This Alumni Spotlight shines this week on Amanda Merchant from Addison, Maine, who graduated from the University of Maine at Machias in 2016 with a major in Psychology & Community Studies. She is currently working in Beals, Maine as a Community Integration Counselor for Aroostook Mental Health Center.
Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now:
I work with adults that have a severe and persistent mental health illness. I go in to their homes to develop a plan to assist them with achieving their needs and life goals. I do a lot of work with individuals within their communities: going to the grocery store, food pantries, doctors’ appointments, other appointments, and so on. I also do a lot of resource building, connecting clients to resources, and advocating for clients. I assist with filling out housing applications, health insurance applications, and so forth.
What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?
The most valuable thing I learned while at UMM involves my ability to speak publicly. I started college with a phobia of public speaking and refused to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I finally made the decision to embrace what makes me uncomfortable (in a good way) because it is the beginning of change. I now speak publicly with confidence and have no issue speaking out for myself and advocating for other individuals.
Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?
Embrace the opportunities presented to you while in college. Speaking publicly, as well as other anxiety inducing skills, in front of your peers and professors on campus is a relatively safe way to learn skills necessary for most employment opportunities and other areas of life. Make your mistakes now and use the critiques of others to help fine tune your skills. The more you practice these new skills, the more confident you become, and confidence is a wonderful thing to have when you go out in to the work force.
How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?
Unknowingly, I focused most of my efforts on my community studies classes while working towards my degree and it has paid off. Included in the coursework was hands on learning opportunities with community partners; this work helped me build connections to partners and resources in the area that have been instrumental to my career as a Community Integration Counselor. My comfort working with community resources was also influenced by the work my professors had my classmates and I do.
How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?
UMM helped me to figure out who I was and what path I wanted to pursue in life. I have confidence in myself, confidence in my job, and a rather solid idea of where I want to go in my career and personal life. I’ve also made lifelong connections with my professors at UMM. I am able to reach out to any of them when I need an ear, an extra brain, or some advice.