MSJ graduate Maria Waters strives everyday to be a positive and supportive role model for children who are in need of caring adults to look up to—and trust.

maria waters

From a young age, Maria remembers collecting donations for a charitable organization when she was in the 8th grade during the Christmas season. The donations she collected benefited families in need in the downtown Cincinnati area.

“It brought me such joy to know I had made a positive difference in their lives,” Maria says.

While an Educational Studies major at Mount St. Joseph University, Maria completed a co-op at St. John’s Westminster Learning Center. “I worked with infants all the way up to pre-kindergarten. It was a great experience and it sparked my passion for working with young children,” she reflects.

The Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies is designed for students who are interested in the education field but do not want a teaching license. The program offers a solid foundation of liberal arts, social sciences, and education courses to understand and identify the needs of learners as related to diverse characteristics and context.

Resilient, compassionate, and perseverant, Maria incorporates these qualities into how she treats co-workers, patients, and everyone she comes into contact with every day as a behavioral health specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

She works with children who have encountered trauma in their past, struggling with depression, anxiety, and sometimes aggression. She strives to be a positive and supportive role model for these children who are in need of caring adults to look up to—and trust.

“My role is to provide them with the support they need if and when they are feeling like hurting themselves or others,” she says. “I encourage them to use their coping skills and engage them in therapeutic activities throughout the day.”

Since graduating from Mount St. Joseph University, her degree in Educational Studies provided her with the foundational skills she needed to work with trauma patients. Now, she lays the foundation for how to instruct children, adapting these principles into her work.

Lighting the Way with Newfound Hope

Over the holidays last year, Maria was working with a young girl who suffered from depression who had a negative family visit. The patient was very tearful, and began making plans to end her life. Maria was able to provide the reassurance she needed to feel safe, heard, and cared for.

“I was standing near this patient reassuring her that I was there to support her. I remember feeling nervous, I could feel my heart beating really fast and I felt shaky. I took some deep breaths and began trying to talk her down. I validated her feelings of anger and sadness and reassured her that she was safe, important, and valued. After a few minutes of talking with her, she was able to calm herself down and became interested in doing an activity with me. This moment felt really rewarding because at the beginning, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to talk this patient down. It made me feel that I had been very therapeutic in this situation.”

When reflecting on the caring adults who helped Maria during her MSJ college experience, a special staff member comes to mind. She takes what she has learned from this compassion to provide children with solace and hope for a brighter future.

“Coach Tina played a pivotal role in helping me become the person I am today. Her passion for coaching and wanting her athletes to be successful not just on the course, but also in life is so inspiring. She set high expectations, and never allowed me to give up on myself.”

Now, Maria’s best advice on the hard days is to never give up and to continuously look for the positives every day while being her own biggest cheerleader, as Coach Tina has done for her.

“My journey has been filled with learning experiences. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to always believe in yourself; great things can be accomplished when you are always cheering yourself on.”

Looking toward the future, her hope is that she will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of her patients, and in the lives of all of the inviduals she comes into contact with through her career skills and compassion for others. It is through Maria's desire and advocacy for change that fuels her determination to shine a light on conversations about mental health.

"My career in mental health has made me so much more aware of the mental health problems people struggle with," Maria acknowledges. "We really need to pay more attention to the prevalence of mental health problems in our world today, and be able to direct those individuals to get the help that they need."

Interested in Serving Your Community in a Flexible Education Field?

Educational Studies graduates can pursue careers in Family and Children Services, program development (for corporations and nonprofits), adult education, community outreach agencies, and more, all without obtaining a teaching license.

Visit our Educational Studies page to learn more about our program!