Kevin Kelly, who has a master's degree in Counseling Education from Kean in 2014, knows the meaning of balance. The New Jersey native, who grew up in the Oranges before moving to Elizabeth in 1978, began his career in finance. He had a knack for numbers and with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Rutgers University in hand, he was able to make a difference as he made his journey down Wall Street. 

But after building a successful career at Merrill Lynch by helping others with their finances and leading others to do the same for more than two decades, he knew it was time to make a difference in a different way…a more altruistic way.

“I was grateful for the career I had, and my kids were older, so I knew it was time for me to give back,” said Kelly who started volunteering in a Madison counseling facility in 2009. It was here that he discovered an Introduction to Counseling course being offered at Kean University.

Fast forward to 2017 and Kelly, who received a degree in Counseling Education at Kean in 2014, is now working at Summit Oaks Hospital as an addictions counselor in the evenings as well as during an occasional weekend in the inpatient dual diagnosis unit. Summit Oaks has been providing quality mental health care for children, adolescents and adults who struggle with psychiatric and substance abuse issues for more than 100 years. The hospital, founded in 1902, has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals.”

“It has been a terrific trip for me. Dr. Mascari and the whole faculty were a tremendous help to me,” said Kelly who added that the program is so effective because it is responsive to student needs and follows a curriculum that is patient-centered.

For the past five years, Kelly has worked full-time at UBS, a global firm providing financial services in over 50 countries. He is a director of equity sales. 
“But now I also get to apply what I learned at Kean in a really practical way. It’s very satisfying and rewarding to be able to help someone acclimate to a sober life.”

When asked what advice he had for current Kean students, Kelly stressed the importance of balancing a pragmatic approach with an esoteric one. 
“You have to be able to promote yourself. It’s a combination of self-advocacy and a desire to help people.”

Now looking to enhance his ability to help others even further, Kelly is studying to attain his Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) certification. He said it will take a few years given his time constraints because of work and family, but he is looking forward to being able to help more people in a more profound way.

“The odds are so against them, so if I can educate myself even more in learning new ways to develop effective strategies, I’m going to do it.”
Kelly’s sentiments about the importance of helping others and attaining a patient-centered education seem to echo those of many in the Counseling Education program at Kean. 

“We have a family atmosphere,” said Dr. Mascari, who without hesitation managed to rattle off several notable alumni in his program when asked. These alumni have even started their own group, Kean Counseling Alumni Unite, to stay connected and give back to the current students. 

At the end of the day, it’s seems as though the shared philosophy is that it’s not all about getting a degree. It’s about getting the right education that is sustainable and rewarding.

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