Natasha Rodriguez, Advancing the Field participant, Class of 2019
Natasha Rodriguez always knew she wanted to further her education, but it wasn’t until she took part in Becker College’s Advancing the Field program that she realized how much she wanted to go back to school. Rodriguez is now enrolled at Becker and on track to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Having worked for many years in the health care field, Rodriguez is currently employed as a care coordinator at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, referring high-risk patients for the support and services they need. “I benefitted tremendously from taking part in the program at Becker,” she said. “It helped me understand the importance of helping patients consider their mental health status as an important part of their overall health and well-being. I use what I learned in the course at Becker to better engage with patients, many with behavioral and mental health issues, and to be understanding and compassionate on a whole new level.”
Rodriguez earned her Adolescent Community Health Care Worker Certificate through Becker’s program this spring, which is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The program is open and free to anyone with a high school-level education working in the behavioral health field, and offers professional development and training.
She enjoyed the interactions with her culturally diverse classmates and learning about ways in which different cultures’ views affect the understanding and treatment of mental illness. “It was very interesting to me to hear how other cultures react to mental health disorders and behaviors,” she said. “I am Hispanic and African-American, so I was able to contribute my own experiences growing up, when I would never hear of anyone with mental illness. It was something that was not discussed in my culture, and it was forbidden for someone to see a psychiatrist or any other mental health professional.”
Although she is a veteran of the health care field, Rodriguez said she was also able to expand her knowledge through this course about illnesses like schizophrenia and psychosis, and enjoyed gaining a greater understanding of those afflictions. “I have worked with people who forget and need reminders about how to best deal with people with mental illness,” she said. “I am happy to share what I have learned and remind them to be more compassionate.”
Rodriguez also appreciated her professors and how well they connected with the program participants. “They were phenomenal, and very down-to-earth,” she said. “They talked about a lot of real-life scenarios and gave relatable examples that allowed us all to open up more and feel more connected to each other and them.”
Maintaining a close connection to her professors, she feels, will be a part of her commitment to earning a degree at Becker. “I definitely want to continue to work in mental health,” she said. “And I know I can apply my work experience in the field to help me in my courses, and that they’ll continue to help me do my job more effectively as well.”