As a former community monitor in juvenile probation (JP), Marino Swanson brings a unique perspective to his role as a Classroom Therapist at Friendship Academy. In fact, he learned of the school from some of the students he worked with at the time.
As a community monitor, Marino worked with youth in the juvenile probation system to prepare them with the necessary skills to help them navigate their next steps. He taught students about job readiness and interpersonal skills, and took groups on community outings and college tours.
Throughout his time working in juvenile probation, Marino couldn’t help but wonder about the impact he could make if he could reach students before they ended up in the juvenile court system. If he could teach students skills that could help them prevent crisis situations from escalating. In the fall of 2021, Marino joined Friendship Academy as a Classroom Therapist.
Students at Friendship Academy benefit from the guidance of mental health and special education professionals as they navigate through their school day. At Friendship, a combination of content-area classes, therapeutic and psychiatric interventions, and special education supports help students navigate emotionally-challenging situations while maintaining a focus on education.
Making a Difference as a Classroom Therapist
Joining Friendship as a Classroom Therapist has given Marino the opportunity to reach students in a different way than he could in juvenile probation. He is able to provide more therapeutic counseling with the aim of helping prevent crisis situations.
As a Classroom Therapist, Marino conducts group therapy twice per week with his students, teaching various skills to help them regulate their emotions and learn valuable life skills. He primarily works with middle-school-aged students, many of whom have experienced trauma in their homes or community, and benefit from intensive mental health support in the school setting.
Therapeutic groups provide students with a safe space to discuss their feelings openly and learn the ways in which their actions and reactions to certain situations can have an impact. “I get to see the good and the bad and help my students connect the dots between what is happening in their lives with the consequences of their actions,” shared Marino.
When asked what his favorite part is about being a Classroom Therapist, Marino responded that it’s “building a rapport with the students”. In his role, trust is an essential building block to getting through to his students and helping them make positive changes. Seeing his students make those connections and show that they trust him, especially in a crisis moment, makes the challenges of his work worthwhile.
Future Career Development Possibilities
In addition to his full-time role as a Classroom Therapist, Marino is a full-time graduate student studying to earn his Master’s Degree in Counseling. Earning a Professional Counseling degree opens up a number of career pathways for Marino, but his main goal is to one day become a School Counselor at Friendship.
Despite the challenges of working and going to school full-time, Marino notes that there are a lot of benefits to doing so concurrently. Making connections between situations he encounters with his students at school and what he is learning in his classes is a huge benefit to him professionally. He is also making use of the Watson Institute’s tuition reimbursement program to help offset the financial impact of graduate school.
“In this environment, you need a strong, charismatic personality and a sense of humor. Showing your students that you are authentic and dependable is so important if you want to get through to them. When they are having a hard time and ask for you by name, that’s an awesome feeling.”– Marino Swanson
Learn more about the Watson Institute’s Friendship Academy and check out our special education job opportunities to start your career in a supportive environment!