College:College of Community Innovation and Education
Degree Program:Counselor Education MA, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Track
A passion for helping others and a deep understanding of the cultural disparities in mental health care are what drives Omelia Dhanraj to advocate for psychological wellness. Coming from a community where mental health is stigmatized and taboo, Dhanraj knows the importance of starting conversations about mental health. In addition, both of her parents immigrated to the United States from Guyana, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Now, she is motivated by the need to destigmatize mental health in both Asian and Caribbean cultures.
“I hope to be a safe space for all individuals, especially individuals like me,” Dhanraj says. Her goal is to raise awareness and understanding of mental health to show that people with mental illnesses are not “broken” or “crazy.” She aims to break down barriers and be an outspoken advocate for mental health to help those who are struggling.
Dhanraj completed her master’s degree in Counselor Education, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Track at just 23 years old in Spring 2023. Her determination to succeed resulted in great academic success, leading her to graduate with her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology one year early in the summer of 2020 as a Burnett Honors Scholar and with the university honor of magna cum laude. She was also honored with the Excellence in Action Award for her academic achievement as an accomplished multicultural and first-generation student at UCF.
As a first-generation student of Caribbean descent, Dhanraj recognizes the obstacles that students in such a position may face. “Being a first-generation student is motivating because I want to show that first-generation students can be successful despite the many obstacles they face in higher education,” she says. Her experience has driven her to take and create more opportunities to be a voice of representation for first-generation students at the university.
Dhanraj chose to continue her education at UCF due to the various high-ranking programs and diverse networking opportunities available at the university. The Counselor Education MA program at UCF is ranked one of the top counseling programs across the nation and is CACREP accredited, which is essential when receiving your Mental Health Counselor license. The program also follows a cohort model, which has allowed Dhanraj to connect with both her professors and peers in a unique way. “My cohort has been a great source of support for me throughout this program,” she says. “We are all able to relate to one another because we are going through graduate school together.”
Dhanraj also found support through the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which she says helped her the most by allowing her to receive therapy for free. “CAPS helped me work through my thoughts, which has made me more adapt to be a future counselor,” she says. It also helped her gain the tools she needs to balance graduate school and everyday life. Dhanraj advises students to prioritize their mental health, even when they feel like they do not have time. “If you were sick, you would take a sick day. If you are feeling mentally unwell, you should treat yourself with the same care,” she says.
Dhanraj plans to become a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern as she works toward completing her hours and requirements for licensure. After completing the requirements, she hopes to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and work with adolescents in a school setting.
- Graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCF in 2020
- Won Excellence in Action Award for academic achievements
- Served on the Graduate Student Advisory Council
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