Hi, I’m Jovanina, a social worker and therapist who helps young people and their families create meaningful change.
I am a cis-gendered woman of Sicilian, Irish, and French descent, living and working within the unceded lands of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians and the Schaghticoke First Nations, also known as the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. I am a partner and a daughter, a step-mother and cat mom, dancer and yoga practitioner, gardener, and justice activist.
My training and professional experience is extremely diverse. I’ve separated out some of the overlapping threads below.
Youth Development, Social Work, & Therapy
In the early 1990s, I began working with teens and young adults in the realm of youth development, coordinating and directing out-of-school programs for the Harlem Children’s Zone, Cardinal McCloskey Services (foster care), Children’s Aid Society, and Grand Street Settlement. A primary focus was to support the educational achievement of our participants, though every program sought to holistically address the needs of each young person, their family, and often the community. I was very fortunate to work within two of the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Programs, the most comprehensive, evidence-based reproductive and sexual health program in the nation.
The neighborhoods I worked within, while vital and resilient, also suffered from the intersecting oppressions of poverty, systemic racism, and the lack of resources that help folks thrive – healthy food, parks, clean streets, adequate housing, safe schools, etc. I knew I needed more robust training to be able to effectively meet the needs of these families, and consequently enrolled in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Albany in 2012.
After earning my Master of Social Work degree, I spent seven years as a clinical therapist at the John Dewey Academy, a therapeutic boarding school, where I provided individual, group, and family therapy. I initiated the formation of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program and subsequently collaborated with a working group of teaching staff, parents, alumni, and current students to develop and implement it.
My first career was as a classical violist. I trained at the Mannes College of Music and freelanced in NYC for over 10 years. I was a member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans for one season, founded a chamber music series in Harlem, and was a core musician for Music Under Construction, a collective of composers and choreographers creating new and experimental works.
My love of classical music – in its centuries of diversity – is beyond words. The rigidity, perfectionism, competitiveness, and instability of work, however, I don’t love and was very detrimental to my mental health. Though it took a while, putting the viola down was an important step for my overall happiness.
Dance and other Somatic Practices
As a young child, I trained in both ballet and gymnastics and was a competitive gymnast until age 16, when I then became a coach for my team before leaving for college. I began avidly studying dance as an adult in NYC, eschewing the more perfectionistic disciplines of modern and ballet and instead turning towards the post-modern form of Contact Improvisation and the dance traditions of the African diaspora, specifically Afro-Haitian folkloric dance. In 2002, I co-founded the Bared Soles Dance Company, which was dedicated to creating dance events and classes that celebrated movement and were accessible and welcoming to all.
These less conventional worlds of dance brought me into relationship with yoga and what is now known as somatic studies, including Body-Mind Centering®, Authentic Movement, breathwork, Ideokinesis, Laban movement analysis, and experiential anatomy practices.
I honor all of the teachers – formal and informal – who have nourished my spirit, sparked my creativity, expanded my skill, and are living within me in every moment.