College:College of Community Innovation and Education
Degree Program:Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy MA
After growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, and completing her undergraduate degree in-state, Kayla Lustosa wanted the opportunity to live somewhere new and challenge herself to become more independent. She moved to Orlando in 2017 to complete an internship at Walt Disney World and immediately fell in love with the city. After interning, she knew she wanted to stay in the area, so she toured local universities.
When touring UCF, Lustosa was amazed at the number of resources provided by the university. “Seeing that UCF had so much to offer personally, professionally, and academically made it an easy choice,” she said.
As the first person in her family to pursue a graduate degree, Lustosa was initially intimidated at the thought of graduate school and wondered if she was capable of success. She knew that she had a passion for helping others but struggled to narrow down her career path. She was immediately intrigued when she discovered the Counselor Education program, ranked nationally number nine and accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
The caliber of the program attracted Lustosa, as it has been extensively evaluated to ensure that it meets the standards of the counseling profession. “To prepare for my future, I searched for the best education, the best program, and the best opportunities,” she says. She wanted the greatest possible education to provide her with the foundations she needed to become a therapist and help others, which she found at UCF.
Lustosa’s passion for helping others developed when her parents got divorced just a few months after she began college. “My entire world changed like many children of divorced parents; I was confused, afraid, and deeply heartbroken,” she says. Lustosa attended counseling to help navigate the process and quickly realized that she would love to be able to help others navigate their struggles as well.
During her time at UCF, Lustosa received enormous support from the university community. Her assistantship with the Graduate Student Center made her studies possible, as did many of the staff and faculty who helped her along the way. Her most memorable professors were Dr. Vicki Kelchner, Dr. Edward Brand, and Dr. Bryce Hagedorn. “Their impact has changed how I see myself as a clinician and given me the tools for growth and success,” she says. Lustosa also extends her gratitude to Tyler Campbell, Nathalia Bauer, and Wendy Cartier for their unwavering support and for giving her confidence in her academic journey.
Lustosa recognizes that, like herself, many of her fellow graduate students grapple with feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome. “My biggest piece of advice would be to remember that you deserve to be here!” she says. She advises students to remind themselves that they are good enough and trust the process. After graduating this May, Lustosa will register for the state of Florida as a Registered Intern and begin her career as a therapist working at a private practice in Maitland, Florida.
- Aspire Integrated Healthcare Grant recipient
- Graduate Assistant for the Graduate Student Center (3 years)
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