At age 25, Chika Ofunani, a former student counselor at Florida A&M University’s Sunshine Manor and the current Coordinator of FAMU’s Women’s Center, has obligated herself and time to bettering the community through her counseling and mentoring.
Ofuani, a Tallahassee native, became interested in psychology after taking an advanced placement course in high school.
“I was so intrigued by human behavior and the way our minds work,” Ofuani said “that I knew I was going to major in psychology once starting college.”
Aside from helping others, Ofuani has received a master’s degree and plans to have her Ph.D in counseling before she turns 30.
After starting college at Florida A&M University in the fall 2004, Ofuani has dedicated the last seven years of her life to gaining more knowledge and experience in counseling.
“Knowledge is power! More African Americans need higher education degrees. It’s an investment directly to yourself and indirectly to the survival of our communities. We need these degrees because knowledge opens doors. If he or she can do it, then there’s nothing you can’t figure out.” said Ofuani.
In 2010, Ofuani received a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at FAMU. She was recently honored for maintaining the highest GPA in her master’s program. Starting this fall, Ofuani will pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy at the University of Georgia in Athens,Ga.
January 2010, Ofuani began an internship at Sunshine Manor. Sunshine Manor, located on FAMU’s campus, is home to the Office of Counseling Services. Sunshine Manor offers individual, group, and couples counseling, as well as psychiatric consultation. Each student is entitled to 12 free, one-hour sessions per semester.
Sunshine Manor is also associated with Active Minds, an organization that focuses on mental health issues in African Americans.
“The barriers and stigmas that are associated with mental health, especially in the African American community, need to be broken down,” said Elizabeth Gray,24, graduate assistant at Sunshine Manor, “I encourage all students on campus to utilize our services. Coming here (Sunshine Manor) doesn’t qualify you as crazy.”
Ofuani became an employee of Sunshine Manor in October 2010.
She started out seeing a couple clients a day and quickly increased to five clients per day. Because of her dedication and compassionate personality, she became very popular, and clients began scheduling appointments weeks in advance.
“As an aspiring psychologist, I do believe the services available at Sunshine Manor are an essential resource for students on campus. I have visited Sunshine Manor, in hopes of gaining more knowledge about the counseling services available at FAMU” Carlos Doughty, 22, a 4th year psychology major “The counselors and staff were very inviting and helpful. I gained a lot from that visit.”
Since receiving her master’s degree, Ofuani no longer sees clients for counseling sessions.
After a grant requiring the Women’s Center to host seminars, activities, and forums on HIV/AIDS prevention and ending violence against women, was approved and received, Ofuani was presented with the opportunity to become coordinator for the Women’s Center, located in Sunshine Manor.
“Once the opportunity was there, I immediately jumped on it because I was excited about what the grant stood for.” Ofuani said, “All of these topics are vital to our student population, because we are the most affected, but we are so poorly educated about them.”
Childhood trauma and violence against women are critical problems that students on FAMU’s campus deal with on a daily basis. The Women’s Center along with the Counseling Center hosts events such as The Clothesline Project, Men Can Stop Rape workshops, and other events that educate on the prevalence of sexual abuse against women. Fall activities remain in the planning stage.
Aside from working at Sunshine Manor, Ofuani dedicates her time to helping those in the community as well. “I’ve held many smaller jobs. I have worked at R. Frank Nims Middle School as an instructional paraprofessional in a community-based instruction classroom,” Ofuani said, “and I have also coached high school/ competitive cheerleading for the past five years.”
With Ofuani’s dedication and commitment to helping others, her high school cheerleading squad won the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) State Champion in medium varsity division. They are the first team in Leon County to win this title.
The young woman uses exercise to battle the stresses of her numerous obligations.
“I become stressed when others don’t follow through on their obligations” Ofuani said “Usually, when I’m stressed, I will take a ‘mental health moment’, which consists of taking a nap, watching tv, and exercising.”
Despite having a full time job and pursuing her doctorate degree,both requiring a significant amount of time and devotion, Ofuani has successfully been able to balance her personal and professional lives.
Ofuani is affiliated with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the American Counseling Association.
“Chika is very dedicated to everything she does,” said Amanda Johnson, 25, mental health major “People look up to her and value her opinion. She is always open to listening to others issues. Her lively personality and spirit [attract] people to her. She is a great friend and person all around.”
In the next ten years, Ofuani hopes to be a happily-married Dr. Chika Ofuani, running a university counseling center.