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Cultural Competence: Q&A with Ray Abarintos (MSW '17)

Ray Gerald Abarintos, MSW 17Retired Petty Officer 3rd Class Ray Gerald Abarintos (MSW ’17) left the Navy in June 2013 after serving as a corpsman for five years. As part of a Marine Corps infantry battalion, he served as a medic to teams of 15 marines in North Carolina, Hawaii, and Afghanistan. He completes his master’s degree with a focus on clinical practice this May.

Ray's interview is part of our military veterans Q&A series. Read about Lesley Sasnett and Savannah Gore

How did you become a corpsman?
I’d wanted to be a Navy SEAL – do intense physical challenges, go to combat, stuff like that – but the training was too much. Physically it was demanding but doable, but it was mentally grueling. I got to a certain point in the training and couldn’t go further. So I pursued my second choice to become a corpsman. I’ve always had a passion for healthcare. I was very happy serving where I did.

How did you get into social work?
I’d gotten a bachelor of social work degree in Hawaii. “When I left the military I was struggling somewhat. So I went to VA resources and linked with a social worker to help me transition to the civilian world. She motivated me to do what she was doing so I can help other veterans.”

What’s the next step for you in your career?
I hope to work in veterans mental health, resources – anything that will help veterans. I’m focused on getting a job in the federal government sector. It’s stable, the benefits are very good, and when submitting for jobs, we can apply veterans preference points.

Why did you choose Temple?
I lived in Upper Darby from 1999 to 2007. I had gotten really homesick in Hawaii, so I wanted to go back to Philly. I applied to Temple because it has a great reputation. I like Temple because it’s so diverse, and the MSW program does its best to help each student succeed.

What makes veterans successful students in this program?
Veterans have more practical experience than many young people tend to. Veterans are open to different perspectives and new ideas. Whatever is in front of us, we tend to dissect it, analyze it, and make the most of it. We have a phrase, “adapt and overcome,” that applies to everything. It’s about using the best methods to solve problems.

How does that help you and your classmates in the program?
In the MSW cohort there are only four or five veterans. We have a lot of cultural competency, and we tend to think in a bigger picture than we might if we’d gone straight from high school to undergrad to grad school.

What do you get out of the community engagement aspect of the program?
It adds to my overall experience. Temple is very diverse, and the community is very diverse. So the more interactions you have, the more it adds to your experience and knowledge as a lifelong learner.

What advice do you have for fellow veterans considering a social work degree?
In social work you’re dealing with people’s lives – people who have hit rock bottom and are really struggling. You have to be professional, emotionally mature, and culturally competent. You have to be very mindful, because you are dealing with people’s lives. So overall, I’d tell veterans that they have many of the skills needed to work in this field.

What’s it like to be a student-veteran at Temple?
The Student Veterans Association office is always available if I have any issues or questions. There are other student veterans there to help. It’s good to know there’s a resource if you’re struggling with classes, financial aid, or issues around transitioning to civilian life. You never have to feel left out.

Learn more about the School of Social Work and the Temple Military and Veteran Services Center.

Posted:  April 20, 2017