Regina knows a lot about mental health counseling. Working as a hairdresser for 30 years, Regina has given everyone who has sat down in her salon chair (from loyal patrons to first-time customers) not only a great new hairstyle, but also attentive listening and sage advice as they update her on what is going on in their lives.
“Over time, being kind, nice, honest and consistent, the people trust you. And then they start talking,” Regina says.
“They start telling me everything, from kids to husband to life situations. When they were feeling depressed and why. When they were feeling happy and why. If they need me to chime in and give my opinion on something, they’ll do that. And then sometimes they actually want advice. Or sometimes, it’s not for me to say stuff – just listen. And that’s the best. Just being a listener.”
Regina has always known that she has a gift for counseling and supporting people. But she wasn’t familiar with the education pathway that would help her turn her talent into a job and the astronomic costs of higher education were always a barrier.
A few years ago, a new client sat down in Regina’s chair. As they began talking, the client told Regina that she was a clinical psychologist. “She was telling me her experience helping people and it just sounded like me,” Regina said. “It sounded like ‘that’s what I do here!’”
Through some soul-searching during the pandemic, Regina realized that she would take whatever steps it took to fulfill her calling of being a counselor. But as a self-employed hairdresser, Regina experienced financial hardship during the pandemic, and it was daunting to even think of the high costs of the long educational path ahead.
“Being an entrepreneur, and with COVID and the pandemic, that really set me back. Because we weren’t working for quite some time. And that’s the reason why I applied for the scholarship. Because during that time, money was scarce.”
Regina, who has been a National CORE resident since 2019, applied for Hope through Housing’s Building Bright Futures scholarship and Hope through Housing awarded her $1000 to achieve her dreams. “It’s made a big difference,” she said. She’s now studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Azusa Pacific University.
Regina hopes to specialize in trauma counseling, so that she can provide support, care, and resources for people dealing with PTSD. It was her own son’s struggle with trauma that helped her realize that she was meant to help people with post-traumatic stress.
In 2000, Regina’s son was sitting in a car, when suddenly the vehicle was riddled with bullets. Thankfully, he survived the attack with non-fatal gunshot wounds in his arm and leg.
“He had PTSD. For a long time, he could not be in crowds, he was really fidgety. He was 19 or 20, but he was biting his fingernails down to the nerve,” Regina said. “He never got any help. I tried to convince him to go to therapy, but he wouldn’t.”
Regina did her best to support her son, and eventually, many years later, he went to counseling with a pastor. The experience has compelled her to become a post-traumatic counselor.
Regina is a passionate and active voice in her community in ways: as the founder of a safe and welcoming mentorship group for women to support each other, Purposely Pink Women’s Mentoring Alliance; as an advocate in a movement that is demanding better care for women of color in healthcare systems; and as a children’s vocal teacher for a local school.
Now, with the help of Hope through Housing, she has been provided a boost that will allow her to continue her education and take her support for her community to the next level.
“It’s a calling. It’s something that I ran from because I came from having limited money, because I didn’t want to have to owe. But that became a no-matter. I had to get over that, and I had to have help, and I did,” Regina said. “I had to make up my mind that it’s what I needed to do. ‘In order to really work in this field, I need this degree, so come on!’”