November 18, 2015//
Meet Jennifer Vassell. As a writer and graduate student in Department of Counseling, she uses storytelling as a way to address important issues for children.
n my time at UTSA, I have learned to seek the positive in others when trying to support their goals in life. Hopefully I will be able to help someone the way I was helped in Iceland and the way I have been encouraged here at UTSA.”
– Jennifer Vassell
Vassell's books answer questions children have while teaching them the importance of diversity, an integral part of the Roadrunner Creed.
"I hope children learn it's okay to be a little different," Vassell said. "When I read the Roadrunner Creed, one of the principles that stood out to me is to respect and accept individual differences, recognizing the inherent dignity of each person. I believe that different is not deficient; difference is more."
As a graduate student in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, Vassell focuses on family and couples counseling. Her story of how she decided to become a counselor is just as inspiring as the children's books she writes.
Nearly 22 years ago, while her husband was stationed in Keflavik, Iceland, Vassell received news of her brother's death. A few months later, her mother also died. Vassell, who was thousands of miles away from her family, turned to counselors for help during that difficult time.
"Their deaths ripped my heart out. I just didn't know how I could go on," Vassell said. "There were counselors in Iceland who helped me through that time and I always thought that if I ever got the opportunity, I would help others the way I was helped during the worst time of my life."
That opportunity presented itself when Vassell applied to UTSA's top-tier Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at UTSA.
"I was so worried about coming to UTSA, especially because of my age," she said. "I was worried about how I would be accepted and whether or not I had missed my window of opportunity. The professors and instructors here are so kind and so helpful."
Vassell will graduate this December with her master's degree in counseling and plenty of ideas for future stories, including a series called "Counselor Trey." Counselor Trey helps animals having difficulty in their everyday lives using basic counseling techniques. The series, she said, is part of her effort to bring counseling and mental health issues to the forefront.
"I really want to advocate for this profession," Vassell said. "One way to do that is to help decrease the stigma of mental health illness among children. I really feel that if we can reach children when they are young, they will grow to learn to be comfortable with the idea of counselors and counseling."
After graduation, Vassell will continue to publish her stories and hopes to open up her own counseling practice so that she can help others just as her counselors helped her.
"In my time at UTSA, I have learned to seek the positive in others when trying to support their goals in life," she said. "Hopefully I will be able to help someone the way I was helped in Iceland and the way I have been encouraged here at UTSA. That is the type of support that I intend to offer my readers and future clients."
Do you know someone at UTSA who is achieving great things? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we might consider your submission for an upcoming installment of Meet a Roadrunner.