Mary Anne Gunter has been a non-traditional, 58 year-old, returning college student who began her college career in 1988. Then she was a 29 year old divorced, single parent, who was a first generation college student, taking her first college classes.

Gunter says, “I was so green I had to ask for help on how to get a transcript.  No one taught me; I had to do it on my own.  That later gave me a passion for helping others who want to seek an education, even if it's going back years later to earn a GED. “

Gunter returned to college full-time in 2010 to earn her B.A. degree from Lyon College, and she just kept on going. All together it took her 25 years, while single parenting, working full-time, often 2 jobs at a time, then a remarriage, to finish her B.A. degree.  When they relocated to the Cleburne County area from Little Rock, she transferred her courses and began taking classes part-time online at ASU-Heber Springs and Beebe and she highly recommend it to any adult student.  

All this hard work will come to fruition when Gunter graduates July 29th with her Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from Harding University. Gunter was nominated by faculty as being a part of Harding University's Top Ten, to the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society. This is, in part because she will graduate with a 3.9 GPA. This after driving 100 miles roundtrip, a day, for two years (2015-17) year-round full-time.  Gunter has been accepted into the doctoral program at the University of Louisiana - Monroe to earn her Ph.D. in Systemic Studies as a part of the doctoral Marriage & Family Therapy program. Gunter begins in August.

Gunter plans to shortly begin her own LLC, "Sincera Wellness Group, LLC", and since writing is a forte of Gunters, she plans to incorporate that avenue into my counseling and community work. As an offset of that, Gunter will begin writing articles for The Sun Times.

In her words, “I write as well, and am hoping to have a regular column in a newspaper, offering universal pointers on relational issues that impact nearly everyone...for example, the difference between shame and guilt, or addressing anger, stepparenting issues, intimacy problems, dealing with conflict in marriage, setting boundaries, etc.”

The Cleburne County area does not have many choices in mental health counseling.  At Harding University's MFT counseling program, they have a student-run counseling clinic which is open to the public, where Gunter, as an MFT student, has been doing counseling to people from the community.  Area churches in Heber Springs often refer their church members to the clinic where they provide fully HIPAA-compliant, respectful, solutions-focused marriage, individual, and family counseling for only $10 per session.  This is a sound economic value at about ten percent of what regular, private professional, licensed counseling would cost.  Upon Gunters’ licensure as an LAC, LAMFT (Licensed Associate Counselor and Licensed Associate Marriage & Family Therapist), she plans to become certified by the Arkansas Dispute Resolution Commission through the family court system, as a Family Court Mediator.   Cleburne County and the state of Arkansas has experienced a plethora of acrimonious divorces, custody battles, difficult child visitation situations where the court system is heavily burdened and children and some parents are suffering when parents are simply not well equipped to handle the fallout from a divorce or tenuous co-parenting situation.  Family mediation can immeasurably help that and Gunter would like to offer that service to the Cleburne County area.  Her plan is to become specialized and certified in providing marriage and family counseling to stepfamilies / remarrying couples as statistically they also divorce 65-70% of the time, which systemically can harm children all over again.  Her plan is to work in conjunction with area churches as a team in counseling their members, not as an opponent.  

Gunter often sees in the Cleburne County area an astonishing level of young women and adult women who are undereducated, often raising a small child alone.  Statistically only approximately 50% of them will graduate high school as young single parents, and only about 2% will earn a college degree and will remain at poverty level for years, which may cause their children to, in turn, live at poverty level when they reach maturity.  This has a profound, multigenerational effect of poverty upon their children, which can later increase the odds of cognitive disabilities, abuse, substance abuse, lowered self-esteem, crime, low literacy, depression, to name only a few problems.  These issues have a direct negative economic and social impact upon the community.  She wanted to bring a women's educational workshop to Heber Springs through my church, New Life, in Heber Springs, offering a half-day expo to women of all ages, providing free information about getting their education - whether it's remedial reading, testing, earning a 2-year diploma, a bachelor’s, master’s degree or adult learning classes for fun.  This is for any female, whether it's the first-generation girl considering going to college after high school, or the 70-year old woman who wants to earn her GED.  

Gunter plans to offer licensed and professional counseling services to the Cleburne County area, and incorporate hopefully DivorceCare (an organized support group that is all over the country), counseling for women's issues, and she occasionally give speaking engagements at churches, groups, etc.  Some of the topics she speaks on are emotional adultery, shame, conflict, stepfamilies, divorce, grief, anger and communication / marital communication.