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UHCL grad pursues counseling career to be a 'refuge' for youth

Written by: Cynthia Anaya
Mary Fraire is graduating with a B.S. in Psychology on Dec. 9 at NRG Stadium.

Sometimes life comes with unexpected detours and delays. This was the case for Mary Fraire, who will earn her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from University of Houston-Clear Lake this month. Her college journey began in 1999 at Houston Community College (HCC) while she worked full-time in human resources, but she shifted gears to pursue a position in church ministry before enrolling at UH-Clear Lake.

“I was just tired of the corporate world, and I wanted to help instead of take,” she said. "I felt like I was just taking money and making all the dollars, but I wasn’t really fulfilled, so I jumped into ministry.”

Mary began managing a safe house for human trafficking survivors, working as the director of residential living, taking college courses sporadically, and raising three young children as a single mother. However, it all became too much to manage simultaneously, so in 2015, she paused her education for a couple years.

She resumed her studies in 2017 at the University of Houston and committed to obtaining her counseling degree, fulfilling her desire since high school. 

“As a teenager, I didn’t have a lot of people to talk to,” said Mary. “When I was 16, I often dreamed of growing up and becoming a counselor so that I could be a refuge for people who needed to talk to someone because they didn’t feel comfortable talking to their parents,” she recalled.

Although she had clarity about her academic endeavors, Mary was still uncertain about her career path. She considered returning to human resources but was a bit reluctant, so she asked God for guidance. After toiling with the idea of returning to what became Mary’s ‘go-to’ career path, she decided to apply for a position as an officer manager at a counseling center after seeing the job posted on Facebook. The hiring manager called her immediately for an interview and hired her, allowing her to work with counselors while studying to become one herself.

According to Mary, her children, Manuel (31), Julisa (27), and Jasmine (26), played a vital role in her achievements at UHCL and served as her “rock and biggest cheerleaders.” As she struggled to complete her coursework, they kept her on track. “They would say, ‘Oh, Mom, you’re so close!’” she recalled. They motivated her to never give up on her dream while she inspired them to pursue their own and encouraged them not to settle.

Mary plans to continue her education at UHCL in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate program, with hopes of having the same positive experience as her undergraduate years.

 “I’ve gone to HCC, Lone Star College, and the University of Houston main campus, and one thing about UHCL is that the professors are so passionate about what they do. They’re cheerleaders, too. They really push us," she said.

In addition to her three children, Mary credits her sister and best friend, Susan, and her good friend Jesse for supporting her over the years.

 “I can’t say ‘I’ did it, but I can say ‘WE’ did it because I couldn’t have done it without my amazing people,” she said.

To learn more about the counseling degree options at UHCL, visit www.uhcl.edu/education/departments/counseling-special-education-diversity/counseling/programs.