Don Jerome (left) worked with Northwestern Counseling and Support Services to turn his stimulus check into a scholarship. BFA-St. Albans student Morgan Bourdeau (right) was the recipient.
By Bridget Higdon
ST. ALBANS — When Don Jerome received his $600 stimulus check from the federal government earlier this year, he couldn’t imagine keeping the money for himself.
Instead of cashing it in, the St. Albans resident asked Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS) to help him turn the check into a scholarship for a student pursuing a career in mental health.
A Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans graduate, Jerome has utilized a variety of different supports from NCSS over the years and wanted to go above and beyond to show his gratitude to the people who helped him during his darkest times.
“This is someone who has struggled with their mental health, and yet recognizes the fact that without people in the field to assist people like himself, there wouldn’t be the care that’s needed,” Joe Halko, director of community relations at NCSS, told the Messenger.
After fielding and reviewing applications, Jerome and staff at NCSS chose Morgan Bourdeau, then a senior at BFA-St. Albans, as the scholarship’s recipient. She was presented with the $600 check during the high school’s senior awards dinner in June.
“Morgan really moved him [Jerome], and I think it’s because what she had stated in her application was so much in line with where his thinking is for the future of helping people,” Halko said.
Bourdeau is now a first-year at St. Michael’s College, where she is majoring in psychology and minoring in English. She hopes to become a licensed clinician and return to St. Albans to work at NCSS.
“In a world where so many people are being so mean and nasty to one another, here’s an individual who’s really been struggling and was willing to do this for a young person. That’s a whole other level of being generous.”
—Joe Halko, director of community relations, NCSS
“I’ve always been really passionate about mental health,” she told the Messenger. “I’ve had firsthand experiences with mental health and just how beneficial clinicians and counseling and therapy is for people. I would really like to offer that to somebody else who may be struggling.”
When she was a senior at BFA, Bourdeau interned with NCSS through the Pathways in Human Services Program hosted by Northwest Career and Technical Center. Halko said the program was started in 2018 to introduce students to the variety of careers in the mental health field. Eleven students have since participated in the program.
Bourdeau worked with Camp Rainbow, an NCSS summer program for children with Autism or other developmental disabilities. She helped review applications and worked side by side in the office with Merry Hill, the camp’s director.
“I got to be really involved with Merry [Hill] and understand her background and what she does,” Bourdeau said.
At St. Mike’s this fall, Bourdeau completed an introduction to psychology course. She is looking forward to taking more specialized and advanced courses over the next few years.
Because this was a one-time scholarship, Bourdeau said she is especially honored to be the gift’s recipient and is thankful for what it’s allowed her to do at college.
Halko, too, was almost speechless talking about Jerome’s generosity.
“In a world where so many people are being so mean and nasty to one another, here’s an individual who’s really been struggling and was willing to do this for a young person,” Halko said. “That’s a whole other level of being generous.”
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