Alumni Spotlight: Francesca Barnett
November 15, 2008
I have always looked at life through a systemic lens. Looking back on my life I don’t think I had a choice. I am multiracial (Black, Native American, Japanese and White), raised in a predominately African American family. Both of my parents were born deaf, and by age five I was a Sign Language interpreter and advocate for my parents. I had an adult role at a very young age. Those experiences were my first lessons in humility, empathy and personal responsibility to fight for equal rights. I’ve lived in the hearing world, deaf world, dominant culture and marginalized communities. I have witnessed these communities collide, intertwine and sometimes dance in the same room.
I have two sweet and brilliant daughters, ages 3 and 5, who are learning the same lessons. They are pure comedy when I need it most. I also credit them with teaching me to really listen. Their keen observations validate what I often hear - perception is reality. My partner, their father, is a talented musician and business owner (Rawhide Productions). He keeps me grounded with his unyielding love and support. My family has taught me so much about myself and life. So have the lives of others close to me. I carry within me the stories of friends who grew up in foster care, and I want to be the foster parent they wished they had. Currently I’m in the process of becoming a certified therapeutic foster parent.
I would not have advanced this far in my education without the encouragement from my family and the financial help from scholarships. While attending the University of Oregon, I was awarded several grants, including the Diversity Building Scholarship. I have also been blessed to receive the CPSY Diversity Scholarship from Lewis and Clark College’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling two years in a row. Faculty, staff and peers here have encouraged and supported me throughout my professional development. I am proud to be part of a program committed to social justice, which recognizes the importance of greater diversity, both in the program and in the helping professions. And the friendships I have made here are priceless!
My journey at Lewis and Clark College has been amazing, especially the experience I am gaining at my internship site. I intern with a group of caring professionals who are very passionate about their work with Assessment and Treatment of Youth and Families, Multnomah County Department of Community Justice. We provide in-home therapy to juveniles on probation and their families. The community is our office. It is rewarding beyond words to be part of creating change in the community that I grew up in and love.
I’m in a special place in my life right now. It can be chaotic, but I’ve adapted. I am a mother, homeowner, student, intern, and I also work two jobs. Yes, it can be difficult. However, I believe persistence is key. No one in my family, including me, ever thought I would attend graduate school. It took me four years to get an Associates of Arts degree from Portland Community College, because I worked my way through, without loans. It took three additional years to earn my Bachelors of Science in Communication and Ethnic Studies from the University of Oregon. By summer 2009 I’ll earn a Masters in Counseling Psychology: Marriage, Couples and Family Therapy. Like Dory from the movie Finding Nemo, I just kept swimming. And yes, I have seen Finding Nemo at least twenty times… Motherhood.
Ultimately I want to use my life experience and theoretical knowledge concerning multiculturalism, racism, privilege, oppression and identity in my own practice, serving diverse populations who have limited access to therapy. My personal journey to understand the intersectionality of my identity has raised my critical consciousness. I better understand the ways in which every socioeconomic status are impacted by a collect social and political lineage. This common history has promoted racism, sexism, classism and other forms of oppression to maintain power for the benefit of a select few. I am intrigued by the ways in which liberation-based therapy aims to raise critical consciousness and challenge systems of power and oppression both within families and in society.
I hope my story inspires others, including parents and people of color, to pursue a career in Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy. If you are looking for programs committed to students, social justice and change, I encourage you to consider the Counseling Psychology Department at Lewis and Clark College’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling.