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Celebrating our Paraprofessionals: Meet Dawayne Ellison – Mental Health Associate (MHA)


Celebrating our Paraprofessionals: Meet Dawayne Ellison – Mental Health Associate (MHA)

Posted: April 12, 2024 | Written By: Sharmin Hossain | Category:

Dawayne Ellison

On April 3rd, Rivermont Schools celebrated Paraprofessional Appreciation Day to recognize the valuable contributions of our educators who support both students and staff. In honor of Paraprofessional Appreciation Day, meet Dawayne Ellison, a dedicated Mental Health Associate II at the Rivermont Schools Northern Virginia campus. 

What is your favorite thing about working at Rivermont Schools? 

The best part about working at Rivermont for me is making a difference with the students we serve. Being an MHA at Rivermont is a challenging job, but if you have the right team and knowledge about the field, it's a place to make a difference.  

How do you make an impact on student’s lives?  

The impact I strive to make daily while working with the students and my co-workers is to remain consistent with what I am trying to do as a person to help our students and to also encourage others in the field. I make sure I follow through on my words and do what I can to create a healthy environment for me and my students to work in.  

What does a “day in the life” look like for your role?  

On a regular day, I will greet every student that comes through the door whether they’re in my class or not. I will have short and personal conversations with them if I see they may not be in the best mood. I will also check on them throughout the day to see if their day has gotten better. I also remind all the students not to let a bad moment become a bad day. We are all entitled to have and express our emotions, but not to let our emotions control us. 

What has been your proudest moment or accomplishment in your role?  

 The proudest moments and accomplishments I’ve had so far while working at Rivermont are the relationships I’ve built with the students and parents. Building a relationship with the students is important but having that relationship with parents/ or family makes the job much easier. Being able to communicate with how each student’s day went or behavior they encounter daily and how to resolve it as a unit helps our students grow which really makes me feel that I am making a difference. After a period of dedication and hard work, I see a positive transformation with the growth and work that the student has put in. And I also feel accomplished when I hear the parents saying they see a huge difference at home or while out in the community. 

What is something about you that not many people know?  

The one thing about me that most people don't know is I feel that this field chose me at a young age when I didn't know what career path I wanted to do. While working as a janitor at a day facility, someone came into my office, grabbed a dry mop and tried mopping the floor. I called someone to get him because he was alone, and I wasn’t too sure how to engage with him. The next day this same individual returned and repeated the same thing, attempting to mop the floor. This time, the mop was in the bucket without water, and the individual took it into the hallway and began banging it against the walls. I thought this to be unusual, but I remained calm and continued to watch the individual as he carried on with this behavior.  So, to someone in the field yes, it's a simple tell. But to a young kid to hear funny noises and sounds, I just wanted to try to fix the problem. So, I asked him to wait one minute while I filled the bucket with water, and I gave him the mop. He mopped the whole hallway. A week later I was offered a position with the company.