Malika Pegues is a published school psychology master’s student and a United States Air Force veteran. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three is passionate about social justice and mental health.

Hailed the “CUNY Queen” by friends and family because of devotion to the institution, Pegues is currently a work-study intern in veterans affairs and a soon-to-be CUNY veteran peer mentor working with women. She earned her undergraduate degree in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience and therapeutic recreation with the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies program at the Graduate Center.

How did your service in the Air Force influence you?
The Air Force has core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in what we do. My time there as an avionics specialist pushed me to my limits, and I learned what I was capable of. When you’re in basic training, you feel like you want to give up every day. You’re waking up at four or five o’clock in the morning, doing vigorous physical exercise, taking classes, and studying for exams. When you’re hanging on just four hours of sleep, it makes a vigorous education at CUNY and Brooklyn College seem tolerable.

What are you most passionate about?
I’m most passionate about social justice. Brooklyn College’s school psychology master’s program specifically focuses on that. I’m a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, where social justice is at the core of the organization. I’m passionate about making an impact, specifically by looking at inequities in the educational system. Even a small impact makes a huge impact eventually. If we want to change the world, we have to be that change. I also love doing community service, going to fundraisers, and painting.

What inspired you to pursue a master’s in school psychology?
Mental health is extremely important to me, especially upon seeing the effects of combat veterans who left the military and came back to the civilian world. Many of them struggled with mental health and PTSD. As a mom of three, I’ve had an interest in postpartum depression and issues like domestic and intimate partner violence. So when I started undergrad, I knew that I wanted to tackle mental health. I was a therapeutic recreation specialist after I graduated, but then I saw the impact that school communities had from my daughter’s schooling. I’m great with children and wanted a job that didn’t limit my ability to be a mom. I like being in schools and working with children on both the academic part and behavioral part, which includes counseling, so I decided to go down that path.

How has your experience been at Brooklyn College?
Brooklyn College has been great to me. In this program, you have to go all in and be highly motivated, determined, and committed. It prepares you for the professional world. I also love its great reputation. My supervisor at my practicum site says that Brooklyn College sends her the best interns. I’m also the president of the school’s Graduate Association of School Psychologists and a Brooklyn College delegate in CUNY’s University Student Senate.

How do you like working in the field so far?
The program requires 100 practicum hours each semester, so I’m at Westbury High School on Long Island. I love it there because it’s diverse and has so many resources and programming for students. Next year, I plan to split my internship between an early childhood school and a middle school to get different experiences.

What are your post-graduation goals?
I want to become a certified school psychologist, but I don’t think it’ll stop there. I’ve always had a passion for neuroscience and neuropsychology, so I’m considering doing a doctoral program in school psychology, and then a postdoc in neuropsychology. I want to do neuro-assessments because that’s where all the fun is. I’m very nerdy. I also hope to get into the DOE’s Psychologist in Training program that offers school psychologists a salaried internship. I want to get the most experience possible.