Calvin: A mission ignited by caring Pathways teachers

“That’s just like the Pathways teachers. They knew our population, background, community and were good at connecting with us. Sometimes in Pathways, we just needed someone to talk to.”

Calvin knows all too well the struggles high school and college students are experiencing — the anxiety of a global pandemic; the post-traumatic stress of nationwide police killings of unarmed civilians; and the angst of tumultuous political campaigns.

As a licensed mental health counselor at the University of Arkansas — Pulaski Technical College and a clinical therapist at a behavioral health hospital, Calvin, a Pathways alumnus from Arkansas, can count himself as an unsung hero who helped many young people navigate times that have tested the resolve of even the most mentally healthy.

Through Pathways to College at Calvin’s high school, he was inspired to pursue higher education. He is presently pursuing a Ph.D. program in counselor education and supervision.

“Pathways introduced me to college life,” says Calvin, who also published an autobiographical essay in Scholar Voices, Pathways’ annual publication showcasing Scholars’ best writing and photography. “We went on college trips. On the college trips, we toured campuses and met admissions staff. After school, we met a few times during the week and talked about essential life skills and college life. We went over things such as personal statements. Pathways teachers were instrumental in helping us get into college and making sure our grades were OK. They helped get me where I am today and I still keep in contact with them.”

Pathways became an addition to the extended family that Calvin already has. Calvin’s mother is the youngest of 13 children and works in the school district. His father is a substance abuse counselor. Both taught him the value of education.

Pathways teachers were supportive throughout high school. One valuable lesson that he learned from his time in the program was the importance of relationships. Calvin wanted to be a help and motivator to others, just as Pathways teachers helped him. He has expanded that interest by supporting young people through counseling.

“Some people I’ve worked with don’t ever hear, ‘I love you or ‘I’m proud of you,’” Calvin says. “Sometimes it really takes someone saying, ‘good job,’ or ‘keep up the good work.’”

Through his involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas, Calvin has had a Little Brother for about two years. “I discuss college and careers with him,” Calvin said. “Building and fostering relationships goes back to Pathways to College. The teachers really cared and were really empathetic to the Scholars. All of that remains in me today. My mission in life is helping individuals get to the next level — that’s what I do as a therapist.”

Calvin studied for seven years at Henderson State, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Calvin is currently attending the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, pursuing his doctorate.

Calvin is a proud Arkansan who loves his hometown. “If you were to do a Google search of my hometown, you’d see us in the top 10 for being one of the most dangerous cities in America; a small city with more than the average incidents of crime,” Calvin says. “It gets a bad reputation, but I love my city. It has a downtown that’s being renovated and a great mayor. Doctors, lawyers, and some famous people have come out of my hometown.”

Calvin is currently working on a dissertation on Black Baptist pastors and how they support the African American community in times of need.

“When I first started my work as a counselor, I had a gentleman who had been through some trauma. He said, ‘If you didn’t look like me, I wouldn’t have come back.’ It’s important to have someone who looks like you and who understands your culture and background. That’s just like the Pathways teachers. They knew our population, background, community and were good at connecting with us. Sometimes in Pathways, we just needed someone to talk to.”