Maya Bourgeois is passionate about equity, inclusion, and community—values that she has found to be reciprocated in the graduate school’s school counseling program.
Maya Bourgeois, School Counseling ’22, has been immersed in the world of education her entire life. While she has always been drawn to it, she admits that she tried to resist the profession as long as she could.
“My sister, father, aunt, and so many family members worked in education that I was adamant about pursuing a different path,” explains Bourgeois. “But I kept getting drawn back into the field—it’s where everything begins. Schools are at the core of every community, and, more specifically, school counseling provides an opportunity to holistically support students with their academic, social, and personal wellbeing.”
Bourgeois ultimately chose to enter the world of education through school counseling, describing herself as being hungry for a professional future that would align with her values. After doing extensive research, she found the school counseling program at Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education Counseling to be rooted in equity, inclusion, and community—values that she passionately shared. Bourgeois says she immediately knew she would be equally challenged and supported.
“The courses I have taken at Lewis & Clark have been approached with an equity lens that is centered in racial justice. The faculty and professors in the school counseling program humbly recognize that the higher education system, as a whole, has a history that is deeply rooted in privilege, exclusion, and inequity and, because of this, they thoughtfully examine every decision and the systems that they create within the program from class structure to assignments and readings.”
Bourgeois shares that they began the program by examining their own personhood and privilege and how that shapes our experiences in this world, and that two years later they are still intentionally incorporating self-reflection into every conversation.
“Together with our professors, my classmates and I continue to deeply explore what it means to pursue equity and practice antiracism as educators and humans of this world.”
Open about the fact that there have been times when she has questioned the value of her perspective in this work, Bourgeois cites the fact that she is certainly not the only white, queer, able-bodied, cisgender woman in the field of education. However, when she wondered what she could possibly bring to the field that would make any difference, she credits her supportive cohort with showing her that by humbly owning her whole identity, creating space for fellow humans, and continuing to show up to do the work, she is valuable just as she is.
This past year, Bourgeois loved working with her middle school students to establish a Gender & Sexualities Alliance that is focused on support, education, and advocacy. She also designed a unit on identity and antiracism for fifth grade students.
“I never thought I would be excited about writing lesson plans, but after hearing some of the questions the students had about the Black Lives Matter movement and the Capitol Riot during the spring of 2021, I could tell that they were hungry for this learning and I passionately dove into the lesson creation. I planned a unit that began with inviting students to explore their own identities, cultures, and perspectives. From there, students learned about racism and how it shows up in this world. We tapped into resources from A Kids Book About and Learning for Justice that were perfect for this age group. The unit concluded with students digging into what it means to be antiracist and they created art projects that could teach others. I was excited to see their engagement throughout the unit and to witness their growth reflected in their final projects. This experience reignited my passion for working with upper elementary and middle school students and reaffirmed the importance of education in creating understanding and working for justice in our communities.”
Having graduated this spring, Bourgeois now hopes to help make schools more inclusive by dedicating time to recognizing gaps and exploring opportunities to adjust structures, lessons, and systems in order to empower students and educators to show up as their full selves.
And for those interested in pursuing graduate school, she has one simple piece of advice: “Trust yourself. All of the experiences that have brought you here are valuable but don’t stop there. Keep your mind open throughout this process because there is so much to learn throughout your journey.”