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Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling :: USF's College of Behavioral & Community Sciences

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University of South Florida · College of Behavioral & Community Sciences · Department of Child & Family Studies · Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

CBCS Students Receive King O’Neal Scholar Award

by Sthephany Delgado

Incoming students often dream of a perfect GPA. Three College of Behavioral and Community Sciences students achieved just that and were awarded the King O’Neal Scholar Award upon receiving their bachelors degrees. Incredibly, all three of these scholars are students are now in the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, which uniquely prepares students to become rehabilitation counselors and/or licensed mental health counselors by combining hands-on clinical work with academic study. It is the largest program of its kind in Florida and attracts the best and brightest from across the state and country, including top scholars from within the USF System.

The King O’Neal Scholar Award, named after Lucas King and Evelyn O’Neal, honors the hard work and dedication of undergraduate students who maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout their entire undergraduate program within USF. These outstanding students are honored at commencement by special recognition on stage, a small biographical sketch in the program, VIP seating for their family, and a commemorative medallion. In a typical Fall or Spring semester, approximately 6,000 students graduate but less than 30 receive this honor, according to Tyrone Gray, Student Relations Officer at the USF Alumni Association.

Kathleen Audrey van Dommelen, Jessica Fugere, and Allison Zangari, are three students who have received this distinctive award and have chosen to continue their academic careers in the rehabilitation and mental health counseling program.

Katherine Audrey van Dommelen 

Katherine earned her Associate of Arts degree at the USF St. Petersburg Campus before transferring to the Tampa campus to complete her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Van Dommelen discovered this award and it ignited her passion and efforts to strive for academic excellence.

“Knowing it was there really solidified my efforts, and really made it worth it to strive for that 4.0, knowing that you’ll be recognized for it in the end.” says van Dommelen.

Van Dommelen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in the spring of 2014. She said the award “opened a lot of doors” when she applied for the rehabilitation and mental health counseling master’s degree program in the spring of 2014. Admission is very competitive due to the program’s uniqueness and top-third ranking in U.S. News and World Report.

Having recently applied for the marriage and family therapy certificate, van Dommelen plans to become a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed mental health counselor.  Afterwards, she is considering pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.     

“If you’re going to sign your name to something, make sure it’s the best that you can give,” says van Dommelen. “I knew what I wanted, and I had so much passion for it. If you have passion, it’s not really that difficult.”

Jessica Fugere

It did not occur to Jessica Fugere until graduation day that the King O’Neal Award was considered such a high honor.  “It wasn’t until I saw a room full of thousands of people waiting to walk across the stage that I realized I was only one of the few to have earned this distinction,” says Fugere.

Fugere had gone halfway through her sophomore year of college and had not received a grade lower than an A. “If I had gone this far without making a B, I wasn’t about to start then,” says Fugere.

Fugere transferred from Florida State University to USF after completing her first two years of  college coursework, and then went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in the fall of 2009. She is currently working on a master’s degree in the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. She is also a student in its marriage and family therapy certificate, an additional training opportunity that compliments the core program by providing students with insight into how families and couples function systemically.  In order to satisfy the experiential requirement of the graduate and certificate programs, she is an intern at Metropolitan Ministries where she provides counseling services to families who are recovering from the trauma surrounding homelessness and living in impoverished environments.

“My best advice is to do the best that you can.” reminds Fugere. “Plan your time well, know when it’s time to study and when it’s time to do the things that make you happy!”

Allison Zangari

“I thought it was impossible to make all A’s throughout my degree,” says Zangari. 

Allison Zangari was astonished to receive the King O’Neal Award, but through sacrifices and preparation, she was able to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Zangari graduated from USF in the fall of 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor behavioral healthcare. She graduated from the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling in August of 2014, and is currently a family therapist at Hyde Park Counseling Center, a residential treatment home for women with substance abuse and eating disorders.

She has high hopes for the future: “I aspire to get my Ph.D. degree one day, teach in college, have a research lab, give a TED speech, write a book, and do many other things in the realm of family therapy and psychology.”

Balancing work and fun is the ultimate challenge all students face, but Zangari advises aspiring King O’ Neil Scholars to “remember to not only work hard but to enjoy life as well. You can have both work and fun!”

Dr. Tennyson Wright, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling has worked with van Dommelen, Fugere and Zangari.  He praised each for their accomplishments as King O’Neal Scholar Award recipients.  He noted that “as graduate students, each is unique and wonderful to have in the Department.  Faculty find them to be hard workers, confident and dedicated to the profession.  We are honored and thankful that they selected our program and look forward to working with them now and in the future as colleagues.”