her education, attend mental health conferences, and join counseling organizations that will give her access to opportunities to be an astute veteran advocate. Upon graduation, she plans to partner with Veterans Affairs to assist in serving the veteran community to bring them resources, information, and treatment, which will allow them to thrive in daily life.
Al Yokum (he/him) – Carson City, Nevada
Al Yokum is a graduate of the Community College of Denver and Metropolitain State University of Denver, and he is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Walden University. Upon graduation, Yokum intends to work with military veterans and families, specifically those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He would also work collaboratively with organizations such as NBCC; NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals; the American Counseling Association; and the American Psychological Association to stay abreast of ongoing research. Earning this scholarship will allow him to attend counseling conferences, which will establish a more robust professional identity as a counselor, learn evidence-based practices to serve underserved populations better, and advocate for the counseling profession.
Daphne Deeren – Beulah, Michigan
Daphne Deeren is a graduate of Northwestern Michigan College and Central Michigan University and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Spring Arbor University. Upon graduation, Deeren intends to work within a rural community mental health system to facilitate the needs of this underserved population. Deeren would like to specialize in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to help individuals working through trauma and complex diagnoses. Earning this scholarship will allow Deeren to attend extra trainings and conferences that provide the education and experiences to meet these goals.
Eli Evans (she/her) – Anchorage, Alaska/New Orleans, Louisiana
Eli Evans is a graduate of Evergreen State College and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Xavier University of Louisiana. Evans is from Anchorage, Alaska, and has lived in northern places her entire life. She is currently living in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is loving finally living someplace warm. Upon graduation, Evans plans on moving back to Alaska to serve rural populations, specifically LGBTQ+ youth. She is honored and grateful to be a part of the NBCC scholarship program.
Andrea McCoy (she/her) – Moundville, Alabama
Andrea McCoy is a graduate of the University of Alabama and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Auburn University Montgomery.
Upon graduation, Andrea intends to work with minority individuals who suffer from mental health conditions and reside in rural communities where access is limited. She would also like to work with minority transition-age females in mentoring groups in underserved areas to provide additional services in marginalized areas. This fellowship will allow her to learn evidence-based practices and strategies, attend conferences and trainings, become a stronger practitioner in the mental health field, and be a better advocate and provider to those underserved populations in rural communities.
Crystal Neff (she/her) – Hannibal, Missouri
Crystal Neff is a graduate of Central Bible College and is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Grace College. Neff intends to serve the rural populations of Hannibal, Missouri, and surrounding areas upon graduation. Specifically, she is interested in working with teenagers and is considering seeking a position within the schools. Rural life is a new experience for Neff, so she is excited about the training and mentorship provided by this scholarship. She looks forward to leaning into these opportunities to better prepare her to serve the beautiful people of Hannibal. This scholarship will also assist her in establishing supportive professional connections within the counseling profession, which will help her to creatively advocate for access to services in rural areas.
Kate Osterloh (she/hers) – Durango, Colorado
Kate Osterloh is a graduate of Rollins College and The American University in Cairo, Egypt. She is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Adams State University.
Upon graduation, Kate intends to establish a counseling practice in Durango, Colorado, a small city and hub for an extensive rural area that includes nearby New Mexico and Utah populations. She hopes to focus on providing perinatal mental health support to new parents in rural settings, as well as support to people undergoing major life transitions. This fellowship will allow her to continue developing and refining a new terra firma, or place-based, counseling model. Drawing wisdom from Jungian philosophy and the existential theoretical framework, terra firma counseling will combine the mindfulness and psychological flexibility work of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) with nature-based, narrative, and indigenous land-based modalities, guiding participants to develop a conscious bond to the place they live. This model invites clients to meet the existential free-fall of the human experience by re-planting and finding “home” within self, community, and land.
Chris Pagans (he/him) – Rocky Mount, Virginia
Chris Pagans is a graduate of Mary Baldwin University and Virginia Western Community College. He is currently a master’s student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Liberty University.
Upon graduation, Chris plans to work with incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders, mental illness, and trauma. With the scholarship, Chris plans to work within the jail setting and with those recently released from incarceration. While working with this population, Chris hopes to reach those who face marginalized services, such as those in rural areas and ethnic minorities. Also, Chris hopes to learn new evidence-based strategies that are more effective in reducing recidivism, improving advocacy, and reducing institutional or systemic racism.