MS, Couple and Family Therapy Students
Adam Hedelund (he/him) is from Newbury Park, California. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Family Life. As an undergraduate he worked as a peer mentor in the Office of First Year Experience where he met with first year students and counseled them through their transition from high school to college. He volunteered at the Family Academy where he served as a court appointed supervisor for families struggling through the effects of divorce. This job granted him insight into the complex family dynamics as well as the struggles surrounding male mental health. After graduation Adam worked as a data base coordinator for Project M.E.D.I.A looking at the role of technology in the development of children. Adam also worked a Character Development Coordinator at American Preparatory Academy where he had the chance to facilitate activities and lessons that encouraged mental, emotional, and social resilience in high school students. Adam’s research interests include men’s wellness and dismantling the stigma around men’s mental health and therapy. During his free time Adam likes going to the movies, singing, museums, and good food.
Azure Zheng (she/her) is from Guangzhou, China. She graduated from New York University Shanghai with a B.A. in Social Science. After graduation, she worked as a Customer Experience Associate specializing in customer PR, crisis intervention, and de-escalation training in a bilingual setting. Prior to joining the University of Maryland. Azure was actively engaged in programs and campaigns that promote mental health in China. As a Peer Counseling Volunteer, Death Cafe Organizer, and a Suicide Prevention Training participant, she is passionate about raising awareness of mental health care and cultivating communities that support one another. Azure’s research interests include masculinity and depression, the domestic division of labor in East Asian culture, and culturally sensitive therapy. During her free time, she enjoys exploring new podcasts, solving sudokus, making Kung-fu Tea, and trying out new sports (bouldering, surf skating, and the list is growing!)
Janynea Hutchinson (she/her) is a bubbly and welcoming individual from Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from Bowie State University with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Couples and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland. Her clinical areas of interest include couple’s relational work through her training in Emotionally Focused Therapy. Janynea’s aspiration to be a certified sex therapist fuels her intimacy and sexual-based research interest. She has worked for several years within the Prince George's County Public School system, where she creates a safe environment for students to further their academic knowledge and knowledge of self. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and utilizes the platform to elevate young women of color. Janynea is an active leader in her mentor the upcoming generations. Her primary goal is to destigmatize therapy within communities of color. In her free time, she loves music and crafting. Janynea believes she can make anything she sets her mind to, but her favorite thing to make is someone's day.
Jazmine Diggs (she/her) was born and raised in Maryland. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.S in Community Health, Certificate in Women’s Studies, and Specialty in Health Risk Behaviors. During her undergraduate years, she served as the Indigenous Community Outreach Student Intern for the Office of Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy where she planned and facilitated Native American Heritage Month and aided the university in developing their Land Acknowledgement statement in honor of the Piscataway Conoy tribe. Jazmine helped provide mental health resources to UMD’s minority community through the Multi-Ethnic Mental Health Organization founded in 2020 amidst the pandemic as an avenue to educate the university’s minority population on resources reflective of their specific needs. She also taught introductory medical summer courses to high school students across the U.S through the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. Through this, she went on to mentor twenty-five of her former students and aid them throughout their application processes and transitions to four-year universities. In 2022, Jazmine completed her undergraduate capstone internship at the University of Maryland’s health center through Health Promotion & Wellness Services where she served as both their mental health and sexual health student advocate. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry, traveling, and modeling to promote diversity in the fashion industry.
Mansi Dougall (she/her) was born and raised in New Delhi, India. She graduated from Jesus and Mary college, University of Delhi with a degree in Psychology (Hons). During that period, she served as vice president of the psychology department, organized department events and set up an online and offline campaign under a mental health initiative. Her first thesis investigated how parents of juvenile delinquents cope with the absence of their offspring and the implications for the child’s reintegration back to society. Thereafter, she completed her master’s degree in applied psychology- specialization in counselling psychology from Tata institute of social sciences, Mumbai and gained experience in counselling, ranging from shelter homes for women, to working with children and adolescents in schools and NGOs. At the end of two years, she was awarded the shield prize for the best student at fieldwork in her university. As a part of her master’s thesis, she explored the nature of romantic relationships and resilience among committed emerging adults in romantic relationships. Her work experience began in 2020 with an employee assistance program that offered teletherapy to employees for concerns related to self development, relationship and work. Post this, she worked as a part time role counsellor at the Delhi commission for protection of child rights. Additionally, she was empaneled as a psychologist in a pioneering pilot project by the Health department and Hans foundation. In the project, she was placed in a government school for a period of 6 months to offer counseling to children and adolescents. Through the completion of the CFT program she intends to enhance her skills in working with a systemic lens to understand different cultural nuances and dynamics impacting families, and to consolidate her past learnings of working with children and adults. During her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, traveling, yoga and dancing has been a major part of her life in school and college.
