• Mara Baran

God's Word First School of Christian Counseling Celebrates its Graduates

On Saturday, June 8th, 2019 we had our "Inaugural Commencement Ceremony". A total of 7 Graduates from New Jersey and Florida came together in beautiful Punta Gorda Florida for the celebration.


Thursday, June 6, 2019, Open House


We began our graduation weekend on Thursday, June 6th with our New Jersey Students arriving that afternoon and an Open House for potential students that evening. This event was well attended by our students, professors, and guests. As a result, we will have new students starting Creation Therapy in September and possibly satellite locations in Florida, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.


Friday, June 7th, 2019 Continuing Education Workshops


On Friday, June 7th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm our Continuing Education Workshops convened at the Chamber of Commerce Boardroom in downtown Punta Gorda. The purpose of these workshops was to bring the students to the next level of their journey and training as Christian counselors.


When the students arrived their reactions were priceless when they saw Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno sitting in the room. Shock, excitement, and unbelief are the only words that could describe this moment. The Florida students and the New Jersey students were meeting each other, in person for the first time. It was wonderful to see their excitement to meet each other and the hugs and laughter they shared. Each student received a custom made tote bag with the school logo on it containing their cap, gown, graduation program booklet, and other school memorabilia.


Our workshop leaders were, Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno of Sarasota, Florida, Ms. Deborah Blackwell from Toms River, New Jersey and Dr. Jarett White of Howell, New Jersey.  Each workshop leader brought excellence and insight to our students from the perspective of their responsibility to stay healthy and whole in their Mind, Body, Soul, and Spirit. They challenged each of them to look deeper into their relationship with God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them in all that they do naturally and spiritually, while gaining a greater insight about temperament for themselves and their potential counselees.





Dr. Richard Arno shared life-changing stories and experiences that impacted the students in ways that words cannot fully describe.  Dr. Phyllis Arno shared insights into the temperament that continually gave students aha moments and an awareness that will forever change the way they look at themselves and those they serve in the field of Christian Counseling. This combination was power-packed. The humility of this amazing couple was humbling for all of us.  They showed such love and support to our students and our staff we will never be the same. We thank you and we appreciate all you do and all you’ve done.


Dr. Jarett White - presented the last session of the day which examined Secondary Traumatic Stress Syndrome which can be characterized by vicarious traumatization, compassion fatigue, or prolonged exposure to traumatized clients who are in crisis. He pointed out that when working with traumatized individuals the counselor can be affected emotionally, physically, or spiritually.


Therefore, it’s important that we receive the help we need as counselors, so that we are not affected by secondary traumatic stress. This includes ensuring that we have a mentor, relaxation exercises, work-life balance checks, and other self-care activities. This was a very interactive session that used journaling, short video clips, relaxation exercise, and visualization. The students really enjoyed it.


That same evening we hosted a Meet & Greet for the students and their family and friends at the Four Points Sheraton downtown Punta Gorda on the Peace River.  It was a lovely evening with food, fellowship, and fun.


Saturday, June 8th 2019 Inaugural Commencement Ceremony


The Graduates started their special day with breakfast at the Visual Arts Center on Saturday, June 8th and Commencement began at 10am to a packed house. The Processional began with the Graduates, Staff and our Keynote speakers walking in to the Lauren Daigle’s song “Salt and Light”.


Dr. Jarett White opened in prayer and the presence of the Lord filled the room. The emotions of the graduates were heighted when our guest soloist Shaunte Manuel, sang a soul-stirring rendition of “My Souls has been Anchored” by Milton Brunson followed up by “Halleluiah” led by Ebony Mattox our Mistress of Ceremony encouraging the audience to flow in the Spirit of worship that was in the room.


Our Keynote speakers Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno brought laughter, enlightenment, hope, and healing to all those present.  The graduates were given practical advice using the Arnos' real-life experience to help them on their journey of faith. They admonished them to live a life of prayer with a commitment to the Word of God, which would benefit both their personal lives as well as their ministry in Christian Counseling.


The Graduates then received their numerous certifications, licenses, certificates, flowers, an NCCA, and God’s Word First school pin to commemorate this event.


Dr. Zarita F. Mattox-Wright concluded the ceremony with prayer and a charge to the graduates to never stop learning, leaning on the Holy Spirit for support, always letting ethics and integrity be exemplified as they do what they have been called to do as Christian Counselors.


The celebration continued with a delicious luncheon at The Wyvern Hotel to the music of the “Legacy Band”.  The graduates honored their professors Dr. Jarett White and Dr. Zarita F. Mattox-Wright with love gifts and an impromptu song “I need you to Survive” by Hezekiah Walker,  that had the whole restaurant on their feet.



What an exciting weekend!  The graduates continued to fellowship that evening and the next morning, going to breakfast together before their flight back to New Jersey. The God’s Word First School of Christian Counseling Staff brought excellence to every aspect and detail of this Inaugural Commencement Ceremony and graduation weekend and we appreciate all they do.


We look forward to this upcoming year trusting the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and provide all we need to fulfill God’s will and purpose for the students he entrusts to us. Striving for Excellence in all we do.

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