Alexis Smith ’23 (Psychology) has been focused on achieving a career working with youth as a licensed mental health clinician since she arrived at SUNY New Paltz in 2019.
This professional goal comes from a distinctly personal place for Smith, whose family consistently took in fostered children while she lived at home in Huntington, New York. Those experiences gave her insights into the complexities of youth trauma, and instilled a desire to help give other children an early start in overcoming adversity.
“Being able to give the kids tools at an early age to have those coping skills and learn to become resilient is important so they know as adults how to successfully cope with stressors in their lives,” she said.
As Salutatorian of the Class of 2023, Smith will have an opportunity to share what she’s learned with fellow graduates as Student Speaker at the Sunday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on May 21.
Smith credits her successes at New Paltz to the network of peers, faculty experts and professionals she was able to access through the Department of Psychology and related campus groups. She served as secretary of our local Psi Chi Honors Society chapter, which became a platform for her to connect and build relationships with alumni and others in the field.
“There’s so many different people involved in that organization even outside of SUNY New Paltz,” she said. “It’s nice to have those connections and be able to reach out to them as a resource in my career.”
Another meaningful resource Smith cites is her relationship with Associate Professor of Psychology Greta Winograd, who teaches many classes relevant to those looking to become youth therapists. Smith said lessons on mental health stigma have been especially inspirational.
“It’s important for me to make mental health more accepted in society,” she said. “All the articles I’ve read in class show me how I can incorporate that into my field by educating people about the stigma and trying to reduce it.”
Ever-practical, Smith is also thinking ahead to what other skills she will need to successfully operate a youth counseling practice. She added a business minor to her academic portfolio at New Paltz as part of that effort.
“I was able to learn how to handle finances and all that comes with owning your own business, and I plan to take that knowledge with me once I go to graduate school,” she said.
These experiences have empowered Smith to see herself as having something valuable to contribute to society as a counselor. Her next step is to pursue a graduate degree, and she’s leaving New Paltz with confidence that she already has the experience needed to become a private mental health practice owner.
“There’s always people here to support you through whatever it is you need, and I’m thankful I was able to reach out to all those resources during my time here,” she said.
About Commencement 2023 at SUNY New Paltz
This year’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, 2023, on the Old Main Quad on the SUNY New Paltz campus. Both ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m.
The Saturday Ceremony honors graduates of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the Sunday Ceremony honors graduates of the School of Business, School of Education, School of Fine & Performing Arts and School of Science & Engineering.
The Graduate Commencement Ceremony will take place on Friday, May 19, at 6 p.m., also on the Old Main Quad.
More information at https://www.newpaltz.edu/commencement/.