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From Southland College to Counseling Psychology at Veteran Affairs: Aaron Graham’s Journey to Serve

Richton Park, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Aaron Graham has a passion for healing.

Graham, 26, a member of Southland College Prep Charter School’s class of 2015, credits the school for developing his passion and perseverance for learning focused on psychological counseling to help and heal patients.

Aaron Graham is currently a doctoral student in counseling psychology at Loyola University Chicago. He has an internship at the Jesse Brown Department of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Chicago. Graham recently presented at the American Psychological Association conference in Washington, D.C. His focus at the A.P.A. was the results of an assessment study he participated in on the needs of incarcerated persons.

Last year, he spoke at the National Council on Rehabilitation Education conference in San Diego. There he honed in on the research results of the study.

Aaron Graham Credits Southland College Prep

Graham credits a willingness to embrace hard work to his four years at Southland College Prep Charter High School in Richton Park, Illinois, the only charter school in the state to earn the highest designation of exemplary for four years, whose enrollment is determined through a public lottery of applicants whose only qualification is residency in the school district.

“Southland introduced me to long hours – 8 to 5 in class – and the rigors of hard work, even more than college where you have more free time,” said Graham.  “The Southland classes – one after another – all day long– taught me that when you get to work–you work.”

Mentors like the late Southland College Prep counselor Ron Anderson inspired Graham to find his inner strength. He regarded the legendary Anderson as someone who was “happy with his job and lived for the kids.”

Aaron Graham quotes Anderson verbatim to this day:

“I jog two miles every morning, enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit and that’s all I need to teach you rambunctious students.”

Another Southland instructor, Alan Zayer, taught him technology and digital publishing and offered a key to open doors that Graham uses today in writing grant applications.  

“Mr. Zayer taught us how to apply for grants and scholarships,” said Graham. “He pointed out that in writing, you tell more than your accomplishments. You tell about yourself, who you are and from where you came.”

Loyola Awarded Graham a Fellowship

Loyola University awarded Graham a fellowship for Diversifying Faculty in Illinois (DFI) program, which extends his scholarship. The fellowship will permit Graham to join the faculty of a four-year Illinois college on a tenure track.

Graham, a former Matteson, Illinois resident who now lives in Chicago’s West Loop. He earned an undergraduate degree from Ohio University. Graham completed his master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He says, “I love the assessment process in determining the needs of underserved people.”

His passion for assessment led Graham and some classmates to ascertain the needs of post-incarcerated persons. They began with those fresh out of jail to those 10 years after their release from prison.

Graham’s mother, Teresa, recognized in Southland a vision the school’s founding CEO, Dr. Blondean Y. Davis, had for students individually and collectively and how the school ultimately would impact a community.

“From day one, my husband and I knew that Southland College Prep was the perfect fit for our son’s education and the incredible journey he continues to experience in his pursuit of a Ph.D. in psychology,” said Teresa. “The concept and curriculum aligned flawlessly with our aspirations for Aaron’s future.”

Unlimited possibilities to help and heal patients drive this energetic young professional.  

“What do patients need?” asks Graham. “The assessment of individuals leads to the identification of their needs to determine solutions.”   

Graham’s long-range goals are to serve as a tenured professor in Chicago; to own a private counseling practice and to contribute to group practice assessments and research “to help people cope and heal from issues they face in their daily lives.” 

This is news from Southland College Prep Charter School.