Bridging the Gap Spotlight: Sierra Neal

In fall 2015, Rutgers University–Camden launched Bridging the Gap, a bold financial support program that transforms access to a Rutgers degree by helping New Jersey families dramatically reduce their college costs by covering tuition in full or by half. The first students were admitted the following fall and many are now graduating this May.

Sierra Neal
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Willingboro

A Healing Hand

My short-term goal is to become a trauma counselor and therapist working in various settings, such as clinics, hospitals, private practices, and government entities. I wish to begin working with the young adult population who fall somewhere in the middle between college-aged to young adults to help them heal from various types of trauma. My long-term goal is to become a psychologist doing trauma counseling in the military.

Life Lessons

I learned a great deal of lessons about myself and life during my time at Rutgers–Camden. I learned: my mental health comes before anything; failure is inevitable, but always a humbling and learning lesson; to remember the big picture and never lose sight of the reason why I am in college; to save every penny; networking is the majority of what college is about; to always have a mentor in every stage of life; to always prepare for the worst; it is okay to say no and be selfish at times; it’s okay to not be Superwoman 24/7; understanding that I can’t save everyone; to never lose my faith.

Raptor Pride

What I have enjoyed most about being a Raptor Ambassador is bringing pride to our school. It’s an honor to be recognized as a student leader and potentially being a part of the reason why someone would choose to attend Rutgers–Camden. I enjoy showcasing our campus and all the great things we have to offer to prospective students and their parents.

Like a Sister

My role model is my mentor, who I consider to be like a sister to me. Her name is Tari Cox. I call this magnificent woman my role model because she displays transparency in all areas of her life, no matter how personal, in order to help me, as well as others, heal. Tari uses every moment in her life – pretty and ugly – to teach me a lesson. Whether they are rooted in a spiritual, academic, or professional aspect, Tari takes each moment and crafts it into an opportunity to help me grow. She is 100 percent invested in walking alongside me in my journey.

A Light in the Dark

This scripture from the Bible is what I live by and is what continues to help pull me out of dark times: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

Personal Strength

What I am most proud of in life is my growth, perseverance, faith, resilience, strength, determination, and endurance. I have been through countless traumatic experiences in my life. I honestly shouldn’t even be alive right now, but by the grace of God, I am still here working toward my goals and making strides. I am proud of myself. I am proud of Sierra for still being here.

All About Elephants

One thing people might be surprised to learn about me is that I am extremely obsessed with elephants. I collect elephant figurines of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I have a large elephant tattoo on my right calf, I watch tons of elephant documentaries, and I pride myself on the knowledge I hold about these divine creatures. Each morning when I wake up, I log onto The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee’s “EleCam” and check in on the elephants there at the sanctuary! This is one of the many things that bring me joy!

Mixed Feelings, But Ready to Move On

At this very moment, I have mixed feelings about graduating. However, I have been accepted into my top two graduate school programs to pursue a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Even through the stressful and difficult transition to finishing my last semester of college online in quarantine, I am ready to move on to newer things in graduate school.

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