Mario Juster-Kruse: From Student-Athlete to Future Counselor
By Hannah Werthan
In the fall of 2011, Mario Juster-Kruse became one of the first resident students at Molloy. Six years later, the St. Petersburg, Florida, native is still a familiar face on campus. Mario recently finished the second year of our Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.
Becoming a Molloy Student-Athlete
Why did a high school senior who lives 1,175 miles away from Rockville Centre choose Molloy for college? "Molloy's Men's Soccer coach, Danny Longo, is best friends with the Girls' Soccer coach at my high school," says Mario. "Danny recruited my best friend, Dane Leavy, and me to play soccer, and we decided to come."
The community aspect of being part of the soccer team helped Mario acclimate to college life quickly. When Mario and Dane arrived to begin their soccer season as freshmen, their dorm - Fitzgerald Hall - was not quite ready for them. Danny let them stay at his house for a couple of days. From the moment he arrived, the players welcomed Mario and they were able to bond over playing the sport.
It was tough for Mario to balance being a student-athlete, but he learned how to make it work. "Being a student is the most important thing. You have to study. Then, the priority is being an athlete and attending practice. A social life comes after that. It is possible to fit everything in, but you have to manage your time wisely," he says.
Mario played intermural sports and participated in Molloy Student Government his senior year as an Academic Programming Assistant. His advice to other students on campus - and all Molloy students - is to get involved in as many things as you can. "I lived on campus and I never went home, so I was always participating in events. It's much better than just hanging out in your dorm room. Getting involved is a great way to make new friends. Even if you don't find your group at first, you will eventually," he says.
Choosing Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Mario was a psychology major as an undergrad. He chose the major because he had a feeling he wanted to pursue counseling. When it came time to apply for graduate schools, he wasn't sure if he was going to stay in New York or move to Florida. However, after getting into the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Molloy, he spoke to the program's chair, Dr. Laura Kestemberg, and she convinced him to enroll.
Mario is glad he stayed for graduate school. "I love the program. It has been hands down the best decision of my life," he says. "The professors are really good, which is a big draw for many of the students." The program is cohort style, meaning that the same group of students takes their classes together for the entirety of the three-year program. "I like that we don't compete; we collaborate," he says.
This semester, Mario got his first real clinical experience for his practicum at the Molloy Personal Counseling Center. He was grateful for the opportunity to work on campus and to learn from working with Molloy students. "I was able to sit in on counseling sessions, and, eventually, I got a client of my own. The feedback I received from participating in these sessions was invaluable," he says. Mario also helped program events, such as a free mental health series for students that focused on self-care. For finals week, he went to the dorms and talked to students about anxiety and stress management, and he helped organize a meditation tent on the Public Square Lawn.
Mario encourages students who are thinking of applying to the program to take the next step. "Be ready for a lot of responsibility and work. But you will change so much as a counselor and a human being. You will learn about yourself in ways you can't even imagine," he says.
In the fall, Mario will begin his third and final year in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. In addition, he will be working at Mercy Medical Center doing outpatient work. It's the same place he worked when he was a senior undergraduate, though he will be taking on more responsibility as a graduate student.
After graduation, Mario will again have to make the decision of whether to stay in New York or go back to Florida. He misses his family and friends in St. Petersburg but values the great professional and social connections he has made here. Wherever he lands, Mario plans to work at a hospital or clinic, and ultimately wants to open a private practice.