Justin Tucker is a master’s student in education. He grew up in Queens and Gordon Heights, N.Y., and received his master’s degree in higher education from Stony Brook University, where his academic work focused on strategies to improve black male graduation and retention rates. “I am very passionate about education as a vehicle for change in social justice.” In 2013, he joined the N.Y. Army National Guard, and his service was within the 369th Sustainment Brigade and the 27th Financial Management Support Unit until the end of his service commitment in July 2019.
What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
When I was a kid around 13 years old I wanted to go to UNC-Chapel Hill. I was discouraged to apply coming out of high school. Fast forward to present day, I decided to make a career transition and relocate to the South; not only was UNC a childhood dream in reach but also accelerated for me because it puts me on path for two goals: entering the school system as a school counselor and helping me obtain my provisional license as a mental health counselor.
Tell us about your research plans.
The reason for going to school was I wanted to get a strong foundation in counseling supported in theoretical approaches that promote positive change. Another strong part of what drew me to the school counseling program: I really wanted to understand the rationale behind solution focused approach and other strength-based theories to use in counseling. Education has helped me receive a lot of opportunities to go places a lot of people that I grew up with never have had the chance to see. I love education because I believe it is a way to open paths for people that otherwise would typically be ill-advantaged otherwise. Ultimately, I want to further my knowledge of strategies to help youth overcome obstacles.
What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in graduate school?
The one thing I gained from my military experience was how important it is to never judge people by their appearance. I met so many people with such vast lived experiences. Everyone has a story, this is something I keep with me especially now that I am transitioning to counseling. I think about this often when I meet students or need to address any conflicts.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
A big part of what drove me towards school counseling was my looking at the many different fields that could take advantage of my previous work experience and history but add on to my skillset. Believe it or not, I was really considering a chaplaincy program before fully committing to the school counseling program. I just was not sure about the religious component of it so I opted to become a school counselor instead.
I hope to obtain my provisional license as a mental health counselor and eventually start my own practice that focuses on school-based therapy. Along the way gain some valuable experience working in schools as a school counselor.