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Leonis S. Wright: Helping her students help others

Leonis S Wright - Professional headshot of a woman smiling

After working with children in the foster care system early in her career, Governors State University (GovState) professor Leonis S. Wright developed a desire to assist children and adolescents with their daily academic and social/emotional challenges. 

Today, she believes she can make an impact when her own students become effective school counselors. As an associate professor, Wright teaches in the Master of Arts in Counseling program and is also the Program Coordinator. 

“It’s my belief that if I can inspire and motivate my students, and assist them in becoming efficient school counselors, then even more children and adolescents will have the opportunity to succeed,” she said. 

She worked as a school counselor for 16 years, and her “zeal” for helping this population grew deeper. “Having firsthand experience of the educational system and knowledge of the obstacles many children and adolescents go through, I was eager to make a grander difference. This enhanced passion led me to wanting to not only practice school counseling, but to also teach others seeking a path in this profession.”

Wright teaches Lifespan Developmental Issues, Beginning Counseling & Human Relational Skills, Group Dynamics and Interventions and Introduction of School Counseling.  She recently earned tenure in the College of Education and Human Development-Division of Psychology and Counseling, capping three years of teaching, research, and publishing as a faculty member at GovState. Previous university teaching experience qualified her for tenure this year. 

GovState Newsroom: What are some of the most interesting topics of study you have researched and/or presented in the classroom? How are they relevant to what’s happening in the world today?

Wright: I’ve researched and presented at counseling conferences regarding LGBTQ+ youth and adolescents’ career development. This topic is extremely relevant in the world today because of the injustices and inequities minoritized and oppressed individuals face collectively. Statistics tell us that due to the discrimination and harsh treatment LGBTQ+ students may receive from their peers during school, they are more likely to not to attend school, have lower GPAs and are less likely to pursue postsecondary education. These issues have a direct impact on their future career and college aspirations. Individuals working with this population need to be equipped with the appropriate strategies and tools to promote LGBTQ+ students’ self-efficacy and to lend a voice in minimizing societal issues. 

GovState Newsroom: What professional organizations are you involved in?

Wright: I am actively involved in the American Counseling Association (ACA), the Illinois Counseling Association (ICA), the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the Illinois School Counselor Association (ISCA). 

For ISCA, I am the Taskforce Chairperson of the Illinois School Counselor Comprehensive Model Revision team. This taskforce is aligning Illinois’ current model with ASCA’s National Model for school counselors, so all school counselors in Illinois will have a consistent and valuable resource to use to promote the academic, social/emotional, and career development of all K-12 students.   

GovState Newsroom: What motivates you as a faculty member?

Wright: I am most motivated by my students’ desire to learn. I find great satisfaction in their willingness to show up and put in the necessary work to succeed--despite various obstacles that some face.

 GovState Newsroom: What is your favorite book? Streaming show on television? 

Wright: I read and watch television a lot, so I have several favorite books and TV shows. Currently, “The Other Black Girl” is my favorite book and my favorite TV streaming show is “Ginny and Georgia” on Netflix.

GovState Newsroom: What do you love most about GovState? 

Wright: I love the diversity of our entire family (i.e., administrative team, faculty, staff, and students). I also appreciate the effective communication and on-going support offered by many, as well as the collaborative spirit between faculty members.