(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Texas State Technical College students gathered around tables in the Industrial Technology Center recently to learn about Juneteenth and enjoy treats including macaroni and cheese, tea cakes and sweet tea.
TSTC counselor Justice Johnson chatted with students about the newest federal holiday as music filled the corridor.
The event was one of two this month that Johnson helped coordinate. The first drew about 50 students and was designed to promote safe spaces on campus in conjunction with Pride Month.
“We have a lot of engagement and curiosity about the resources for the LGBTQ community,” Johnson said of that event. “I hope they noticed how intentional we are here at TSTC to promote diversity and inclusion.”
Cultivating safe spaces is one of Johnson’s primary goals as a counselor. She started working at TSTC’s campus in Fort Bend County at the beginning of May.
“I really want all of the students to know that it’s really important to me to make sure everyone feels heard and seen,” Johnson said.
Originally from Mississippi, Johnson started her career in higher education housing before transitioning to work in community mental health.
“It was very rewarding,” she said. “I really enjoyed it, and it pushed my purpose to do counseling.”
The opportunity to work with students training to pursue technical careers drew Johnson to work as a counselor at TSTC. Her sister is an engineer, her father has his commercial driver’s license, and her grandfather has worked 43 years as a pipefitter and superintendent — for many years, alongside Johnson’s uncle at the same company.
“We have a lot of people in my family who have trades, and that made me even more excited to come here,” she said. “I’m helping the next generation, and I know it’s going to be awesome.”
If students are interested in accessing Johnson’s services, they can reach out directly to her. TSTC faculty and staff members may also refer students to her.
“I can educate you on mental health,” she said. “I can help you find a way to express yourself, find a way to start that healing journey so that you can be better for school — and the job. It’s important and it’s imperative for us to be here as counselors because your mental health can affect you in all areas of your life.”
If a student has just had a panic attack or does not understand triggers or how to navigate them, for example, they may not be able to pay attention to an instructor in class, Johnson said.
“We’re really here to help you with your mental health, which is also going to help you become a better version of yourself,” she added. “It’s all connected.”
Johnson hopes to battle the still-lingering stigma surrounding mental health — especially among men, who may neglect addressing it.
“I think a lot of people think mental health is secondary — that it’s not a priority,” she said. “I want to help change that. We need to take care of ourselves.”
TSTC students have an added incentive to seek out Johnson’s services.
“This is free,” she said. “Mental health care can be expensive. If TSTC cares so much about mental health that they hired a department of counselors to provide free services, then take advantage.”
Fall enrollment at TSTC is underway. Learn more at tstc.edu.