Christin Fontes '23, Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Christin Fontes ‘23 is a Canton native, and Canton is where she returned after college.

“It wasn’t in my original plan to return back home, but it has worked out well so far,” said Fontes. “I’m a Canton girl. I graduated from McKinley, I go to Malone now, I live here; this area will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Fontes attended The Ohio State University for her undergraduate studies in strategic communications, the return to Malone to study Clinical Mental Health Counseling was a move that made sense in more ways than one.

“Malone is so much more than convenient. It's right on 25th and Cleveland, so it's truly Canton’s university; but really that is an undersell of my experience, as I was able to come in and be surrounded by such strong women with such strong reputations,” she said. “The hands-on, tailored experience is important, and it has a great reputation for its Clinical Mental Health program.”

The move to Malone came with some necessary adjustments, but for Fontes they were welcome changes. 

“My class sizes are much smaller; here at Malone my professors know my name. A large school can be a fun experience, but the smaller community of Malone is as well,” said Fontes. “At Malone the professors take a personal stock in your success and care about you making a difference in the world, and they do this even when you’re not in the room, which was mind-blowing to me. They would speak about me to people that mattered and who could shape my future when I was working somewhere completely separate and away from them. I was off campus minding my own business, and they would go before me and have me in mind when opportunities would come up that I had no idea about.”

There has been more than just professional growth for Fontes with the help of her Malone professors as well. 

“They’ve molded me in such a hands-on way, but they’ve also pointed out the play and made audibles for me - I’m a sports fan as you can see - and they’ve shown me how to continue to be myself and not try to make me into a mini version of themselves. They showed me that there is room in this profession for me,” said Fontes. 

Equipped with skills and support from her professors, Fontes was able to envision her future with her practicum work earlier this year. 

“My main goal was to help people in a more ‘micro’ way, but Malone has taught me how ‘macro’ the field of counseling really is. It’s so much more than sitting on the couch with someone. It’s also about how you connect with a community and how you choose to live your life. I want to be a therapist, but I also want the skills I gain to influence how I impact those around me,” said Fontes. “For my practicum I was in an inpatient rehabilitation facility in Sherrodsville working with substance use disorder clients. It was intense work and full of emotional labor, but I felt stretched and I learned a lot. I now feel equipped to graduate in May as a well rounded professional.”

This year, Fontes is the president-elect of the Eastern Ohio Counseling Association, a position she hopes to embrace to empower other counselors in Northeast Ohio. 

“It’s an exciting opportunity for me, and kind of unexpected as well. Our vision is to create a pipeline between students and professionals by fostering a collaborative environment of support and professional development,” said Fontes. “Through Malone’s programs and the opportunities afforded to me I gained the skills and confidence to be ready for this role. I think it will be something I look back on surprised that I did it, but I was 100% prepared and equipped because of my experiences at Malone. I don't think I would have even considered this opportunity had it not been for my connections at Malone.”

Despite any doubts, Fontes is eager to cultivate a culture in which counselors are included and supported; especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to create a space for counselors to be human and unburden themselves. When we talk about ‘essential workers’ there are a lot of professions mentioned, but counselors are often left out of that conversation. Counselors, in many ways, have held the stories and emotional weight of the pandemic, which is ultimately what we signed up for,” she said. “However, at the same time, we have not been immune to the uncertainty of the last three years. The stronger the professionals in Northeast Ohio are, the stronger our region will become. That’s my vision, to make the counselors stronger, which makes the people stronger, which makes this area stronger.”