Leah Hardy, a first-year school psychology student, won the 2019 Utah Association of School Psychologists (UASP) Diversity Scholarship. The scholarship was designed to meet the needs of an increasing number of diverse school psychologists, and as a result, the increasingly diverse population of children they will serve. Hardy is a first-generation college student and is a member of the Navajo Nation.
“She is a really hardworking, thoughtful student,” said Ellie Young, Hardy’s professor and thesis director. “She has a lot of fascinating life experiences that will help her to be a really compassionate and supportive school psychologist.”
When Hardy was 14 years old, her family moved from Flagstaff, Arizona, to a Navajo reservation about fifty miles away in Dilkon, Arizona. Her parents wanted Hardy and her siblings to experience what they did when they were growing up. “My parents thought that we were being spoiled because my parents grew up on the reservation themselves . . . they lived off the land,” she said. “We moved into a house where there was no running water, no electricity.”
While living on the reservation, she and her siblings continued to attend Flagstaff High School; they woke up at 4 a.m. for an hour-and-a-half drive to the city to attend classes, then drove another hour-and-a-half back. After school, her family worked to remodel the home they were living in. “You valued what you could do with your hands,” said Hardy, of the experience.
Hardy remembers feeling like her social life was over when she moved to the reservation, where her closest neighbors were five miles away. That changed during her senior year when she lived in a Bureau of Indian Education dormitory in Flagstaff with about 100 other American-Indian high schoolers. Hardy loved living in the dormitory—it was like a sleepover every day. Her time there prepared her for life at BYU. “It made the transition to college way easier because I was already independent and I could take care of myself.”
At BYU, Hardy has had the opportunity to connect with students from a variety of backgrounds. She worked at the Multicultural Student Services office on campus and also worked with the Summer of Academic Refinement (SOAR) program—a college preparation program geared toward prospective BYU students from different socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic backgrounds.
At the end of spring term, Hardy will wrap up her first year in the graduate program. From there, she will continue working on her thesis, which explores the effectiveness of behavioral intervention plans for students. So far, Hardy’s favorite part of BYU’s school psychology program is the faculty: “I love the faculty of the school psychology program. They try their hardest to make sure that you’re learning, and if it’s not working, they will always try to help you.”
Hardy hopes that her experiences growing up will aid her career as a school psychologist. She hopes to serve students from underrepresented groups, including students of color and students in the LGBTQ+ community. “I am passionate about finding those who feel they are not being heard or seen—and seeing them and letting them know that they are valued.”
Writer: Anessa Pennington
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922