Maria del Carmen Leija Briones is a first-generation graduate student finishing up her Master of Arts in Professional Mental Health Counseling with a Specialization in Addictions at Lewis & Clark College. Maria is also a first-generation woman in the United States, originally from a small town outside San Luis Potosi, Mexico, who came to the United States at the age of 15. As many other people who immigrate to the United States, Maria faced many barriers such as learning a new language, a new culture, and being away from her family. Maria did not let these obstacles stop her from achieving her dreams. Maria obtained her bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology and a minor in Spanish at Portland State University. Maria is a 2019 NBCC (National Board for Certified Counselors) Minority Fellowship Program Addictions Counselor recipient. Maria enjoys writing poetry based on her personal experiences and one of her poems has been published in a book called Hispanic Women/Latina Leaders Overcoming Barriers in Higher Education by Daisy Indira Barron.
Maria’s professional experience, including volunteer work, has been primarily focused on working with underserved minority communities in various nonprofit and governmental organizations. Maria has experience working with youth and their families in treatment settings, including mental health and addictions treatment, and in a juvenile justice setting as a Bilingual Spanish speaking Juvenile Counselor. Maria continues to grow her experience working with underserved minority communities by completing her internship at an organization that serves these populations. Marias’s goal is to continue working with underserved minority communities, such as the Latinx community, to help bridge the gap between counseling services and these communities. Maria applied to the counseling program at Lewis & Clark College to help her meet these career goals. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Maria plans to work with Latinx communities impacted by addiction in Portland and eventually attain professional licensure. And sometime in the future she plans to pursue her PhD in counselor education in order to be able to teach at the university level.