By Jayna Omaye
Alicia Minirth loves helping people. That’s the way it’s always been for the Beacon College graduate. As a kid, she remembers wanting to follow in the footsteps of her father, a psychiatrist who helped many of his patients. Minirth, a Dallas native, was drawn to the mental health field, too.
But as a child, Minirth was diagnosed with ADHD and had a difficult time navigating her diagnosis and treatment. As an adult, the same fears of being treated differently were still very real.
“As a kid, I didn’t know what to expect. I just thought that I was mentally stupid because ADHD wasn’t really a thing,” says Minirth, 30. “When I brought it up, people would act a little weird about it and treat me differently.”
That changed when she enrolled in Beacon after leaving a college in Alabama that wasn’t a good fit. Minirth liked the Leesburg campus and the college’s human services program. She instantly found a support system at Beacon that helped her work through her anxiety and self-doubts. In particular, she credits adviser Kenneth Sweet, learning specialist Michele Patestides, and counselor Sandi Webster as pivotal in supporting and guiding her through college. They also helped her create a set schedule, which made her ADHD much more manageable at Beacon and in the workplace.
“It definitely was a turning point,” she says. “They were always very critical with me, but that’s what I needed. Sometimes I would freak out and tell myself I couldn’t do something, but they would always tell me that they could help me.”
Minirth also credits a senior year career class for preparing her for post-college life. To this day, she still uses the same interviewing skills she learned when applying for jobs. She also learned to write a resume and create her first LinkedIn page, which she still uses and updates.
After graduating from Beacon with a bachelor’s degree in human services in 2014, Minirth gave birth to her daughter and worked as an emergency room scribe at ScribeAmerica in Florida. She moved to California, got married and enrolled in graduate school, eventually earning a master’s degree in forensic psychology from Walden University in 2017.
With her master’s degree in hand, Minirth was finally able to pursue her dream of working in mental health. In 2018, she was hired as a clinical case manager and counselor at Freedom House, an organization that seeks to help human-trafficking survivors. There, Minirth worked with countless women who had been abused and linked them with support services and counseling. She also appeared in court on their behalf as their mental health advocate.
When the nonprofit closed due to COVID-19 in October, she worked tirelessly to place each woman in a support program rather than send them to a homeless shelter.
“I loved getting to work with these women,” she says. “Because of the amount of trauma they’ve been through, they’re not willing to open up to you right away. You have to get to know them on a personal level.”
After Freedom House closed, Minirth decided to take a different direction, one that would give her more flexibility and time with her family. After researching her options, she discovered she could work as a financial adviser and was hired in January at Northwestern Mutual in San Francisco. It seemed like a complete shift from her background in mental health, but Minirth found that she is still helping people, just in a different way.
“You become part of their family, and I really like that,” she says. “In the past few years, I graduated from Beacon and … had the experience of a lifetime working with women who had been human trafficked. I’m just very proud of how far I’ve come.”