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The Pitt Counseling Program is proud to announce the 2020 awardees of the Project CRESTS (Certified Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Supporting Transition Success) scholarships! These scholarships are made possible through a U.S. Department of Education training grant and will fully fund the awardees’ graduate training. The scholars will participate in inter-disciplinary coursework and enrichment experiences with an emphasis on supporting students who are blind and visually impaired as they transition from secondary education settings resulting in improved career outcomes and quality of life.

The Counseling program looks forward to funding three additional scholars matriculating in fall 2022!

Alexis Faunce, Awardee:

I have a great passion to work with transition age students with vision impairments, aiming to assist in decreasing experienced societal isolation as well as enhancing quality of life and future career opportunities for these students. The CRESTS Scholarship will provide exceptional specialized training to work more appropriately with these students as well as provide valuable knowledge to carry into my counseling career.

Jason Gruzin, Awardee:

I feel that working with transition age students who are blind and visually impaired will be both rewarding and challenging. It gives the opportunity to work to alleviate the psychological stress of transitioning and will challenge me to come up with creative solutions to the mismatch between blind and visually impaired person's abilities and the society we have structured to be accessible to sighted individuals. The funding from the Project CRESTS scholarship will allow us to work to help under-served populations and take whatever job we can do the most good in without having to be concerned about paying back student loans.

Haein Kim, Awardee:

I believe that biases towards students who are blind and visually impaired inaccurately reflect who they are as individuals. It is twice as hard to disrupt certain norms that society has placed on such students simply because of their unique differences. Therefore, as a Project CRESTS Scholarship recipient, I see my future as an active advocate involved in counseling and supporting transition-aged students who are blind and visually impaired. I want to apply my current and new knowledge of social-emotional and behavioral disciplines to help students become self-sufficient and independent in society. Through the CRMHC Program and scholarship, I am confident that they will offer diverse opportunities to advocate for equitable and accessible mental healthcare systems.

Rebecca McIlhenny, Awardee:

I want to work with this specific population because I am passionate about meeting individuals where they are and highlighting their strengths in order to assist them through challenging stages of life. I believe that the Project CRESTS scholarship will allow me to pursue this passion while simultaneously helping me grow both professionally and personally.

Sharin Shafi, Awardee:

As a Clinical Research Coordinator at UPMC Eye Center, I closely worked with a number of blind and visually impaired patients who inspired me to look beyond the darkness in life. I want to continue their legacy by working as a counselor to the blind and visually impaired transition-age students. Upon graduation, I will not have to worry about thousands of dollars of debt because of the Project CRESTS scholarship. I will be well equipped and focused to serve my future clients with compassion and professionalism. Thanks to Project CRESTS!