With a genuine giggle and a welcoming hug, our 2013 Homecoming Queen, Calli McRae, gave up her only 30-minute break to comment on her love of spreading awareness and aiding the promotion of mental health in the Athens community.
McRae –now working to get her MEd in Professional Counseling with an emphasis in Community Counseling at UGA—will be a part of the Community Counseling Student Association come January and is currently aiding in planning and implementing events to promote mental health service particularly for the underserved. CCSA is an on campus organization that seeks to prepare competent, effective professional counselors in educational settings.
Her department has a program called Empowered Youth Program that holds events for adolescents to experience education’s power.
“We really need them where they are in terms of their background, their history, cultural values, [etc.],” said McRae. “We provide skills and support for students to succeed in school so they can see their potential. We use the education and the knowledge that we have to support people who are in the Athens community.”
In her future with CCSA, McRae sees herself working with two main populations: those in need of mental health aid and students referred to court with a MIP or DUI.
McRae focuses on those who are underserved in mental health, and specifically families of low socio-economic status who cannot afford mental health care treatment. Her passion stems from a desire to advocate for those who are without sufficient mental health aid. To McRae, that means serving them, understanding them, and seeing life from their perspective.
“[I wish] to meet them where they are and to help them use this consequence as a crossroads to writing a better and a different story,” said McRae of students who have been referred to the court for counseling for alcohol MIP or DUI.
“I hope to make an impact in this community by building relationships with people who need to feel loved and supported,” said McRae when asked what she hopes to do with CCSA. “[I want to cater to] the people who have faced many challenges in their lives and feel like they have nowhere [to go] for help. I want be that support system, then also use this organization to spread the awareness of the importance of seeking help when you need it.”
When volunteering with Miracle, a student run philanthropic organization that donates all proceeds to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, McRae’s advisor Brian Baker said that she works with others, “amazingly! She is a selfless person and cares about the people she is involved with.”
McRae’s positivity and happiness is radiant. She has been an active force on UGA’s campus and continues to seek opportunities to bring comfort to families and individuals in need in the Athens community.
When asked if Calli McRae is seen as a leader in the Athens community, fellow colleague of McRae’s, Andrew Kowalski, said “Yes! Although quiet at first, Calli has a way of drawing people in with her calm demeanor and people want to follow her because, not only is she kind and compassionate, but she is driven and hardworking.”
McRae said that graduate school is more challenging in that she is required to give so much of herself to her field, but she feels that it has prepared her immensely and that she has become a better person from helping the Athens community.
“People face many stressors and challenges,” said McRae with a determined but warm smile. “It is my hope that, through CCSA, people recognize it is okay to ask for help.”