Street Sense vendor Deana Elder is a student at Montgomery College studying social work and mental health.  She’ll graduate from Montgomery College on January 3, 2016, and plans to enroll next spring at George Mason University in their Social Work program.

Deana said school has been “the hardest, most fulfilling experience [she’s] ever had” and that “although it’s hard, it’s exciting and fun at the same time.” She welcomes the challenge.

Her plan for after graduation is have a practice that utilizes both psychotropic and natural remedies of healing. “I want to give people the opportunity to receive those methods of assistance,” Deana said. She hopes that her work will be beneficial to everyone having mental health issues.

Deana said she was drawn to this field of study because of her family history with mental health issues, and a desire to learn how to help her daughter and many others in her community.

Deanna said her own mental health issues have at times lead her to make poor decisions such as over-spending and using drugs. Becoming homeless was a consequence of these decisions.

Meditation was the coping skill Deana developed to deal with her feelings of mental discomfort, and she has found that when she meditates, her stress is reduced. She likes to take spa baths as another way to reduce her stress.

Deana is not homeless anymore and she now devotes her time, when not at school, to her art. She experimented with different media and found she has a knack for ceramics. She also likes to paint and sculpt. She said she doesn’t “set out to [sell her art], but for some reason that always happens.”

Intensive planning does not enter into her artistic process. “I just pick up a brush and go,” she said.  Deana paints landscapes, flowers birds, and people, though she feels that she needs more practice painting people.

Another thing that brings Deana joy is her dog, which she loves very much, “like a daughter.”

Deana was introduced to Street Sense by vendor Martin Walker. Her most memorable experience while at Street Sense was when she won the Next Step Scholarship award, which she used towards a new laptop for school.

“Street Sense has watched me heal,” Deana said.