Get to know Amina Samake and Joey Mintz

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Following a school year altered by the COVID-19 pandemic and filled with countless challenges for students’ learning and mental health, Urban welcomed two new counselors to the community: Amina Samake and Joey Mintz. After a year of online school, counselors are here to help Urban students reflect on past experiences and create a safe space for the school. In an interview with The Urban Legend, Samake and Mintz discussed their thoughts on taking over Kaern and Alexander’s roles at Urban, their favorite hobbies and more.

What drew you to Urban?

Amina Samake: “I was at Kaiser doing counseling work with adults who are addicted to drugs. [The Urban counseling job] came across my email from Charlotte, and that was where it started. I went to Urban, so I was like, it’d be great to be able to come back and do counseling at the school I went to.”

Joey Mintz: “I’ve always heard about Urban as a place where students tend to be self-reflective and critical thinkers, and the staff tend to be brilliant people. It feels like a rich environment, a bit outside of the box, and a good fit for me.”

What is your favorite part about counseling young people?

AS: “Young folks are really wise. Sometimes people think that just because of age, folks don’t have that wisdom when in reality, there’s an incredible amount of insight there, so I like being able to hear and help foster that.”

JM: “I have a lot of love for this particular stage of life. I’m being both the people I had and the people that I needed to have at this age. I have a lot of empathy for the struggles that people your age are going through, and a lot of respect for those struggles.”

What are you passionate about outside of work?

AS: “I do two types of dancing. One of my favorites is Afrobeat. It’s a cool combination between traditional African rhythms and more contemporary, African music and hip hop. For me, family’s really important. That includes my chosen family, my friends, and spending time with them and connecting.”

JM: “I’ve been an active musician for years. I’m always doing something music-related, sometimes in front of an audience, sometimes just for myself. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life as a practicing artist. I’m obsessed with soccer. I started playing when I was four years old and it’s been an ever-present part of my life.”

Reflections so far on taking over Kaern’s role in Peer Resource:

AS: “There’s such a legacy. Kaern did a lot to really create what [Peer Resource] is. Stepping into that role has challenges, but it’s also really exciting. There are some changes to the schedule, which impacted students, so we’ve got to find a way, working with Charlotte, to correct that. I’m really juiced about what we can do in the future and acknowledging that it can be hard, but that’s okay. We’ll figure it out.”

JM: “It is both intimidating and awesome to be taking on [Kaern’s] projects, carrying forward certain traditions, and adding our own flavor to the department as well. Peer resource is a program that has been so powerful over the years and has really come from Kaern’s soul. With two new people to be taking it on, it is inevitably going to feel very different, and that’s ok! We are trying to strike the balance of honoring the previous PR traditions and ways of doing things, but also trying to take it in some new directions that feel authentic to who we are. It may take some time to transition, but I think with the help of the students we will make something beautiful together.”

What do you have to say to an Urban student interested in reaching out to a counselor?

AS: “We won’t push anyone to talk about something they’re not ready to talk about. Just be like, ‘Can I have some candy?’ Or, ‘Can I just sit for a second? I just need a break from the day.’ It can be a casual conversation about how someone’s doing or their hobbies or something a bit deeper that’s bothering them. There’s endless possibilities in the space.”

JM: “I think of counseling as you’re here to talk about life. It doesn’t have to be a problem or an emergency or a crisis. Sometimes you need to talk about good things, too. This is a space where you can come be who you need to be and talk about what you want to talk about. I think of myself as one of many supportive presences in this school.”