Master's degree is a mission accomplished for De La O and her family

Counselor celebrates the culmination of her dream as MSU Texas grad

Monica De La O isn’t walking the stage as a Midwestern State University Fall 2021 graduate just for herself.

She’s proud of her accomplishment, but Saturday will be a culmination of a dream both she and her family had for many years.

Monica will receive a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. She has accepted a position with Wise Regional Health Systems to be a clinical therapist for their intensive outpatient program.

But first, she gets a chance to soak it all in with a graduation celebration.

“This graduation means everything to me,” she said. “The person I was two years ago is not the same person who will be walking across that stage. I’ve grown so much in my personal life and career. This program helped shape me to be the best version of myself and not be afraid to reach for my dreams.”

Her grandparents immigrated from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and brought her dad and her uncles with them. “I have always watched my family work hard for what they want in life. Every time someone succeeds, we have always been there to cheer them on.”

Someone will be missing in Monica’s cheer section. Her grandmother, Wela, passed away during her first year of graduate school at MSU Texas. “This took a toll on my mental wellness and my ability to stay motivated,” she said. “I know my Wela would never want me to give up. They fought hard to get to America and give their children the lives they didn’t have. I knew that giving up was not an option.”

She also lost a close family friend who was in grad school about six months later. “Mentally that set me back but also lit a fire in me,” Monica said. “This degree is not just about me; it’s about all of those who wished to get this far but couldn’t.”

Sacrifices were made to give Monica a chance. And she worked hard to make that team effort pay off.

Monica is the oldest of three children so felt she should always set a good example, the same way her family kept her motivated with their example.

“Monica is an excellent student,” said Dr. Tara Fox, Assistant Professor Counseling for West College of Education. “I hope that one day she gets her Ph.D. so that she can teach future generations.”

Monica De La O

Monica De La O
Monica De La O celebrating her brother's high school graduation.

 “In 2021, my brother graduated high school, my sister graduated from MSU Texas, and I as well will be walking the stage this year,” Monica said. “I hope that my siblings know they can do whatever they put their minds to, and I led by a good enough example. I also hope my parents know that without them none of us would have gotten this far.” 

Monica will take many fond memories from MSU Texas. She said she’ll never forget the bond with her classmates, including a group of six friends who were together from the start. “Some of us went through things I couldn’t imagine during these last two years,” she said. “All of us have been there for each other and have helped one another come out stronger and reach our goals. I know we have made lifelong bonds, and I will always be grateful for their friendship and support.”

She enjoyed her internship class, and also the chance to learn from Dr. Fox, who made a lasting impression on her after arriving at MSU Texas. “I was nervous about having a new professor, but she is everything we needed and then some! Her knowledge about mental health is outstanding. She speaks to us as equals and helps us reach our fullest potential. I plan to return to school and get my PhD. I never would have thought about doing that if it were not for Dr. Fox. It is because of her that I hope to teach others about the mental health field and how to be an amazing counselor. I truly look up to her.”

Monica passed her National Counselors Exam in November. She worked at Helen Farabee Center for five years as a child and adolescent case worker.

She said the social aspect attracted her to the mental health field. “I am a people person and enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. We have all been through dark days, and I want to help others know that there is still a chance for brighter days. I love being able to help others see the potential that they didn’t see in themselves. Just being someone who can listen and support someone makes the biggest difference.” 

Her experience has already given her confirmation that she choose the right path at MSU Texas.

“Each time a client thanks me, or more recently when they have been tearful, that I am leaving my current job, it shows me that I am making an impact,” Monica said. “There are days I question if I am making an impact? But more recently I have learned that I am great at what I do and being a counselor is a perfect fit for me. Growing up, this was not a field I planned to go into, but through fate and being bad at math, I found my true passion. I love what I do and I love being able to help people every day.”

Focus and her family helped her attain her Master’s degree. Her mother was her rock and her grandmother inspired her every day. Monica said she’s forever grateful. “It’s for my Wela and Lui, who I know would be cheering me on across that stage if they could be here,” she said. “It’s proof that I am stronger than I imagined. Walking across the stage is just as much for them as it is for me.”

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