Mia Lemus (she/her) grew up in Arlington, Virginia. She graduated from Rhode Island College with a B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Chemical Dependency Addiction Studies in 2021. She began studying Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison post grad from 2021-22, where she focused on experimental research techniques and methodology and applied it to various areas of psychology. Mia has worked in a clinical setting advocating for teenagers and young adults with behavioral, emotional and developmental disorders. Prior to joining the University of Maryland, College Park, she interned at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, Rhode Island facilitating social skills groups for adolescents with autism while collecting behavioral data. She was trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy- Adolescents (DBT-A), an empirically validated treatment model used to teach and reinforce emotion regulation and distress tolerance skills. She applied these skills to address relationships with family and peers and was helpful in implementing individual treatment programs. Mia's research interests include mindfulness-based relapse prevention, intergenerational and collective trauma, parent-child relationships in immigrant families, loss, and grief. In her free time, Mia enjoys reading, road trips and trying new Italian recipes.
Nicole Gerber (she/her) is from Silver Lake, Kansas. She graduated from Kansas State university in May of 2022 with a B.S. in Education Studies and a minor in Conflict Analysis and Trauma Studies. Prior to college graduation, she worked at a community mental health center in Manhattan, Kansas, where she worked with an underserved population of school-aged children and their families to provide mental health resources and advocate for their success in schools. Her current interests are addiction and its effects on the family and mental health issues for teen girls and young women. In her free time, she enjoys reading, quality time with friends and family, exercising, and trying new foods.
Sonia Villatoro-Ramos (she/her) was born in El Salvador but has lived in Maryland most of her life. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a double major in Sociology and Family Science. Sonia is an active member of her local parish as a volunteer and worker, which has allowed her to interact with members of her community, particularly Spanish-speaking families, and low-income individuals. She aims to provide therapy services to minority groups who may view therapy as taboo and create a safe space for those seeking therapy services. Sonia also hopes to raise awareness of mental health concerns in marginalized communities and reduce the stigma associated with it. Presently, as a Therapist Intern for the Center for Healthy Families and Greenbelt CARES, she offers bilingual therapy services to individuals, families, and couples. She also serves as a Couples Facilitator for the TOGETHER Program, where she leads Spanish workshops to help couples decrease stress, enhance their financial knowledge and communication skills. Her interests include promoting mental health awareness, early childhood intervention, immigrant family resilience, and family relationships after separation. During her free time, Sonia enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends, engaging in outdoor activities, and reading.
Sydney Bristol (she/her) is from San Diego, CA. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2019 with a BA in Psychology (intensive track) and honors in the major. While in undergrad, Sydney interned at Corporacion de Ayuda al Paciente Mental (CORPAM) in Santiago, Chile, an adult residential facility, and at 7th Avenue Center in Santa Cruz, CA, a 99-bed adult inpatient psychiatric facility. After graduating, Sydney has worked in adult and children inpatient and outpatient facilities and found her passion in children and family crisis work. Sydney's research interests include suicidality in youths and young adults, sexually exploited children, life after domestic violence, holistic wellness, and trauma in family systems. Sydney is currently a Graduate Assistant in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Advising office in the Feller Center at the University of Maryland. Sydney is also Couples Expert Facilitator at the TOGETHER Program where she provides education on how to promote healthy family relationships, personal well-being, and employment and financial stability in our communities. In her free time, Sydney enjoys playing with her Australian Shepherd, hiking, reading, playing volleyball, and exploring the DMV.
Adrian Cortez (he/him) was born and raised in Washington, DC and now lives in Maryland. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.S. in Family Science. Throughout undergrad Adrian worked in a bilingual DCPS school with second graders, fostering their overall well-being and comfort. After graduating he worked for over two years as a CI/CT for the Colorado Department of Public Health. Adrian worked primarily in regard to COVID-19 but also helped the state and local public health departments in other areas such as avian influenza and food/water-borne illnesses. Through this work he provided emotional support while connecting diverse and underserved communities/families to information and resources in Spanish and English. Adrian has since volunteered in hospice, visiting and sharing connections with patients. Adrian is also a Trevor chat/text volunteer crisis counselor for the Trevor Project supporting LGBTQ+ youth. His areas of interest are gender identity in youth and their families and is passionate about finding ways to provide specified support for the LGBTQ+ community regarding IPV. During his free time Adrian loves to connect with nature, rollerblade, bike, hike, find new music, do B&W photography, share moments with friends, and spend time with his pets.
Isaiah Myers (he/him) was born in Washington DC and raised in Upper Marlboro Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland College Park and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Family Science with a minor in Human Development. He has had the privilege of working with the non-profit organization Community of Hope DC where he has served in family shelters, gaining invaluable experience. Other professional roles have included working as an Optometrist Technician, an Academic Advisor for the Office of Letters and Science at the University of Maryland College Park, and contributing to various volunteer initiatives. This range of experiences has honed his communication skills and underscored the value of privacy and discretion when dealing with families and individuals. When he's not working, he can be found exploring new places, engaging in a game of tennis, refining his culinary skills, indulging in the serene beauty of aquarium keeping, or enjoying a ride on his motorcycle.
Janae Freemen (she/her) graduated from Morgan State University in 2021 with a B.S in Psychology. She has completed 24 hours of Masters level Marriage and Family Therapy courses at Pfeiffer University. She currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina and enjoys the beach, and outdoor activities. Janae has a passion for music, she was a devoted member of the illustrious Morgan State University choir. Janae's career goal is to own a family counseling practice with a focus in play art, music and other alternative therapies.
