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Meet Zakiya Futrell ’21MED: ‘I Knew That I Wanted to Help Those in Need and Clinical Mental Health Counseling Has Provided Me With the Avenue to Do So’

NC State College of Education graduate Zakiya Futrell ’21MED

This is part of a series of profiles of students who are graduating from the NC State College of Education in May 2021.

In the community where Zakiya Futrell ’21MED grew up, mental health was not a topic that was often emphasized or discussed. Having a passion for mental health, Futrell decided she wanted to become an advocate, particularly for people who are Black, Indigenous and people of color and those from low-income backgrounds, so she enrolled in the NC State College of Education where she will graduate with a Master of Education in clinical mental health counseling in May 2021.

Learn More About Zakiya Futrell

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Area of Study: Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): Providing counseling services through the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Center and advocating for mental health within the community. I also have co-created a podcast that explores our thoughts and opinions on relationships and general topics in today’s society. I value the quality time spent with the ones I love, and travel is always a plus. Aside from advocacy work, I enjoy creating content for my podcast, spending quality time with family and friends and writing mini stories that I hope to one day share with the world.

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

I chose the NC State College of Education because of the strong focus of multiculturalism and social justice within the counselor education program. I valued the emphasis of community discussed in the program and, once I started my study here, there was no denying the level of community engagement offered and displayed throughout the program. I wanted to make sure that I was continuing my education at an institution that not only prepared me for my future as a professional, but also held my values and helped me grow as an individual. With the assistance of the professors, resources and professionals here, my expectations were exceeded.

Why did you choose your area of study?

Mental health has always been a topic that has interested me and after completing my Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 2019, I did not want to end my journey of exploring mental health and helping individuals. I knew that I wanted to help those in need and clinical mental health counseling has provided me with the avenue to do so. In my community, mental health is not something a lot of people discuss or emphasize, and I wanted to be an advocate for mental health within the community; being in the clinical mental health counseling program has provided me with the resources and tools to share with my community.

What do you hope to accomplish in your field after graduation?

I plan to continue to advocate for mental health. I one day want to create a community program that provides accessible mental health services in low-income areas, while also creating a space where people who are Black, Indigenous or people of color feel safe and welcomed. I hope to continue to assist individuals in areas of development and encourage them by utilizing the counseling skills and knowledge I gained while in the program.

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to take a gap year to explore the counseling field while also working towards becoming fully licensed. I would like to work with a community counseling center that provides accessible mental health services. After my gap year, I plan to continue my education by getting my doctorate in either clinical psychology or counselor education. I have been in school since Head Start and I am looking forward to beginning my career and continuing something I have truly formed a passion for.

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step?

I feel that the professors and clinical experience I have had while in the program have truly prepared me for my field. Though as a counselor we still always have room to grow, I feel that this program has given me a different outlook on the field and different ways I can use my field to make an impact on my community.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

As an on-campus student, I was unfortunately able to only spend a semester-and-a-half on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While on campus, I was able to build meaningful relationships with my cohort members, whom I am still close to. I miss the debriefs we had walking to the car after class, discussing the course and our then practicum experiences. Those were moments I truly enjoyed and made my hour commute worthwhile.

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career.

During my time in the program, I came across wonderful professors and individuals who I believe have helped impact my experience here in the program. My first full semester course was my Introduction to Clinical Mental Health course and there I really was able to gain a closer understanding of what counseling looked like and gain an idea of what I wanted to do with my career. I remember the professor explaining their career path and what they do now, and I knew that is how I wanted to be as a counselor. I wanted to be impactful, passionate and confident as a counselor professional. That moment carried on with me as I started to become my own counselor and to this day, my passion continues to grow as a counselor. I am able to make an impact with my advocacy work and I am more than confident in myself and my abilities.

Why did you choose education?

I did not necessarily choose education, but I chose counseling. I chose a career that not only gives me the opportunity to promote mental health, but a career that does not limit my ability to explore my knowledge on a daily basis. With my platform and knowledge, I can continue to educate those around me surrounding the topic of mental health.