Mariely Gonzalez walked into Hunter College confident that she would leave with a nursing degree.
But after one organic chemistry class, she realized that nursing wasn’t for her.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with kids,” Mariely said. “I initially had this idea of being a nurse. And then I failed organic chemistry and realized I need to regroup. The sociology classes were really hitting a note with me, and it seemed more like a fit.”
Mariely also credits her aunt, a social worker with the Department of Education, with inspiring her new path. After struggling in her chemistry class, Mariely went to her aunt’s house and stumbled upon her social work textbooks. Reading through them solidified her decision to major in social work instead.
While she had a short stint at the Administration for Children’s Services after graduating, Mariely spent the majority of her career at Children’s Aid. She worked in our home finding department, certifying foster homes to ensure they were safe for youth.
After six years, Mariely decided to pursue a master’s degree to begin her therapy career. She completed her internship at our Bronx Health Center and Foster Care Services site, where she is now a senior social worker.
Mariely serves children from 8 to 21 years old who are dealing with anxiety, depression, and trauma. She provides therapy to young people and also incorporates their parents into sessions to help create stability at home.
The young people she serves are processing heavy feelings and difficult circumstances, but they always manage to make Mariely laugh. After getting a drastic haircut recently, she had a session with a 9-year-old client.
“She was the only one of my kids who noticed,” Mariely said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Did you cut your hair? I liked it better when it was longer.’ She’s savage. They’re going through such difficult things, but they can always just be silly.”
She has cultivated strong relationships with her clients. Even after they leave her care, some still come around to update her on how they’re doing.
In addition to her strong relationships with the youth she serves, Mariely credits her colleagues at Children’s Aid with pushing her to become the social worker she is today, including Judith Gil, the deputy director of mental health at Children’s Aid.
“She has really been, every step of the way of my career at Children’s Aid, my biggest cheerleader, challenger and whenever I drag my feet, she really pushes me,” she said. “She really helped me become the therapist I am.”