Penfield College Student Donnisha Lavigne Awarded National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship


ATLANTA – Mercer University's Donnisha Lavigne, a student in Penfield College's Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, was recently selected to participate in the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship Program for Addictions Counselors (MFP-AC).

“The faculty and I applaud this outstanding recognition of Donnisha,” said Dr. Priscilla Danheiser, dean of Penfield College. “I am confident that she will make a significant difference in the lives of many as she lives her commitment to provide assistance to those she will serve who are experiencing the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse. The award recognizes her strong potential for leadership in addressing one of our nation's most severe problems.”

The NBCC will distribute up to $11,000 to Lavigne and 30 master's-level addictions counseling students selected to receive the fellowship award. As a Fellow, Lavigne will receive funding and training to support her education and facilitate her addictions counseling service to underserved minority transition-age youth, ages 16-25.

“I am extremely proud of Donnisha for being named an NBCC Minority Fellow. She is an excellent individual to represent Mercer and its counseling programs on a national stage,” said Dr. Tyler Wilkinson, assistant professor and coordinator of Penfield College's Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. “Donnisha is an outstanding counseling student, and it is no surprise that she was selected as one of the master's-level fellows. She is dedicated and mindful regarding the work of counselors. She is currently completing her internship at a local behavioral health hospital, and her commitment to working with underserved transition-age youth will help meet a huge demand in the mental health community.”

Prior to enrolling at Mercer, Lavigne graduated from Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville. Upon obtaining her master's degree, she plans to work with underserved transition-age youth minorities, particularly those who have mental disorders co-occurring with substance use disorders, as well as those who have been or are currently in state custody. She intends to become a licensed professional counselor and certified alcohol and drug counselor in Georgia.

Additionally, Lavigne would like to advocate for the reduction of stigma surrounding mental health in minority communities by developing a nonprofit organization and community outreach program that will offer a variety of services and trainings to youth and their families while promoting mental health awareness.

The NBCC fellowship will allow her to focus on completing her degree without financial hardship, attend counseling conferences and trainings needed to develop a strong professional identity and begin the process of developing her nonprofit organization and community outreach program.

The NBCC MFP-AC is made possible by a grant awarded to NBCC by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in September 2014. The NBCC Foundation is contracted by the board to administer the fellowship, as well as training and collaboration activities, such as webinars, that are open to all National Certified Counselors. The goal of the program is to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral healthcare outcomes for racially and ethnically diverse populations by increasing the available number of culturally competent behavioral health professionals.

For more information, visit

About the NBCC Foundation

The NBCC Foundation is the nonprofit affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), based in Greensboro, North Carolina. NBCC is the nation's premier professional certification board devoted to credentialing counselors who meet standards for the general and specialty practices of professional counseling. Currently, there are more than 60,000 National Certified Counselors in the United States and more than 50 countries. The Foundation's mission is to leverage the power of counseling by strategically focusing resources for positive change.

About Penfield College of Mercer University

Penfield College of Mercer University, established as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies in 2003, is committed to serving non-traditional learners and currently enrolls more than 1,300 students. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to working adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Educational programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary programs that integrate theory and practice. The College offers general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer. Another initiative called the Bridge program transitions students enrolled in Mercer's English Language Institute and other international students to undergraduate programs throughout the University. Areas of study include organizational leadership, counseling, human services, human resources, informatics, criminal justice leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology, communication, homeland security and emergency management, and healthcare leadership. Programs are offered on Mercer's campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as multiple regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County and Newnan, and online. To learn more, visit