Barbosa talks about mentoring, counseling
Posted Dec 28, 2016 at 10:51 PMUpdated Dec 28, 2016 at 10:51 PM
Meet Maria P. Barbosa, the newest member of the Flagler County School Board.
By Shaun Ryan
PALM COAST – On Nov. 22, Maria P. Barbosa took her seat on the Flagler County School Board, replacing long-time member Sue Dickinson. She is only the second board member to represent District 5 since the century began.
Recently, Barbosa sat down with The Daytona Beach News-Journal to talk about her background in business and her volunteering, as well as questions that have arisen regarding the status of her doctoral degree and the scope of her counseling service.
DAUGHTER OF PORTUGAL
Barbosa earned her business degree in her native Portugal and went to work for a major construction firm. When she was 21, she moved to Newark, New Jersey, where she worked in a sewing factory and later at Johnson & Johnson. She opened her International Boutique while in the Garden State, an experience she still fondly recalls.
“You met all the wonderful designers, the people who designed for Macy’s and JC Penney – I spoke with many people from that level,” she said. “It was just unbelievable, a good experience.”
Then, 17 years ago, she and her husband, Jack, moved to Florida.
They have launched – and subsequently sold – eight businesses since arriving in Flagler County, including a kitchen cabinet business, restaurants, a salon and a bakery.
With such a diverse business background, perhaps it’s no surprise that so many of Barbosa’s volunteering efforts involve some kind of mentoring.
She has given her time to the Kiwanis Key Club, the Boys and Girls Club Summer Camp, Terrific Kids and the A Game Camp held last summer, to name a few.
She also founded DIVAS International, an empowerment organization for women. (DIVAS stands for Devotion, Integrity, Victory, Assurance and Strength.) In addition to its range of community projects, DIVAS International is a parent organization for T-Club, a teen service and empowerment group.
Another initiative Barbosa offers under the DIVAS flag is the Advanced Clinical Coach Educational Leadership (ACCEL) Institute, which trains and certifies “life coaches,” though this service is not free.
“To me, if you have a gift and you can give to others, do so; do not hold it for yourself,” she said when asked about her commitment to volunteering. She added that she felt blessed and wants to give back to the community and help others.
Barbosa has faced some questions about her counseling service and qualifications.
In answer, she read a prepared statement: “My theology degree is the question at large! It was not to my understanding my credentials to serve my community as a School Board member would create a media disturbance. I am a bilingual parent and advocate. I understand the challenges for some children, and I hope to diversify positive changes and bring families together.”
Barbosa was awarded a doctoral degree in Christian clinical counseling in 2008 from Orlando-based Florida Christian University, which has not been accredited by any of the main accreditation agencies. She received a clinical counselor’s license from the U.S. Agency for Christian Counseling Credentials and Accreditation.
Her license is not with the state of Florida, but she offers counseling services in conformity with the same Florida statute that allows priests, ministers, rabbis and other religious leaders to offer spiritual guidance – as opposed to mental health counseling.
This means she cannot provide counseling specifically for post-traumatic stress disorder or sexual identity issues, two services she flat-out denies providing. She also said she does not use hypnosis or offer family therapy.
ACCEL Director Orjenette Bryant said everything Barbosa does is biblically based. Bryant, who has worked with her on various volunteer projects, described Barbosa’s parenting workshop.
“She is basically saying, ‘OK, let’s look at who these kids are; let’s evaluate their personalities and see if we can come up with some good character traits to help them become leaders,'” Bryant said. “That’s nothing outside of Christian therapy counseling. Nothing different.”
Barbosa pointed out that her affiliation with Alpha Christian Counseling Services of Central Florida could be a source of some confusion. Other counselors associated with that organization may offer those services, though she said she does not.
One stipulation the law makes for spiritual counselors is that they must be affiliated with an established church, denomination or sect. Barbosa has been a member of the American Ministries Association as a Christian counselor/minister since November 2007.
“What they are saying is if you work at Christian counseling, you have to be connected with a church ministry,” she said. “That is the procedure you need to follow. That means I am following it.”
Even when Barbosa talks about her goals while serving on the School Board, mentoring comes up.
“Business needs to give more to the schools, be mentors,” she said. “They would be good mentors, especially the owners of businesses, if they get involved more with the children. I think that would be important.”
She said she also wants to increase communication between staff and parents.
Asked what inspired her to seek a seat on the board, she said, “It is my giving to the community. Always, I give so much of myself to all the children in the community, and I thought that would be an opportunity also to help even more.”