Vinson, ’12, named to Missouri council examining independent living resources
Bettina Vinson, ’12, who graduated from Maryville with her master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, plans to draw from her education and her professional passions in her new role with the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council. She recently was named to this group, which works on a state plan for using federal Rehabilitation Act funds to assist people with vocational rehabilitation, employment support and independent living in Missouri.
Appointed to the volunteer position in November, Vinson begins with the council in February, when the group will meet in Jefferson City. “I look at it as a wonderful opportunity to be an advocate,” Vinson said. The Glendale resident said it’s her understanding the council will review services available to people with disabilities in Missouri, assess how they’re working and make recommendations for improvements or additions.
Vinson, 48, was recommended for the council by Maryville Adjunct Professor Kim Gee, and her professors believe she’ll be an excellent match for the position. Maryville’s Director of Rehabilitation Counseling and Services Michael Kiener, PhD, said Vinson started the program already having a strong human service work history, and the program allowed her to hone her skills. “As a student, Tina always came to class with an open mind and willingness to expand her knowledge. Her passion to work with individuals with disabilities was contagious.” The Rehabilitation Counseling program educates students to become professional counselors with skills to work with people with disabilities, including physical, psychological, substance abuse, behavioral or cognitive.
Before attending Maryville, from 1994 to 2009, Vinson worked as a Children’s Services Worker for the state, a role she described as very rewarding, challenging and sometimes frustrating. She often communicated with families immediately following a hotline call of possible child abuse or neglect. She also worked with mothers with drug-exposed children, meaning a mother may have had a drug or alcohol addiction while pregnant.
She found the Rehabilitation Counseling education at Maryville provided a very different perspective on approaches to helping people, either with disabilities or struggling with an addiction. “When I got into the rehabilitation counseling program, it was a wonderful reawakening,” she said. Vinson said one aspect she found helpful was that the models used focused on drawing from people’s strengths. For instance, if someone had a drug or alcohol issue, she learned to query them about times in their lives when they weren’t using and why they weren’t abusing substances at that time. She learned to talk about people’s strengths, initial small changes in behavior and ways to build on that.
Vinson, who describes herself as legally blind, says she has a personal interest in helping to improve services for people with disabilities. She is active with the Missouri Council for the Blind, and says she knows of the importance of such organizations in providing support and an opportunity for friendships. In addition to her work with the Independent Living Council, Vinson is exploring work options, and would like to draw from her own learning and experiences to teach others. “I’m really interested in education,” she said.