James Mazzuchelli never knew he wanted to be a counselor until he
came home from the war in Iraq. As a returning Army veteran, he was required to go through a mental health screening; it was then that his career goal crystallized in his mind.
“When my unit arrived home from a year in Iraq we sat through many briefings to reintroduce us back into civilian life, and one of these briefings was by a mental health counselor with the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Mazzuchelli. “When he started talking, I instantly knew that I wanted his job or one similar to it. The more questions I asked, the more appealing the career became to me, so that became my new academic goal.”
Mazzuchelli’s commitment to veterans and his focused approach to furthering his education has garnered him the BSW Student of the Year award, given by the National Association of Social Workers New Hampshire chapter. Mazzuchelli was nominated by Dr. Scott Meyer, who coordinates the field education component of PSU’s social work program.
“James has not only been an exceptional student, but he has written articles about the experiences of veterans in N.H. for the N.H. National Association of Social Workers News,” said Dr. Stephen Gorin of PSU’s Department of Social Work.
Attaining his goal happened after several years of military experience. Mazzuchelli, a Wilton, N.H. native, joined the Army after high school, served three years and then enlisted in the N.H. Army National Guard and served a year before starting at Plymouth State in 2001. His Guard unit was then mobilized in 2004 and sent to Iraq, so Mazzuchelli’s education was put on hiatus until the year-long tour of duty was complete.
In the fall of 2005, Mazzuchelli reenrolled at PSU, switching from his original major in criminal justice to social work, never forgetting his goal of counseling fellow vets.
“I am proud to be a veteran and I have first-hand experience with what service-members endure with sacrifice and hardships through what becomes some of the most trying times of their lives,” said Mazzuchelli. “I have nothing but respect for anybody who has served our nation, and in turn, I am focusing my career to serve my fellow veterans.”
Mazzuchelli is well on his way to achieving his goal of a master’s degree and a job counseling veterans. He is currently immersed in a 450-hour practicum at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton for his bachelor’s degree in social work.
“The Veterans Home is a long-term residential care facility for residents of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War,” Mazzuchelli noted. “Since I started in January, I’ve been involved in many different tasks and projects. One of my duties is to conduct a social history assessment on newly admitted residents, and discuss their progress at care-plan meetings. I co-facilitate reminisce groups which stimulate the veterans to talk about their memories.”
Mazzuchelli also is coordinating with local students to visit the Veterans Home.
“I have rekindled an intergenerational program which links Winnisquam Regional High School Agriculture Center students with the residents to plant vegetables and flowers. I have really learned so much from my internship that I value each day that I am there. Every day presents new challenges, opportunities and rewards that I feel are unique to this placement,” said Mazzuchelli.
Mazzuchelli is convinced young people benefit from their contact with the veterans, and vice-versa.
“I am grateful for being able to work with this population of veterans as I believe they have so much to offer to younger generations,” added Mazzuchelli. “I never tire of hearing their stories of how life used to be 40-70 years ago; it goes to show how much people take for granted today and puts so much into a larger perspective.”
“I am deeply honored to be awarded the NASW NH chapter BSW student of the year,” Mazzuchelli said. “I didn’t even know the award existed and that is the greatest feeling about it. The entire social work faculty at Plymouth State has been extremely helpful, supportive and empowering as they have been with me every step of the way. I have found a career field that I feel strongly about, and that passion is enforced by my own experiences in the military.”
Mazzuchelli was honored for his work March 30th at the Chapter’s annual dinner meeting in Bedford, NH.
“This is a career I truly believe in and am passionate about and am happy and relieved I have finally found that in my life,” added Mazzuchelli.
Questions about this release? Contact
Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or firstname.lastname@example.org