Parker finds her calling counseling others
Editor’s Note: Where are they now? is a regular feature that will catch up with Franklin County natives who may be pursuing opportunites outside of the area.
Some people are never fortunate enough to have a career they are passionate about.
Getting up each day and going to work is out of mere necessity instead of a love for that job.
But in the seven years since Leah Parker graduated from Russellville High School, she has been able to discover a career she is passionate about and is actively pursuing that career because she has already discovered the value of doing something you love.
Parker graduated from RHS in 2004 and set out for Florence to attend the University of North Alabama where she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to use her God-given abilities.
“I always knew that I wanted to do something that involved helping people and I had narrowed that down to either teaching or psychology,” she said. “I wanted to be in a field where I could be around people and help them in some way because that’s what I enjoyed doing most.”
Parker finally decided to focus on teaching and graduated from UNA in December 2008 with a degree in secondary education/language arts, but she soon found out that, even though she had chosen a career path, it wasn’t easy to get started down that path.
“After college I began the search for a job but I unfortunately graduated at a terrible time economically,” she said.
Parker served as a substitute teacher and worked at an afterschool care program in Killen, but she couldn’t find a steady teaching job. After job hunting for months and months, Parker finally moved back to her hometown of Russellville to regroup and figure out where she needed to go.
“During that time, I did a lot of thinking and praying about what I really wanted to do and which direction I wanted to head in after graduation because the job thing wasn’t working out,” Parker said. “Looking back, that time was really a blessing because I realized what I really wanted to do was to get my master’s in community-based counseling.”
Once Parker realized what she truly wanted to do, she wasted no time in making that idea a reality by enrolling in the master’s program for counseling at UNA, which she said she has enjoyed every step of the way. She is set to graduate this December.
In addition to her schooling, Parker is also interning at Bradford Health Services in Florence where she works with the substance abuse population as a co-leader of their group therapy for the adult Intensive Outpatient Program.
She also interns at UNA’s Student Counseling Services and is preparing to present at a statewide conference for counselors in November.
“I love both of my internships,” she said. “This field incorporates all of the gifts that God has blessed me with, and I feel like I am able to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Counseling is more than just listening to people’s problems – it’s being privileged to be a part of their lives and help them in their most vulnerable times. It’s also a career that challenges me and pushes me to continue to learn, even past graduation, in order to be effective, which is exciting.”
In her spare time, Parker serves as the graduate representative of the counseling profession honor society Chi Sigma Iota and she also enjoys spending time in her hometown with her family, which includes her parents, Richard and Amy Parker; her sister and brother-in-law, Lauren and Dennis Hyde; and her new niece, Catherine.
“I think living in Franklin County prepared me for my counseling career because it is a small town and it’s given me a sense of community that I’m proud of and that helps me relate to people on a more personal level,” Parker said.
Even though she encountered some bumps and roadblocks on her way to finding the right career for her, Parker is a good example of pushing through the obstacles and not giving up at the first sign of trouble, which is good advice for anyone, no matter what age or stage of life he or she might be in.
“Counseling just feels right and I feel so blessed at the end of the day to be doing something that I truly love,” she said.