Mental health does not discriminate. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. However, the counselling field historically lacks professionals with diverse backgrounds, which may contribute to why some individuals do not seek treatment.
As a mental health professional in Canada, Christina Ruggiero M.CP ’16 sees firsthand the racial and socioeconomic disparities in the counselling workforce – and it’s something she wants to change.
Thanks to her recent donation, Adler University will be able to create more opportunities for members of the BIPOC community who dream of becoming counselling professionals.
Ruggiero joins a growing community of donors in Canada who are supporting students through the Adler University Vancouver Foundation, and her philanthropic gift will be part of the University’s Equity and Impact Scholarship fund. Established in 2021, the fund provides $5,000 scholarships to students from underrepresented populations attending one of Adler’s three campuses and supports their academic achievement and work in high-need communities through the Social Justice Practicum.
“I’ve been working as a counsellor for five years and absolutely love it,” said Ruggiero. “I wanted to donate to Adler because of the experience I had as a student and to allow others to work in the field who might not be able to without financial support.”
Ruggiero currently resides in Toronto and provides one-on-one counseling services to students at her undergraduate alma mater, the University of Toronto. When she initially graduated from there with her honours bachelor in psychology, and after a few years of “soul searching,” she knew she wanted to pursue her master’s in counselling psychology to work with the post-secondary population.
“I was drawn to Adler because of its social justice mission and the personal connection I felt with their community,” said Ruggiero. “The school saw me as a person, rather than just my academic marks, what I could contribute to it, and the passion I have.”
As a student at Adler, Ruggiero recalls her work through the University’s Social Justice Practicum, which provides non-clinical learning opportunities that engrain students in the communities where they’re learning and creates lasting impacts for partner nonprofits.
For Adler Vancouver’s Community Action Day, Ruggiero worked with the downtown eastside community, creating a street store for members to take clothing and food donated by local businesses. Through this, she was able to connect with and learn more about a community she had never been exposed to before. For her Social Justice Practicum, Ruggiero created an online anti-stigma module for students, faculty, and staff to participate in during their orientation at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
“The Social Justice Practicum is a great opportunity to not limit yourself based on your expectations or preconceived fear. It’s instilled in us all the time – whether through politics or the people around us or just the things we learn growing up. If you open up and allow yourself to come to your own conclusions, you can see that love is much more powerful than fear.”
To make a gift to Adler or the Equity and Impact Scholarship fund, please visit the Office of Institutional Advancement online.