In 2008-2009 I was a recipient of a Catherine Reynolds Foundation Fellowship for study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). I applied for the Fellowship after spending two years in post-Katrina New Orleans, where I served as the Assistant Clinical Director of the largest school-based mental health initiative for children and families affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was an honor to work in a community so steeped in cultural pride, with such resilience and determination to put back the pieces after long-term displacement, loss and grief. Catherine and Wayne Reynolds’ generous gift allowed me to further study the effects of PTSD, chronic stress, and poverty on the development of children and their learning. While at Harvard, I focused on learning to mitigate the effects of stress and trauma on children and adolescents. While in my Master’s program I worked as an infant mental health clinician, and as a parent educator for families who had lost custody of their children due to abuse and neglect.
After graduating form HGSE, my husband Justin and I spent the summer in rural South Africa, rehabilitating a dilapidated preschool building, outfitting it with books and educational supplies, and training early childhood educators to lead Project Joy (a play therapy intervention). The needs of this community were made known to us by our friend and fellow Reynolds alumnus Craig Paxton. A number of children in that particular village in the Eastern Cape had lost parents and loved ones to HIV-AIDS. We have since raised funds to help outfit a second preschool in a neighboring village.
Upon returning to Boston, I worked as a School Therapist and for three years as the Director of Community and Family Engagement at Uncommon Schools. Uncommon is a charter management organization devoted to closing the achievement gap and making college admission and graduation a reality for low income students. For the past two years, we have also served as Officers, Resident Tutors, and Public Service Advisers at Harvard College. After our son Haven was born in February of 2012, I took some time to savor his first year while continuing to work as a counselor, and helping my husband establish a law practice (jduclos.com) that concentrates on the environment, new media and social justice.
The friendships we formed, and the doors of opportunity that opened because of the Reynolds Fellowship are priceless. Our family will continue to keep social entrepreneurship at the core of our work, and we look forward to what the years ahead will bring. We promise to keep in touch!