As I have shared with some people the clear direction God has given me to pursue a Masters in Mental Health Counseling, their doubt and bewilderment is something most cannot easily hide. For what it's worth, had someone recommended a year ago for me to do this I would have laughed and said all we need is Jesus and the Word, (pridefully confident that my license as a minister was suffice) dismissing the value of a professional and specialized education. Without going into all the detail of having dreams for the past 2 years of me being in a classroom studying for my Masters (although I had no idea what I was studying....it was obvious it was not art), prophetic words being spoken over me and the overwhelming support of my husband and the advisory board of Beauty From Ashes have provided me, I began taking graduate level courses this summer at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).
The reason I chose FGCU is because their Mental Health Counseling program was recommended by some of BFA's advisers (Doctors, mental health practitioners & college professors [not at FGCU]) as one of the best local schools for such. (The fact that it's literally down the street less than 15 minutes was not even factored in until after the decision was made).
Additionally, 5 months ago I began taking a 2 year course in Transformational Prayer Ministry, a therapy model that has been used successfully on me for over 6 years. I am walking proof of its effectiveness. I'm also taking courses with the American Association of Christian Counseling, of which I've been a member of for over 5 years.
I knew that 2010 meant that God was moving me into a season of new beginnings and manifestation as it was the 8th year since I rededicated my life. Just like God, it certainly has proven to be exceedingly abundantly more than I dreamed, imagined or prayed for.
The following is my official statement of purpose for grad school. Although I am already taking graduate level courses for this Master's program (registered by the head of the department = favor), to be officially admitted to it I have to complete a standardized test, the MAT, which I plan on taking 6/18. (Please pray for me as it's very intimidating to even study for). Once I complete it and have been accepted, I will be able to apply for financial aid, work study, etc. It's worth noting that my summer school funding was provided for 100% and it served as yet another confirmation that this indeed is what I need to be doing for this season in my life. I expect to receive my degree May 2013.
Statement of Purpose
Florida Gulf Coast University Mental Health Counseling Graduate Program
“What about me and my life has influenced my decision to become a counselor?”
It is because of who I am today, what I have overcome and what my personal and community goals are that I know for certain that acquiring a Master of Arts Counseling – Mental Health Counseling from Florida Gulf Coast University is exactly what I need to do for this season in my life.
In 2005, I founded the not for profit, faith based, public charity, Beauty From Ashes Ministries, Inc. Based out of Lee County, Florida, we work with victims of commercialized sexual exploitation and trafficking locally and nationally. Our purpose is to EDUCATE the community, ADVOCATE for victims, implement REACH, RESCUE and RESTORE programs and provide safeHOMES (residential recovery homes).
We meet and assist with victims’ practical needs by providing them and their families with support, life skill development, assistance with education, job placement, relocation, short term and/or residential housing, as well as addiction rehabilitation. We assist individuals in the transition out of and/or away from destructive and emotionally damaging lifestyles by providing guidance and direction for situations brought about by their choices such as substance abuse, pregnancy, occultism, prostitution, abortion, etc. We help them to deal constructively with the consequences their decisions to be involved with this industry and lifestyle have produced. Teaching them responsibility, character development and how to daily maintain a stable and productive life is our objective. It is also our purpose to network with and support other organizations dedicated to the same and/or similar goals in assisting individuals and families that desire a healthier lifestyle.
I have personal experience as a victim of commercialized sexual exploitation and human trafficking, as well as domestic and sexual violence. In addition, growing up without a father and having been divorced, I have benefited greatly from receiving professional counseling. When I was able to break free from the bondages of sex slavery, I determined in my heart to do something for the countless others I saw there hopelessly feeling trapped and abandoned by family and society.
More recently, the following came to my attention: The 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) stated that approximately 300,000 minors a year are being forced into prostitution here in the United States. These children are our citizens and currently the United States gives millions of dollars to assist illegal immigrants that are victims of human trafficking and to help victims internationally, but little to nothing for our own citizens. More than eighty percent of human trafficking is sex trafficking.
