A Kalamazoo College alumna, inspired by her experiences in diversity at K, has earned a special honor from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
Zoe Barnes ’18, now a graduate student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE), has received the 2021 Student Leader Champion Award for her efforts in advancing social justice throughout her university, in the community and through her chosen profession.
“I’m very excited because it’s a wonderful honor,” Barnes said. “Social justice is a buzzword to some, but it’s a constant, ongoing process of challenging what we know and checking our own biases. In school psychology, social justice is important because if you look at a school and see who the teachers and staff are, you will often see groups dominated by white staff members. They don’t reflect the increasing diversity of students, especially in public schools. Social justice can help us challenge the status quo.”
Several students at SIUE, including Barnes, expressed their interest in social justice to faculty last summer. The professors sensed an opportunity to connect them all, leading to the formation of the Graduate Students for Social Justice, a group that talked about injustices on campus and developed ideas for addressing social justice within their respective programs.
Barnes is a member of that group and also recently served as the social justice chair of the Graduate Organization for Child and Adolescent Psychology Students (GOCAPS) at SIUE. Her service led a faculty member to nominate Barnes for the NASP honors.
Barnes said the K community helped her develop an interest in diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice after she arrived from a predominantly white community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that point, Barnes started seeing more peers who looked like her. Students of color provided an energizing space where she could discuss the discrimination and microaggressions she experienced on campus with others who could relate.
“Being at K, and just being surrounded by people who look like me and had similar experiences really helped me,” Barnes said. “Talking helped put a name to the discomfort.”
Barnes double majored in Spanish and psychology and minored in anthropology-sociology at K. After a gap year, Barnes looked for help in determining her career path. At that point, she talked with Suzie Gonzalez ’83, spouse of K President Jorge G. Gonzalez.
“I went down this route to school psychology because of Suzie Gonzalez,” Barnes said. “I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life when I met up with her. She was a school psychologist and she definitely inspired me.”
Barnes earned her master’s degree through SIUE in December and now is seeking a clinical child and school psychology specialist degree with an expected graduation date of May 2022. She will be honored at NASP’s 2022 annual convention in February.
“I would love to make an impact however I can as a school psychologist,” Barnes said. “When I picture my career, I want to be firmly planted in a school district. I want to walk down the halls and recognize all the students and know their educational history. Early intervention is a huge part of school psychology and I would love to support them from the very beginning.”