Back to School and Beyond: Bachelor's Completion Program Transformed Elaine Dasilva's Relationship with Education

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Elaine Dasilva, Student, BS in Psychology and Human Services

Elaine Dasilva had always struggled in school. The combination of a difficult home life and unsupportive teachers led Dasilva to avoid college for nearly twenty years.

“In school I was called dumb, told I would never learn anything,” said Dasilva, who, despite her academic struggles, has dedicated her career to helping others.

She has worked in the East Boston community providing translation and other services, raised money and traveled abroad to help struggling communities in her home country of Brazil, worked as an advocate in the court system in Massachusetts, written two books, Restoration and Healed, about overcoming her life’s challenges, and much more.

“The most important thing in my life is to help others,” said Dasilva. “I notice that I am more happy when I help people. That makes me a better person. That makes me love more people.”

Recently, Dasilva decided she was ready to take on the challenge of going back to school. “I was so worried about helping others that I never stopped to take care of myself,” she said.

Dasilva has gone from anxiety and self-doubt in the classroom to being one semester away from graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Human Services from William James and wanting to apply to the College’s PsyD in Clinical Psychology program.

“I'm positive I love psychology,” said Dasilva. “I really love this work. I've already been [in the field] for almost twenty years.” The missing piece, she said, and her next goal, is earning licensure.

Her academic journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s one that is important to Dasilva to enhance the ways she can continue making a difference in the lives of others. Starting at Bunker Hill Community College, Dasilva felt like she was “relearning everything,” and her time at William James has completely transformed her experience with education.

“I wanted a small school where I could get individual attention,” explained Dasilva. “When I took a tour of William James, I fell in love... I said, ‘this is the College that I wanted.’”

Dasilva now loves learning. At William James, she has received the support she’s always wanted from faculty members and the Academic Resource Center. Dasilva explained that just because she might learn differently, especially in math-based courses like statistics, that doesn’t mean she isn’t learning or isn’t working hard. In fact, statistics became one of her favorite classes at William James.

“I'm very proud,” said Dasilva. “At William James College, I learned that I have to give credit to myself and feel proud of myself. When I was growing up, people were never proud of things I did, but now I value so much all the work that I've been doing for myself.”

Dasilva has even been improving her Spanish to help with her work at the Brenner Center for Psychological Assessment at William James College. She started her position by providing Portuguese translation to clients and their families as well as translating reports and documents for the Brenner Center. Now as an intake and referral coordinator, Dasilva loves communicating and building relationships with clients in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Dasilva has seen in her life, her education, and her work the effects of a lack of culturally responsive mental health providers. Her ultimate goal is to become a licensed psychologist, graduating from the William James College PsyD in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Latino Mental Health. She hopes to one day have a private practice where she can provide much-needed resources to those struggling with substance use, homelessness, or other challenges.

“I believe I can do it because I am doing it,” said Dasilva. “They told me to take the associate's degree and go find a job, but I am climbing by myself. Sometimes I need people to support me, but it’s not impossible.”


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