Professional associations play a key role in my career journey. As a social studies teacher and a professional school counselor, membership in associations related to those roles provided a connection to the profession and to colleagues nationwide. Belonging to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the Rhode Island School Counselor Association (RISCA) gave me opportunities to engage in professional development that benefited my students by helping me implement comprehensive school counseling programs. In addition, the leadership skills I gained and nurtured in both of those associations continue to guide me today in my work as an independent educational consultant (IEC).

So, why do I belong to IECA? Where do I begin? First, attending the Summer Training Institute (STI) in 2012 confirmed my decision to become an IEC. Having relocated from Rhode Island to North Carolina left me unsure of my career path for the first time since the age of 12. STI was glorious! I had found my people! Meredith Grey of Grey’s Anatomy once said, “This is life. Bad things happen. It’s hard. You find your people. You find your person, and you lean on them.” Among the 106 participants at STI 2012, I knew I had found my people. We talked the same language, we wanted the same things for our students, and we were all willing to learn. It didn’t matter that we came at this profession from different avenues; some of us were educators, lawyers, business people, or career changers from other fields. Some of us were new to the profession and others were further along in their journey. The point is IECA gave me a place to find my people.

Once I found my people, it was important to continue to grow as an IEC. Beyond STI, I have met some wonderful colleagues who are willing to share ideas and experiences that help me move forward. The webinars, tours, resources, conferences, Member Network, and social media outlets provided by IECA are essential components of my professional growth—my students will benefit from the work I do with them. Patricia Martin, a former assistant vice president at College Board once remarked, “Students are either advantaged or disadvantaged by what you do.” IECA gives me the tools to ensure that my students are advantaged by what I do and that’s why I belong.

Belinda Wilkerson, EdD, IECA (NC)