ST. ALBANS – When Don Jerome received his $ 600 stimulus check from the federal government earlier this year, he couldn’t imagine keeping the money to himself.
Instead of cashing it, the St. Albans resident asked Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS) to help turn the check into a scholarship for a student pursuing a career in mental health.
A Bellows Free Academy-St. An Albans graduate, Jerome has used a variety of different NCSS mediums over the years and wanted to go above and beyond to show his gratitude to the people who have helped him during his darkest times.
“He’s someone who has struggled with his mental health, yet recognizes the fact that without the people on the ground to help people like him, there wouldn’t be the care needed,” Joe Halko, director of community relations at NCSS, told the Messenger.
After submitting and reviewing the applications, Jérôme and the NCSS staff selected Morgan Bourdeau, then a senior at BFA-St. Albans, as the recipient of the scholarship. He was presented with the check for $ 600 at the high school senior awards dinner in May.
“Morgan really moved him [Jerome], and I think that’s because what she said in her candidacy so matched her thinking for the future of helping people, ”Halko said.
Bourdeau is now a freshman at St. Michael’s College, majoring in Psychology and a minor in English. She hopes to become a registered clinician and return to St. Albans to work at NCSS.
“I have always been passionate about mental health,” she told the Messenger. “I have had first hand experiences with mental health and how clinicians, counseling and therapy are beneficial for people. I would really love to offer this to someone else who might be in trouble.
When she was a senior at the BFA, Bourdeau interned at NCSS as part of the Pathways in Human Services program organized by the Northwest Career and Technical Center. Halko said the program was launched in 2018 to introduce students to the variety of careers in mental health. Eleven students have since participated in the program.
Bourdeau worked with Camp Rainbow, an NCSS summer program for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. She helped review the applications and worked side by side in the office with Merry Hill, the camp director.
“I must be really involved with Merry [Hill] and understand her background and what she does, ”said Bourdeau.
At St. Mike’s this fall, Bourdeau completed an introductory psychology course. She looks forward to taking more specialized and advanced courses over the next few years.
Because it was a one-time scholarship, Bourdeau said she was particularly honored to be the recipient of the gift and that she was grateful for what it allowed her to do in college.
Halko too was almost speechless when speaking of Jerome’s generosity.
“In a world where so many people are so mean and mean to each other, here is one person who really struggles and was ready to do it for a youngster,” Halko said. “It’s a whole new level to be generous. “