Paul Kabera, a student in the Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, will serve on the executive board of the Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE) as an Emerging Leader for the year beginning July 1.
SAIGE is a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA). It advocates for individuals who identify with the LGBTGEQIAP+ spectrum, and it educates counselors about providing services that incorporate a client’s intersectional identities in a culturally responsive way.
The SAIGE Emerging Leaders program is competitive. Each year, one master’s-level student, one doctoral-level student, and one post-doctoral professional are selected from a national applicant pool. The selected Emerging Leaders receive mentorship, collaborate on service projects and participate in professional development opportunities, including the annual ACA and SAIGE conferences. As a board member, Kabera will contribute to increasing the impact of at least one SAIGE committee. The organization has 12 committees that promote SAIGE’s mission.
Kabera’s long-term career goal is to work with adults that present a variety of mental health concerns. However, he has special interests in helping individuals work through complex trauma, especially those whose trauma relates to marginalized social identities and those with comorbid chronic illness and/or a terminal diagnosis.
“Paul is a leader among his peers and a great example of a servant leader,” says LoriAnn Stretch, coordinator of the online counseling program at William & Mary. “We encourage our students to engage in real world experiences that will enrich their counseling professional identity.”
Kabera credits a colleague as inspiring him to pursue counseling. That colleague, who shared numerous stories about his journey toward becoming a counselor, helped Kabera to likewise envision himself as a member of the counseling profession. However, Kabera says that reflecting on his life as a long-term HIV survivor ultimately convinced him to pursue a counseling career.
“Back when I was diagnosed, I was told that I wasn’t just HIV+, I was told that my HIV infection had progressed to the point of having AIDS. Well, in those days that was considered a death sentence, and in fact, I was told that I only had months left to live,” Kabera says. “But then the months gradually stretched to years, and once I reached my thirty-year anniversary as an HIV survivor, I felt compelled to open yet another life chapter.”
“In my experience, when an individual has endured complex trauma, the main thing they want to know is whether someone is really willing to have their back,” Kabera says. “That’s where I think an appropriate amount of counselor self-disclosure can make a world of difference. I can say, in effect, yes, you can count on me to have your back. I’ve already stared death in the face; nothing can make me run away.”
As the only master’s-level student to be selected to this year’s Emerging Leader program, Kabera feels motivated to represent William & Mary well.
“Being selected as a 2021-2022 SAIGE Emerging Leader was both gratifying and humbling. It was gratifying because the selection committee recognized value in my forty years of social justice-centered community service. It was humbling because the committee also placed enormous trust in me. I stated that I would keep being of service, not only to the LGBTGEQIAP+ community, but to the wider world, and I believe they took me at my word.”