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Staff Spotlight: Valentina Ezra, Middle & Upper School Counseling

Staff Spotlight: Valentina Ezra, Middle & Upper School Counseling

This 2023-2024 school year, I joined Stuart’s exceptional health and wellness team as Middle & Upper School counselor. Although I am new to Stuart, I have been working in education for over 12 years. I am a licensed professional and national certified counselor. Helping support and improve individuals mental health and wellbeing is my vocation. I remember growing up, I was always the friend who listened to and encouraged others with empathy and positive regard. When I started college, my goal was to become a lawyer, but very soon, I realized that my life's purpose was to help others become the best version of themselves through best practices and effective counseling strategies. My commitment to Stuart is to support each girl from a strength-based and holistic approach as they embark on their journey to a well-balanced and successful life at Stuart and beyond.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

One of the most rewarding experiences about my work is to witness students’ journey as they develop and grow socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Who/what had the greatest influence on your career path?

The most influential person in my life has been my grandmother, Cecilia Velasquez. She is currently 97 years old. Up until this day, she continues to model what an exceptional, caring, humble, loving and supportive human being she is. Then, through my studies at Rider University, I came across Carl Rogers who is an American psychologist who developed the person-centered psychotherapy approach. According to Rogers, "Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior.” Thanks to these two extraordinary individuals, I am able to learn a balance of personal values, character traits, and evidence based effective treatments to help those who seek my counseling expertise. 

Raskin, Nathaniel J., Rogers, Carl R., and Witty, Marjorie C. (2008). Client-Centered Therapy. In Raymond J. Corsini and Danny Wedding (Eds.), Current Psychotherapies (pp. 141–186). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

What is your best piece of advice?

People say that practice makes perfect. I don’t believe that. Instead, I believe that practice with purpose makes progress. Focusing on the progress can help us understand the process rather than just the outcome, and it helps us know what we need to change to improve. Sometimes the outcome is subject to change and that is okay. Progress can look like taking three steps forward and two steps back and still be one step ahead than where you started. Progress is purposefully taking action. My best piece of advice is to focus on progress by celebrating the small wins in everything we do.

Tell us about your research interests and/or recent professional development.

One thing that stands out to me about Stuart is the wide range of opportunities for professional growth. Stuart understands, values, and invests in professional development for their faculty and staff. I have only been here since the beginning of the academic year, but I have had the opportunity to attend various professional development opportunities to help me stay up to date with current research and best practices. My most recent experience was at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute where I participated in a day-long seminar about mental health in the classroom post-pandemic. The reality is that the pandemic has challenged students with numerous experiences such as, online learning, increased social media use, limited opportunities for social skills development, increased anxiety, depressed mood and more. Studies show that a healthy balance of learning social and emotional skills along with exceptional and rigorous academic and athletic experiences is key for students' success.

The Fun Stuff:

Favorite Food: Thai and Malaysian food, yum!

Favorite Song: Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong UNITED

Hidden Talents or Skills:  I would say I have a few little talents including balloon décor designer and makeup artist.