Friday, Oct 8, 2021
The award supports those dedicated to serving rural populations for a minimum of two years after their graduation
by Keith Fernbach
D’Amani Bowman ’20, a student in Rider University’s Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, has been named a 2020-21 Rural Scholar by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) Foundation. She is one of one of only six students nationwide to receive the honor.
The award is intended for students enrolled in CACREP-accredited master’s programs who are committed to serving rural populations for a minimum of two years after their graduation. Recipients receive financial support, as well as access to NBCC educational webinars and opportunities to network with fellow winners.
Bowman, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Rider in 2020, is enrolled in an accelerated master’s program and is on track to complete her studies this semester.
She says the Rider counseling program’s track record for success with the NBCC Foundation helped motivate her to apply for the scholarship. “When Adam Lucas, our director of clinical internships, told us about this opportunity, he said that a Rider student has won it before,” she says. “Knowing this made it feel more attainable, so I decided to go for it.”
Bowman explains that her own upbringing in Browns Mills, N.J., was a major factor in choosing this focus. “I’m from a rural area myself, and there were not a lot of mental health facilities near my home town,” she says. “As a result, mental health wasn’t something that was talked about a lot, especially when I was in grade school. My hope is that by working in similar communities, I can help change lives and truly make a difference for people who don’t have easy access to mental health services.”
Bowman also aspires to someday work in a correctional facility that focuses on helping troubled juveniles and young adults. “I was really inspired by a show on Netflix called Girls Incarcerated,” she says. “It’s a documentary about teenage girls who were in a facility because they committed petty crimes. The counselors on the show work to help them transition back into the world and do things like earn their degrees, get jobs and just deal with all the trauma they’ve been through. And that’s exactly what I want to do — help young people receive the support they need so they don’t recommit to the prison system.”
A career in counseling is something that Bowman has been preparing for her whole life. “I’ve always been that person who has been there for others,” she says, “and I’m passionate about advocating for other people and helping them.”
One of the factors she finds most appealing about the field is the number of diverse options available to practitioners. “You can specialize in working with children or the military or families,” she says. “You can take your career in any direction you want.”
She believes the time she’s spent at Rider, both in the classroom and out, has prepared her to excel as a counselor. “When I was an undergraduate, my advisor said to me, ‘If you’re interested in going into psychology or counseling, you should become a resident advisor.’ And that was the best advice I was given, because I was able to assist residents as they were going through crisis situations. I feel like I really have a connection with teenagers, knowing what they’ve gone through throughout their lives.”
This past year she served as an outreach intern for Counseling Services at Rider, where she helped to educate the Rider community on issues related to mental health. “A lot of what we did was student led,” she says. “We let them talk about what’s going on or what’s on their minds, rather than us picking the discussion topics.”
The role also involved creating newsletters, delivering presentations and leading events on topics ranging from suicide awareness to the importance of proper nutrition.
Wherever her career takes her, Bowman is grateful to be in a position where she can have a positive impact. “No one’s perfect,” she says. “We’re all there to support each other and I really just hope to advocate for people who are struggling with mental health issues and let them know they’re not going through life alone.”