Leilani Chavez (she/her) is from Hyattsville, MD. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health and a specialization in Health Risk Behavior. After graduating, she has worked as a Community Health Worker and Lifestyle Coach at Holy Cross Health (HCH), assisting community members in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties by offering bilingual health education, informal counseling, and social support. Through community outreach and health education, Leilani has had the privilege to assist and interact with diverse communities needing resources such as food, housing assistance, car seat assistance, and so much more. As a Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Coach, she has led multiple groups of participants through a year-long CDC-recognized lifestyle change program to reduce the risk of diabetes in individuals with prediabetes or at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Leilani enjoys encouraging and supporting her participants to pursue a healthy lifestyle by giving them tips and advice on eating healthy, being physically active, and reducing stress. She sees the best in her participants and cheers them on as they make small changes that lead to significant accomplishments. Leilani’s interests include grief and loss, children and divorce, and the impact of substance abuse on families. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, walking, and caring for her plants.
Matthew Alvarez (he/him) is from Miami, Florida and graduated from the University of Florida with his B.A. degree in psychology. In his undergraduate career, he has spent his time serving his local communities as well as those abroad while gaining skills necessary to be equipped to help others such as being certified in CPR as well as an emergency medical responder. Matthew worked in a psychiatric rehabilitation center in Rockville, MD that helps adults learn life skills and gain a more solid grasp on independence as well as a helping hand when needed. Matthew’s research interest includes building better communication between others, helping manage expectations and breaking down barriers and stigmas surrounding mental health. During his free time, Matthew enjoys playing board games, going on hikes, singing and having a laugh with friends.
Max Frankel (he/him) was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from San Diego State with honors, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in communications. As an undergraduate, he worked as a crisis hotline respondent, also actively contributing to the hotline's outreach team, which worked to destigmatize seeking help and support. Max further played a pivotal role as a member of a research lab focused on developing innovative tools to measure early language acquisition as well as assess the impact COVID-19 had on children's language learning. His journey extends beyond academics and research as he engaged in the campus community. He worked with a food bank and a center for displaced children, along with serving as a teaching assistant and tutor for subjects including rhetoric, communications, and math. These experiences have all strengthened his interest in the therapeutic field with emphases on LGBTQ+ care, sex therapy, relational communication, and non-traditional family/relationship structures. Max finds joy in journaling, thrifting, jogging to his favorite music, and spending time with friends and family.
Nisha Patel (she/her) is from Ocala, FL. She graduated from the University of Florida in May 2023 with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Sociology. While in undergrad, she volunteered at the Alachua County Crisis Center, where she completed training to become a Phone Counselor. As a crisis line phone counselor, she spoke with callers experiencing a variety of circumstances like crisis situations, grief, and trauma. Through this position, she was able to learn how to be a compassionate and active listener who understood the importance of being a listening ear. Nisha also interned at the Health Education and Training Center in Gainesville, FL, a non-profit organization focused on health education and wellness. As an intern for HEAT, she reached out to the local community about the health-focused classes and other resources available through the center. In addition, Nisha worked on a group research project which explored the role of adverse and positive childhood experiences on adulthood sexual behavior. Nisha’s interests include breaking down the stigma around mental health and understanding the impact of incarceration on familial relationships and identity. In her free time, Nisha enjoys listening to music, reading, taking walks, and catching up with her friends.
Ola Elwakeel (she/her) is from Cairo, Egypt. She graduated from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in 2018 with a B.A. in psychology (highest honors). Her undergraduate thesis focused on analyzing, through a socio-cultural lens, the manifestation of depression amongst Egyptian women. She recognizes the significance of socio-cultural dynamics, and aims to develop culturally-sensitive therapeutic approaches and interventions. Shortly after graduation, she had the opportunity to train at a reputable psychiatric hospital in Egypt -Al Mashfa- where she further developed her understanding of different disorders, therapeutic treatments, and psychological assessments. After that, for a period of 5 years, she was able to gain extensive experience in working with children and adolescents with special needs and neurodevelopmental disorders, in both specialized centers and international school settings. As a cognitive therapist and later a learning support teacher, she provided interventions for clients/students with very diverse profiles and varying abilities (ADHD, LDs, ASD, and CP to name a few). She empowered and supported them to reach their maximum potential, and also provided their parents with guidance and strategies to assist them in best supporting their children. Prior to joining the University of Maryland, she also became an accredited executive functioning (EF) coach through the Connections in Mind foundation in the UK. Ola was then able to take initiative, propose a plan, and have the honor of introducing and teaching executive functioning classes at her school, making it the first school in Egypt to offer such classes. She aims to have EF interventions complement and enrich her therapeutic approaches, so as to better serve her clients, specifically those who have neurodivergent brains. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, personality disorders in couples/families, the impact of neurodiversity on couples/families, intimate partner violence, and intergenerational trauma. She also hopes to be able to serve Muslim and Arab communities, as well as historically underrepresented communities, and those for whom therapeutic access has been limited or challenging. In her free time, Ola enjoys working out, exploring new places, reading, and spending time with loved ones.