Ashley King, recently interned at Alameda County Eden Children’s Services, was a recipient of Alameda County Behavioral Health’s (ACBH) Graduate Intern Stipend Program. The stipend program provides financial incentive to eligible students to build a diverse behavioral healthcare workforce. This program is funded by the Mental Health Services Act.

King is one of the hard-working awardees for the 2015/2016 school year. Here, she shares some of her story of how she decided to pursue a career in a much-needed area of behavioral health.

For five years, Ashley King was a 7th grade science teacher in East Oakland. “I had wonderful students who needed more services and care than I could provide as a teacher with 30-35 children in a classroom,” King says. Many of the behavioral problems she noticed seemed to be rooted in mental health issues and experiences of trauma. According to King, the impacted counseling and mental health systems in the school district made it difficult for her students to get the help they needed, and they became caught in a cycle of referrals and suspensions.

“I was inspired to affect change by returning to school and becoming a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who can assess, diagnose, prescribe, and provide therapy depending on the needs of a client.”

King, who is multiracial, partnered with Dr. Melissa Vallas, a psychiatrist working at the Alameda County Eden Children’s Service for a one-year clinical internship experience. During this time she learned to assess, diagnose, and treat clients.

Two things King said that were rewarding during her internship were:

“I have really enjoyed working with the clients because it is truly a privilege for people to share their lives, difficulties, and strengths with me. Additionally, everyone I have met has been so welcoming, and training with Dr. Melissa Vallas and Dr. Sandhya Dubey has been instructive, extremely valuable, and enjoyable”.

Her career goals are to provide mental health care to children/ adolescents and their families in underserved populations, and, eventually, improve health care systems and outcomes for these individuals.