“I felt so alone…but I take all of my experiences, being in the psych hospitals and going from therapist to therapist and use it as my momentum to help other people.”

JaLisa Gibson: making a difference

By Kyleigh Brunotte
February 20, 2023

JaLisa Gibson, senior psychology and social work major, and Black studies minor, is using her story as inspiration to further her education and career. Photo from JaLisa Gibson.
JaLisa Gibson, senior psychology and social work major, and Black studies minor, is using her story as inspiration to further her education and career. Photo from JaLisa Gibson.

In the words of Jane Goodall, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”JaLisa Gibson, Cabrini senior psychology and social work major and Black studies minor, is doing just that.

Gibson grew up as an only child in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Now a commuter student, Gibson is using her story to inspire others and be a positive change in the world.

Gibson’s mental health journey

Mother and daughter standing back to back in pajamas smiling.
JaLisa was able to grow through her times of struggle because of friends and family, such as her mom, Lisa Gibson. Photo from JaLisa Gibson.

Gibson was a victim of bullying and sexual assault by someone she trusted. “Throughout high school [was] when I started to develop symptoms of depression … I ended up being in and out of counseling [and getting] a 302 after trying to commit suicide,” Gibson said.

Gibson fell into a dark place mentally, and the services offered to her at the time were not meeting her needs. Gibson knew it was up to her to improve her mental health. “I had to put in the work myself,” Gibson said, “utilizing family and friends in order to build myself back up to where I originally was.”

Gibson credits her desire to enter the psychology and social work fields to her past experiences.

At Cabrini

On campus, Gibson is the president of Psi Chi, Cabrini’s psychology honor society and secretary of the Psychology Club.

Being a member of Psi Chi reflects Gibson’s hard work and dedication in school and is one of her proudest accomplishments. “It is very rewarding … I’ve never been the type of person to have all A’s, so it just feels good.”

Gibson’s impact as a member and president of Psi Chi is noticed by those around her.

Group of students and faculty members smiling at the camera.
From left to right, front row: Destiny Santiago (student), JaLisa Gibson (student), JéLa Boulden (student). From left to right, back row: Dr. Christopher Holland (psychology professor and Psi Chi adviser) and Dr. Emily Slonecker (psychology professor). Photo from JaLisa Gibson.

“She [JaLisa] has been an excellent leader … I have a lot of respect for her,” said Dr. Christopher Holland, assistant professor of psychology and Psi Chi adviser. Despite having a lot on her plate, Holland recognizes and applauds Gibson’s intrinsic motivation to reach goals for the club and herself.

“She has been instrumental to Psi Chi as a group to gel, which isn’t always easy especially when you have, as we did when she took the reins, a lot of people leaving the organization because they are graduating,” Holland said.

Holland also attributes Gibson’s leadership to Psi Chi’s ability to engage with the Cabrini community, fundraise, and spark initiatives about issues such as mental health.

“[JaLisa] is responsible, measured, conscientious, and cooperative … she brings an excellent energy to the table,” said Holland. “She is a very talented and intelligent person who has made Psi Chi able to grow and transition after COVID [alongside her executives].”

Cabrini’s Psychology Club was established in fall 2022. In the future, Gibson hopes the club can host events such as a psychology panel of alumni to discuss advice and work in the field, as well as movie and discussion events.

Gibson’s future

A family smiling with a graduate at graduation.
JaLisa will be graduating Cabrini University in May 2023. From left to right: Lisa Gibson (mom), JaLisa Gibson, Will Gibson (dad), and Francis Gibson (grandma). Photo from JaLisa Gibson.

Outside of Cabrini, Gibson is also a dance teacher and an intern at the Laurel House in Norristown, where she works in crisis intervention with the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART). Gibson aspires to be part of a field that allows her to help those in need.

“I am hoping that I can continue to do victim services once I graduate because I really enjoy working with the clients and building relationships with them … It’s a humbling experience to be in these people’s corners.”

Gibson’s psychology background, as well as her personal experiences, have allowed her to build relationships with clients based on patience and empathy, “I have somewhat of an understanding of what they are experiencing … it definitely does help to have that psychology background.”

A note to her past self

Though she could not have predicted the challenges she would have to endure, Gibson credited those experiences for who she is today. “Everything that I have been through has definitely made me stronger,” Gibson said. “It’s not like I was expecting my life to go that way, but I feel like if those things didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have the mindset and the motivation to do the things that I do now.”

A note to others

Gibson’s story of her past, present, and future serves as a reminder of the power of perseverance and hope. “You don’t know what everybody’s story is,” Gibson said. “And being able to have this opportunity [to share] is a blessing itself.”

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Kyleigh Brunotte

I am a sophomore digital communications and social media major, and business management minor at Cabrini University. I grew up in Brick, NJ with my mom, dad, younger sister, and my Oma. Outside of school, I am a kickboxing instructor at 9Round Brick, NJ, a youth soccer coach, a campus captain of Cabrini's chapter of The Hidden Opponent, and a guest speaker for the NAMI Bucks County organization. Additionally, I am the co-president of the National Society of Leadership and Success and a former member of the Cabrini University women's soccer team. Today, I am an avid fitness and sports enthusiast, as well as a strong advocate for mental health awareness in students and athletes alike. I am a firm believer of always being proud of what you are doing and I hope to use my writing skills to make my corner of the world a better place to be.

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