Dionne Formey truly understands what students are experiencing during these unusual times. As Polk State College’s Disability Services Coordinator, she is tasked with ensuring that reasonable and appropriate accommodations are in place for qualified students with physical and/or mental disabilities. Her goal is to make sure that students have the materials and conditions to succeed academically. She also uses her position to check in on students’ mental health and well-being.
Formey, has a Bachelor of Science degree in behavioral analysis from Savannah State University and work experience as a social worker. She is also in the last few months of a Rehabilitation Counseling program at Fort Valley State University where she will graduate with a Master of Science degree in May 2021. As a single parent helping her child complete schooling from home while working a demanding, fulltime job with the College, Formey is experiencing many of the same challenges that College students and their families are facing.
The ability to relate to what students are feeling and experiencing provides Formey with a very powerful perspective.
She says that before the COVID-19 public health emergency, most students that she worked with had academic-related stress. At the one-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic, Formey says that most students that she works with now are struggling with anxiety-related issues and depressive moods. Many are dealing with the loss of income, physical and emotional fatigue, and bereavement.
Formey offers counseling sessions and works closely with students to connect them with additional resources including housing, food, and healthcare, as appropriate.
Formey says that the majority of students who are reaching out to her now have never needed mental health assistance before or have never had to seek out social services for support.
“It doesn’t make you weak to have to ask for help,” Formey assured. “We want students to achieve their optimal level of academic, mental, physical, and financial achievement. No matter how hard things get, there is always someone at the College who is willing to help.”
Additionally, Formey uses several techniques to help students understand why they are feeling anxiety or stress and how to move beyond those feelings. She asks students to participate in journaling in which they write down their thoughts. She then reviews journal entries with them to look for patterns of positive or negative behaviors and signs of growth and progress. She encourages them to exercise and practice breathing and mindfulness to help with focus. She also encourages active listening so that individuals are truly understanding communications.
Formey is committed to doing everything she can to ensure that students are able to succeed. To encourage students she often cites Malcolm X and states, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Formey, a Savannah native is the daughter of Cynthia Jackson-Formey and Donald Formey and she is the mother of 11-year old Chloe.