Maria Cumura: Child and Youth grad finds purpose in mentoring next generation

After realizing becoming a teacher wasn’t the right choice for her anymore, Maria ‘09 focused on working with youth in a different capacity. She chose Mohawk College to pivot her educational path in a new direction.

With a new career ahead of her, Maria enrolled in the Child and Youth Worker program at Mohawk. While it was the vocation that intrigued her, she was inspired to help others due to her own life experience.

Maria says, “I was raised in a foster home and felt a need to help others. Mohawk was a place I could authentically show up as myself, even when I was learning who I was.”

Mohawk’s Child and Youth Care program teaches students how to implement effective strategies with children, youth and their families to facilitate positive change and growth. Maria completed three field placements during her time in the program and said it helped her immensely.

“Mohawk had provided me with a learning environment where I felt comfortable to ask questions and really get to know the workforce I was planning on diving into,” she says. “I could talk to teachers and collaborate with my classmates freely.”

Most notably to her, Maria worked for the City of Hamilton part-time under six different co-op placements, and was hired on by them as a recreation supervisor. She learned immensely between placements and classroom education.

“Between the education I was receiving in class and the real-life work experience, I was able to develop soft skills that lead me to working in my field,” she says.

While working towards her career was the goal, Maria also discovered something about her identity while attending Mohawk College that changed her vantage point on life.

Maria says “The diversity of Mohawk was something I wanted to experience. I am three-quarters Indigenous and I was drawn to learn about that for a reason. Mohawk allowed me to view different cultures and ethnicities in a safe space that is welcomed.”

Today, Maria is a stay-at-home mom in South Carolina and a volunteer soccer coach. After relocating when her husband got a job, she pivoted her focus to working with kids in her local community. While she once never considered it possible, the fields of child and youth work and recreation have collided in a beautiful way.

“I’ve learned through [these two fields], we can make friends and find commonalities,” she says. “It’s so important to teach children vital life skills through recreation and positive reinforcement. I always want kids to know they are seen and heard.”

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Mladen Ivankovic, C.E.T. ‘18 didn’t have the easiest journey to his education. “We came to Canada as refugees in 1994,” he says. “It was just my two parents, my sister, and I. My parents came here with 80 Deutschmarks (approximately $67 CDN at the time) and we [arrived in] Quebec to restart our lives.”