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Graduate Counseling student selected for prestigious national fellowship

Alina Quintana, a master's in Counseling student who also works in the Sac State Career Center, was one of just 30 scholars nationwide to recieve a Minority Fellowship Program grant from the National Board of Certified Counselors. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

A Sacramento State master’s in Counseling student is one of just 30 scholars to receive a prestigious national fellowship that aims to train counselors who are better able to serve minority populations.

Alina Quintana was one of just three Californians, all CSU students, selected from a pool of 271 to receive a Minority Fellowship Program grant from the National Board for Certified Counselors, the organization announced this month.

The grant, which comes with a $10,000 scholarship, is awarded to master’s students annually to increase the number of culturally competent addiction and mental health counselors available to underserved minority populations.

“It’s a pretty prestigious award and that's something that I was aware of going into the application, so I was very humbled, very shocked” to be selected, Quintana said. “And ready to do the work.”

Quintana’s experience as a first-generation, low-income, Latinx student inspired her to pursue a career in education. She earned her undergraduate degree in Chicano/Chicana Studies and Psychology at UC Davis.

“I was learning among activists, learning among scholars doing really great work to remove systemic barriers,” she said. “They were all doing this in different areas. As a student, that was a really big motivation, seeing that type of work being done within a university setting.”

She applied to be a peer advisor in the department, her first foray into the world of student affairs. When she graduated, she was determined to “do work that was rooted in social justice.”

As a Sacramento native, she wanted to do that work in her hometown. And after initially being unsure about the field of counseling, she realized many of the individuals she admired were counselors, which led her to apply to Sac State’s program. Just one semester helped her realize “it was the best possible outcome for me.”

“When you are supporting first-generation students or students from marginalized communities through career services, it really is economic justice.” - Alina Quintana

In addition to her classroom work, she enjoys her job in as a career development advisor in the Career Center not just because she connects students with careers they will enjoy, but also because the work inherently promotes equity.

“When you are supporting first-generation students or students from marginalized communities through career services, it really is economic justice,” she said. “Through career services, we have the opportunity to catapult these students from low-income backgrounds to the middle class, and that has a ripple effect on their family and ultimately their community.”

Quintana said her classes and faculty at Sacramento State have been invaluable both in preparing her for her career – for example, by helping her develop essential communication skills or learn how to apply for grant funding, as well as in helping her win the fellowship.

Bita Rivas is among those faculty members. An assistant professor and coordinator of the Counselor Education program, Rivas said Quintana “stands out as a leader in all the spaces she holds” and that her NBCC fellowship is indicative of her commitment to counseling and the individuals she serves.

“She is warm, authentic, and really challenged her group as she dived right into the vulnerable space that is working with peers and sharing your story,” she said. “She has been impressive in her balance of working and actively participating in classes and our program.”

After her anticipated graduation in 2022, Quintana plans to pursue a doctoral degree and continue to serve marginalized communities in Sacramento.

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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