Celestine LaVan, Ed.D., is a daughter, wife, mom, educator, minority, self-described servant leader, Navy veteran and one of Give an Hour’s newest ambassadors.
Aligning her passions and her volunteer efforts is important to Celestine and she believes her work with Give an Hour provides the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Best of Both Worlds
A great example is the work Celestine is doing with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. She presides over the Southeastern Region and has been able to use her platform as a Give an Hour ambassador to further the sorority’s efforts to prioritize wellness and self-care for its members by offering a life skills course conducted by a Give an Hour provider.
As a very diverse, yet predominantly African American, sorority, the leadership realized that its members were falling into a generational habit of being strong women who are always caring for others at the expense of their own mental health and emotional well-being. So the sorority launched a women’s health initiative to better respond to member needs.
“We want to normalize taking care of yourself and remove the stigma,” said Celestine.
In addition to the Emotional Life Skills course, plans are under way for a mental health campaign each May and webinars that include guided topics on wellness and self-care. The sorority also will continue its outreach efforts by hosting teen pregnancy and sexual health care clinics, as well as HIV testing sites around the country.
Minority Mental Health
July is Minority Mental Health Awareness month and as a Black woman, Celestine touched on how generational trauma is passed down through stories and lived experiences and how these experiences are only 100 years or so removed. “Acknowledging these traumas is the first step to understanding and normalizing conversations surrounding our mental health,” she said.
Celestine shared a couple of common stigmas that seem to resonate … Little Black boys are taught to not cry and little Black girls are expected to be everything to everybody. “If we accept these stigmas as the norm, we perpetuate them,” she said.
Many minorities also experience disparity when it comes to health care, which includes mental health. And it’s not just about access due to financial resources. Celestine said that she personally has experienced racial bias regarding her own health care and believes building cultural competency with health care providers is a must. Celestine participated in Give an Hour’s webinar, “How Culture Impacts Our Emotional Well-Being,” where you can learn more about her views.
Mass Violence, Mental Health in Schools
As the executive director of elementary schools in a local South Carolina school district, Celestine has a front-row seat to what schools are experiencing in the wake of recent tragedies in other schools around the United States.
In addition to hiring a crisis prevention coordinator and proactive measures regarding security, her district is implementing self-care initiatives for all staff and making informational literature available to teachers and parents on how to recognize early signs that students may be experiencing emotional suffering.
“We offer wrap around services and are responding on multiple fronts,” said Celestine. “We understand the importance of caring for the whole person and are working hard to care for both students and staff.”
With such a varied background and the ability to touch so many people with her work and service activities, Celestine is sure to put her Give an Hour platform to good use.