Senior Academic Counselor, Holyoke Community College; Holyoke City Councilor; Age 39Jossie Valentin has been helping people — often in the most difficult of circumstances — all her adult life. It’s a road her mother foresaw.
“My mom always said she knew, since I was a little kid, that I would be helping people in some way,” Valentin said. “We would always talk about that. She was a huge part of instilling this in me; she made a lot of sacrifices for me to get a good education and go to college and make sure I was on the right path.”
Armed with degrees in psychology and forensic psychology, and licensed as an alcohol and drug counselor, Valentin’s former roles include program director of the Arbor House, a substance-abuse residential treatment program in Holyoke, and program director of the Psychiatric Evaluation and Stabilization Unit at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow.
Since 2006, she has served Holyoke Community College students as a bilingual senior academic counselor. “Because it’s a community-college setting, there’s such diversity of students in terms of age and other factors,” she said. “We can have somebody just out of high school or someone who just got laid off from a job, starting on an all-new track.
“I specialize in working with students most in academic trouble,” she added. “Some students are on academic probation or have been dismissed from the college and are trying to get back on track. A lot of personal issues come up to cause them to fall off track.”
Also in the spirit of helping people, Valentin also won a seat on Holyoke’s City Council in 2013.
“All my professional experiences prepared me to be city councilor in Holyoke, working with our community. I wanted to get involved with different initiatives within the community — it’s not just about serving on boards or putting my name out there, but getting to know people of diverse backgrounds and trying to help them. You can get a call from a constituent asking about a pothole and end up talking about mental-health or substance-abuse services.”
Valentin also co-founded the 2014 Holyoke Walk Against Violence rally, and is the co-founder of the Holyoke LGBT Task Force, an organization that recognizes the dignity of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities — an offshoot of the mentoring work she and her wife, Myriam Quiñónez, did helping Holyoke teenagers (including future Mayor Alex Morse) establish a ‘pride prom’ for LGBT youth.
“My mother had high expectations of me,” she concluded, “and I need to make sure I’m giving back and paying it forward.”
— Joseph Bednar