Domestic minor sex trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders. It is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” where the person is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident under the age of eighteen years. DMST includes but is not limited to the commercial sexual exploitation of children through prostitution, pornography, and /or erotic entertainment. DMST is child sex slavery, child sex trafficking, prostitution of children, commercial sexual exploitation of children and rape of a child.
The age of the victim is the critical issue - there is no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim’s actions. A child under eighteen years of age is automatically considered a victim of “severe forms of trafficking” due to the age alone. In fact, the law recognizes the effect of psychological manipulation by the trafficker, as well as the effect of the threat to harm which traffickers/pimps use to maintain control over their young victims. In the absence of a trafficker/pimp selling the youth, the perpetrator paying for the sex act with food, a bed, or a ride becomes the trafficker.
These traumatized children are typically being treated as criminals due to the lack of education and resources available for first responders. Sadly, there are currently less than fifty beds in specialized rehabilitation homes for domestic minor victims of human trafficking in the USA. There are also few specialized homes for adult women. Most are mainstreamed into shelters and/or residential programs that are ill equipped to properly meet the diverse needs of these people in order for them to recover. Studies show that ninety percent of adult sex workers were sexually abused as children. “The problem of prostituted children is growing because of funding cuts to mental health services, a lack of residential care programs for youth and a child welfare system that is unable to stop runaways.” (Mail Tribune Newspaper, May 26, 2010, “Rise in sex crimes involving children sparks concern”) The critical need of mental health care as an essential component to recovery is for this populace is obvious.
Becoming aware of this national crisis, the lack of federally funded comprehensive services available to these victims and facing the challenges of not being able to adequately provide for the needs of local girls and women is what has inspired me to pursue this degree. The victims and survivors are in need of long term, holistic, comprehensive services in order for them to have the opportunity to become over-comers of this social injustice. The complexity of the trauma that has occurred to these girls and women warrants specialized mental health care. I know from my own experience the benefits it served me through out my healing journey.
My experience in the commercial sex industry, working with survivors over the past five years, being a personal recipient of professional counseling for six years and Beauty From Ashes’ advisers have influenced my decision to pursue this degree. I have become painfully aware that I am not fully equipped to most effectively work with victims and survivors of sex trafficking. Although the survivors typically immediately relate to me, due to my past, I am still in need of professional counseling skills and licensing in order to best serve this populace. Having been an aftercare provider that has faced the heart shaking experiences and disillusionment of wondering why these survivors behave in the manner they do, I also recognize the need of the caretakers for sound counseling, which I hope that I can also provide once I am licensed.
From my greatest pain has come my most profound and significant mission in life. Beauty From Ashes’ vision is that domestic victims will be given the opportunity to receive the services they need in order to recover from the trauma and injustices done to them. My purpose is to acquire a mental health counseling degree and licensure because it will better equip me to accomplish this goal and professionally qualify me to work with this unique and extremely wounded populace. Because I am the founder and chief executive officer of the public charity, achieving this goal will also bring credentials to the organization as it better serves the community through education, advocacy and implementation of reach, rescue and restoration programs.
The cost for graduate school will be approximately $25,000. Beauty From Ashes has set up a separate fund for my schooling. If you feel led to sow into my future & that of BFA, we can provide you a tax deductible donation receipt. You can give securely online through our website, http://www.beautyfromashes.org, or mail your check, money order or cash to Beauty From Ashes, 5100 S. Cleveland Ave., Ste. 318-148, Fort Myers, FL 33907. Please notate, Julie's Education Fund & thank you!
Julie Shematz studied as Art Education K-12, Visual Communication Design, Fine Arts & Learning Disabilities at Purdue University. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Indiana University. She plans on studying art & play therapy as a component to mental health counseling.
Beauty From Ashes Ministries