Rebeca Filomeno-Nason

How do we build resilient girls? How do you build resiliency in your own life?

Rebeca Filomeno-Nason is a high school guidance counselor for Sheila C. “Skip” Nowell Leadership Academy, a public charter school that educates pregnant, parenting and underserved adolescents. Like many of her students, Filomeno-Nason was a teen mom. She balanced motherhood, work as a preschool teacher, and study at Community College of Rhode Island. She went on to Lesley University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development. Filomeno-Nason then began working as an educator at The Learning Community Charter School. Concentrating on her life-long dream of becoming a high school guidance counselor, she went on to pursue a master’s degree in School Counseling from Seton Hall University. Currently, Filomeno-Nason is seeking her administrator certification through the Principal in Residency Network.

photo by Agapao Productions

When I hear the word resiliency I begin to picture particular faces of children and adolescents who have entered my life throughout my short thirteen years as an educator and school counselor. The challenging experiences of my students and their families have included illness, separation, loss, poverty, homelessness, depression, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy and parenting. Students and their families have shared numerous examples of their pain and turmoil. I have listened with humility and admiration for their strength and resiliency.

As I reflect on the characteristics of resiliency, common qualities come to mind. Resilient individuals are often hopeful, optimistic, and persistent. They acknowledge failures as opportunities for self-reflection, learning and growth. Resilient individuals are able to identify where they are, where they want to be, and then take the necessary steps to get there. Yet, the most admirable quality is their ability to seek out support and guidance when they need it the most. I believe it is through supportive and caring relationships with mentors, that girls and young women continue to build resiliency. Through these meaningful relationships a sense of identity and self-worth is fostered.

I was a pregnant and parenting teen myself. I continuously experienced obstacles. Paths of opportunity that were once part of my plan were no longer in place once I became pregnant. I had to find my own way, and I did, but I was not alone. I have been most fortunate to have many mentors along this journey. For each and every path I decided to take, a caring woman was there to walk right along side me. She allowed me to share my thoughts, feelings, fears and goals. She helped me recognize my strengths and my weaknesses. She shared with me her ability to be resilient, and the importance of integrity. I have only reached this point in my life because of these amazing women.

Now it is my turn to impart the support they have gifted me. I am a school guidance counselor for underserved, pregnant and parenting teens. While my students and I share similar experiences, our lives are different. Every journey is unique. The fact that I, too, was a teen mom does not automatically make me an effective school counselor. What defines me more as an educator, counselor and mentor is my ability to grow and develop meaningful relationships with my students and their families.

Failure makes you fall. Strength helps you steady. Resiliency is the ability to rise. But, it is always easier to rise when you have a helping hand to pull you up.