Claira Hart is our second NCU Marriage and Family Sciences Community Hope Scholarship recipient. She is a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, who works with children who have been diagnosed with autism. She implements applied behavior analysis techniques to help them reach age-appropriate milestones. Hart graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Arts in Family Studies and Psychology, and had been hoping to return to graduate school so she could gain full licensure in her desired field of marriage and family therapy. The NCU MFS Community Hope Scholarship will allow her to fulfill those dreams.
“For the past several years, I have known, without a doubt, that becoming a marriage and family therapist is my calling,” explained Hart. “Imagining the difference that I can make, and picturing myself in that position, excites and inspires me because family is something I truly cherish.”
Hart understands family. She has spent most of her life in Las Cruces, and her parents have been an integral part of her education. “My parents always encouraged and pushed me to do my best in whatever I was involved in,” she explained. Now, as a newlywed herself, she wants to continue that work, and her new husband fully supports her plans for returning to school.
Hart embraces what the NCU MFS Community Hope Scholarship is all about. “Growing up [in Las Cruces] made it easy to become aware of the poverty-stricken and single-parent families who live here,” Hart wrote in her winning essay. She went on to cite U.S. Census Bureau statistics that show more than 27% of local children live below the poverty line. “After looking at these statistics,” she explained, “it is apparent that many of the families living in this community could use hope, and upon graduation, it is my intention to create that for them.”
Hart said that after graduating with her Master in Marriage and Family Therapy from NCU, she wants to stay in her hometown of Las Cruces and bring that hope to those families. “It is my deepest desire to simply work with families who need help. In Las Cruces, there are a lot of single-parent families, and a lot of families affected by poverty. I think that being able to reach these families, and help them to make a change, will be so rewarding.” Hart has decided to specialize in general family therapy so she can work with all kinds of families, and help them through crises. “As excited as I am to work with children in the context of their families, I couldn’t imagine losing out on the opportunity to help a couple fight for their marriage,” she explained, describing why she decided not to focus just on children. “Simply put, I really hope to be available to help the families who need it, whatever the specifics of that may end up being.”
Her winning idea for the NCU MFS Community Hope Scholarship is to create a program where she can practice family therapy in the home, or wherever the family feels most comfortable. “These families may not have what it takes to make it to therapy sessions on a regular basis. If, however, I were able to go to them for therapy, it is likely that these families will have an easier time keeping appointments, and receive the support and advice they are looking for in a place where they feel comfortable.”
Hart did a lot of research when thinking about attending graduate school, but was especially drawn to NCU because it felt more like a personalized program. “Between the one-to-one teaching model, and the fact that my classes will fit the New Mexico requirements specifically, I just knew that there was not a better fit for me,” she said. “The ability to complete my coursework online, without ever having to travel to a physical campus, gave me all the flexibility that I need to be able to complete the program while still balancing work and personal life.”
Hart is excited about the scholarship. “Honestly, winning this scholarship means so much to me, but it is still a little surreal,” she said. “Knowing that my master’s degree will be paid for has made me even more passionate about diving into the learning. I am most excited to be learning again. Discovering new things was probably the best part about earning my bachelor’s degree, and I am excited to be digging into more material that I am truly passionate about.”
Hart is thrilled that Northcentral University provided her a scholarship to begin an educational journey that can lead her down her chosen path. “Knowing that there’s a real possibility that, because of the services these children are receiving and the help I’m offering, they will grow up and be able to contribute to our community in some way, is enough to pull me through even the toughest days.”