Today we’d like to formally introduce our 2017 Scholarship Recipient, Daniele Martino. Daniele is a junior at Iona College studying for a degree in Psychology. The Lisa Michelle Memorial Fund was established to assist and recognize students who have lost a parent to substance abuse and we are proud to award a $1,000 scholarship to assist Daniele in her academic journey.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Daniele Martino and I am a student and athlete currently pursuing a psychology degree at Iona College, just outside of New York City. I am fascinated by the human brain and body and my studies in psychology so far have allowed me to understand more about myself and the people in my life, which has been immensely rewarding. I love to be around my family, especially my mom, who gives me unwavering support and encourages me to speak up for issues I’m passionate about.
Q: Imagine yourself 10 years from now. What goals and ambitions do you have for yourself, personally, academically, and professionally?
Looking forward ten years from now, I hope to be a practicing psychologist who can help adolescents manage their changing minds and bodies. Regardless of what I find myself doing in the future, it is important to me that I’m in a place that allows me to be close to other people and gain a greater sense of who I am and how I can work to advocate for issues I care about. An area I’m currently interested in deals with the addiction stigma in mainstream media and the repercussions this stigma has on individuals experiencing mental health issues. Above all else, I hope that I can be in the company of loved ones, because I have learned that regardless of the things that happen to us, having people to lean on and cherish can provide us with the fulfillment we need in our lives.
Q: Aside from a college degree, what do you hope to gain from your college experience?
I realize that many people are not as fortunate as I have been in terms of being able to pursue a college degree and I feel extremely blessed to be part of a college community where education is so valued. In addition, being on the cross country and track teams during my time in college has been an incredible experience and I believe that the opportunity to be a student and an athlete is something that has supplemented my education in valuable ways. Our team is represented by nine different countries and I have gained such an appreciation for people whose cultures differ from mine, and am wholeheartedly grateful to have had the support of my teammates and coaches during what has been a difficult year for me.
Q: What motivates you to continue working towards accomplishing your goals?
I am currently enrolled in a five-year Master’s program and although I love my coursework and cannot see myself doing anything else, there has been a lot that has transpired in the past year that has made it difficult to stay focused. My mom, Michele, is a single mom who has poured her heart and soul into raising me, she has given me the world and doesn’t even know it. The passing of my father this past winter was extremely difficult for both of us and I can say without uncertainty that she has been the person who has kept me persistently motivated towards reaching my goals.
Q: What advice would you give to other student who have been through circumstances similar to yours?
I want to stress to others who have experienced the loss of a loved one to substance abuse, that just because this person grappled with addiction does not mean they didn’t care about you. I know that my father loved me and I know that because of his dependency he was not able to be as present in my life as he would have liked to have been, but he would not have wanted me to lose sight of who I am in this process. It is so easy to relinquish control and lose track of your goals in the face of tragedy, especially given the nature of another person’s addiction being so far out of our control. I hope that any young person who has lost a family member in this way is able to find solace in advocating for things that are within their control, and to use this loss to push them in the direction of the person they hope to be.