Dare to Lead—Find Your Pathway

Have you ever wanted something? Like, really really wanted something . . . but were unsure of how to attain it? Being a leader was something I always strove for but wasn’t confident about achieving.

I finally decided I’d never know if I had what it took to be a leader unless I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and actively pursued opportunities that would guide me into leadership roles.

My Pathway to Leadership

My love for NSSLHA started at the local level when I became the State Association Liaison for my NSSLHA chapter at California State University, Sacramento. I loved relaying information about state-wide opportunities from the California State Hearing Association to my chapter members.

Then I took the leap and applied for a National NSSLHA Student State Officer (SSO) position. In this role, my love for advocacy and making meaningful connections in our field took place. I built relationships with other chapters which extended my bubble beyond my local chapter. I loved my SSO experience so much that I applied for the National NSSLHA Executive Council. To my joy and amazement, I was appointed 2019-2020 National NSSLHA President-Elect (2020-2021 President).

Becoming a NSSLHA student leader—at both the chapter and national levels—was the best decision I ever made. Not only did I learn more about things like professionalism, interdisciplinary collaboration, and advocacy, but I’m graduating with a national community, with friends in almost every state because of the networking opportunities National NSSLHA provided me.

Where Are They Now?

But that’s just my story. I recently interviewed some past National NSSLHA student leaders to find out where they are now and how the organization helped shape them into who they are today. In every instance, I was excited to hear about how National NSSLHA provided them the bridge between student life and their professional career . . .

JJ Whicker, PhD, CCC-A
2017-2019 National NSSLHA VP for Student State Officers (AuD)

JJ is currently fulfilling his dream as a pediatric audiologist and clinical researcher at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Being involved in NSSLHA really opened doors for me to continue in leadership roles at the national and state levels. Being part of NSSLHA connected me with students and professionals across the country. I’m still close friends with many of my NSSLHA colleagues and seeing them in person at ASHA/audiology events brings such a thrill. It’s like seeing family again.”

Erika Baldwin, CF-SLP
2018-2020 National NSSLHA Student State Officer (SSO) for Wisconsin

Erika is currently completing her clinical fellowship year at a private practice. Owner of the blog, Self-Care Speech.

“Being an SSO empowered me with more confidence. Since it’s not possible to get together in-person this year, I reached out to my company and organized some Zoom hangouts for my fellow CFs! I also started the blog Self-Care Speech, which focuses on reducing stress and finding balance at work. Eventually, I’d also love to volunteer for my state association! My success as an SSO gave me the courage to create these opportunities to connect with my fellow SLPs as I start out in my career.”

Teffany Ventura, BS
2018-2020 National NSSLHA President-Elect/President

Teffany is currently completing her 3rd year at the Towson University AuD program.

“Having a national leadership position as an audiology student helped me so much when it came time to applying and interviewing for fourth-year externships. For many of my interview questions I was able to pull concrete examples, stories, and experiences to share—whether it was about working with a team, delegating, or direct experiences within the field.”

Michelle D’Mello, CCC-SLP
2017-2019 National NSSLHA VP for Government Affairs and Public Policy

Michelle is currently a speech-language pathologist in California, working towards becoming a clinical fellowship supervisor.

“Being the VP for GAPP helped me develop my advocacy skills, not only at the national and state level but within my work setting too—particularly in regard to seeking continued authorization for my clients when insurance providers deem services to be medically unnecessary, as well as with parents who may not be getting full services through their IEPs. Additionally, the position gave me a more foundational understanding of our roles as professionals in advocating not only for the needs of our clients but our profession as a whole. This foundational understanding translated itself into encouraging coworkers and professional colleagues to join ASHA in their advocacy efforts.”

Charlotte Miller, CCC-SLP
2017-2019 National NSSLHA VP for Planning

Charlotte is currently a traveling speech-language pathologist in Oregon.

“Being involved with National NSSLHA helped me with my organization, time management, and communication skills. When I finished my term, I had no problem jumping into work with a new caseload of students and unfamiliar coworkers. I had more confidence to ask for help and never felt shy or embarrassed to ask questions. NSSLHA gave me the confidence to pack my bags and move across the country to start a job where I knew no one and who I gained lifelong friendships.”

Sarah Sleeter, CCC-SLP
2017-2019 National NSSLHA VP for Programming (SLP)

Sarah is currently a speech-language pathologist at a residential medical facility. She also serves on the Professional Development Committee for ASHA’s SIG 2: Neurogenic Communication Disorders.

“When I served as the VP for Programming, I created and implemented events for audiology and speech-language pathology students at the annual ASHA Convention. It was important to provide a variety of events to appeal to a wide range of students. I apply this broad-thinking and flexibility to my job daily by altering materials or therapy tasks to better appeal to each individual patient’s preferences and needs. This position connected me with peers and professionals from all over the country, in a variety of settings. We continue to keep in contact, seeking advice or insight on specific situations and bouncing ideas off of one another. My experience with NSSLHA provided me the tools and confidence to interview for my dream job and smoothly transition from student to professional.” 

Leilani Melendrez Headshot

Leilani Melendrez, CF-SLP
2018-2020 National NSSLHA VP for Student State Officers (West)

Leilani is currently completing her clinical fellowship in the public school setting in Southern California.

“First and foremost, I learned scheduling skills and became confident in my communication skills via email. As an SLP who’s now primarily servicing students through teletherapy, I learned the ins and outs of Zoom before this pandemic even began! With National NSSLHA being a virtual organization, I learned how to be tech savvy and use my virtual resources which is now a skill I use to connect with students and families!  

Garrett Nathan, CCC-SLP
2015-2017 National NSSLHA VP for Government Affairs and Public Policy

Garrett is currently the clinic director of an outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy clinic.

“I’m extremely grateful for the experience of serving on the National NSSLHA Executive Council. It allowed me to utilize my emerging leadership skills to be an advocate for students, clients, and our professions. My experience was unique because I was able to utilize and develop leadership skills to make critical decisions for the 2017 National NSSLHA governance restructure. I quickly understood the importance of teamwork, program development, critical thinking, and forward-thinking.”

Leadership is Multifaceted

When connecting with these past student leaders, I learned how National NSSLHA not only opened doors for them—professionally and personally—but formed a bridge that created a smoother transition from student life to professional life. Through increased professional experiences, their skills were honed, relationships were formed, and confidence was gained, laying the foundation to venture into the world of professionalism with confidence and a desire to continue leading.

I hope that by seeing how leadership opportunities can open your professional world, you’ll be inspired to take the next step in YOUR leadership journey! Shake those fears, step out of your comfort zone, and go for it.

And if you’re interested in gaining leadership experience through National NSSLHA, please check out the opportunities that are available to you.

Applications for National NSSLHA’s Executive Council and Student State Officer positions are now open!

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