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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New contracted counselor hosts Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day

Adam-Jon Aparicio visited campus last week to host Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day at the Prism Center.
Adam-Jon Aparicio visited campus last week to host Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day at the Prism Center.

Adam-Jon Aparicio is the latest addition to the counseling staff at the Parton Center for Health and Wellness (CHW). Aparicio, who identifies as a first-generation college graduate and gay Latino man, is a contracted counselor for students working virtually from Chicago. This past weekend, Aparicio visited Middlebury to connect with students and facilitate the Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day at the Prism Center for Queer and Trans Life on April 13.

Director of Counseling Tammy Austin noted that the CHW has previously received student input requesting counselors from more diverse and representative identity groups. In last year’s Zeitgeist 5.0 survey, 426 students said they had used Middlebury counseling services. When asked if they felt their counselor was able to connect with them based on their identity, 46% of respondents said no. Sixty-nine percent of POC students said no, and 50% of LGBTQ students said no. 

“We definitely have heard from student voices that students are interested in meeting with counselors who share similar identities,” Austin said in an interview with The Campus. “But [we are] really trying to make sure that we can expand as much as we can. So being able to find counselors who we are able to contract for some of their time, to be able to have some of that capacity to serve students and just offer greater experiences for our students.”

Before Aparicio received his master’s degree from the University of Vermont, he worked as a residential director in housing and as a residential assistant at multiple colleges. He described discovering the value of being a leader and offering support through those roles, which sparked his interest in returning to school to become a licensed professional counselor.

“I really value working with students who have never seen a counselor before or who have maybe even had maybe not the best experience with counselors in the past, whether that was at university or college. My whole joy comes from helping rewrite the story of what counseling can be with a client,” Aparicio said.

Aparicio believes that counseling is an individual experience and values building a personal relationship with his clients.

“I personally think that counseling is an individual one-on-one relationship that can't be duplicated and really is dependent on the client and students in front of me. And essentially, that just means meeting the student where they’re at,” he said.

Additionally, Aparicio likes to bring levity and humor into his conversations with clients. 

“So we talk about pop culture, we talk about trauma still, and family dynamics, but just also like, what is it like to be a student in this moment, and helping the student get grounded in the here and now,” Aparicio said.

Though Aparicio typically meets with students virtually, he came to Middlebury for the weekend to host the Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day. 

“This is a day that we’ve really structured around building a sense of community and being able to be together,” Austin said. 

Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day included a catered breakfast, lunch and dinner from Crooked Ladle Catering, aimed at allowing students to immerse themselves in the day and develop connections that last beyond the one-time event. 

The day included workshops on how to further involvement in the community, conversations about love and healthy relationships, and tips on maintaining one’s own wellness when helping friends and family. 

“My hope is to talk to folks about how to authentically put up boundaries for yourself, because social media will give you tips and tricks but sometimes they’re not realistic. My hope is that we get to talk about how to make this realistic for you, because your wellness is important,” Aparicio said in an interview before the Queer and Trans Student Wellness Day.

In addition to group activities, the day included giveaways, a therapy dog visit, and forest and nature therapy guided walks. 

Aparicio described being attracted to working at a residential college like Middlebury because of its tight-knit community. 

“I really value the small liberal arts education. There’s nothing like going away to school and feeling like you’re almost on this island of learning and community,” Aparicio said. “[It’s] appealing to help a community that’s already doing well just get that much better.”

Outside of work, Aparicio is in several LGBT recreational sports leagues, including kickball and volleyball.

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“It’s fun to get back into play. And I think that’s a big part of your mental health wellness, to remember that being silly and trying something new is so helpful for your mental health overall,” Aparicio said.  

Aparicio encourages students to reach out to counseling to schedule an appointment, even if they’re unfamiliar with counseling services. All counseling services by the CHW are free for Middlebury students.

In addition to Aparicio, Alyssa Brown also started this year as a contracted virtual counselor. According to her bio on the college’s website, Brown identifies as Black, queer and neurodivergent, and they are looking forward to connecting with the Middlebury community.

“We will figure it out together. My main goal is just to make sure that students, however they identify, feel comfortable meeting with me. It can be weird to meet with someone over the internet, but I like to make it as comfortable an experience as possible,” Aparicio said.

Charlie Keohane

Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.   

She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.