Danielle Green-Alston and daughter

by Anne Heck


Danielle Green-Alston ‘14, raised in the Overbrook neighborhood of Philadelphia, experienced a household marred by addiction and domestic violence. 


During her childhood, her stepfather was emotionally and physically abusive to her mother. During those trying times, she sought comfort in members of her extended family who provided a good example of hardworking, college-educated and spiritual people. These early experiences prepared her for a rollercoaster of struggles and triumphs. 


“It is because of having survived these struggles that I later realized that my parents had the greatest influence on the direction my life would take,” said Green-Alston. It set her on a path to the “helping professions,” ultimately guiding her to pursue counseling as her choice of vocation. “I was compelled with gratitude to give back by helping others make healthier choices for their lives, even when hope appeared lost.” 


Life threw another challenge at Green-Alston when, at age 32, she survived a traumatic brain injury that left her in a debilitated state. 


Despite struggling with cognitive issues and diminished vision caused by her brain injury, Green-Alston stayed focused on developing a career of helping others and began her studies at Alvernia. She conquered her challenges and graduated summa cum laude from Alvernia in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Health. 


Throughout her Alvernia journey, Green-Alston continued to provide support and nurturing to her husband and two children, as well as her mother who has now been in recovery for over a decade. Her daughter, Mariah, now age 8, has Down syndrome and needed multiple surgeries at birth to sustain her life. Mariah has also been a source of inspiration in her mother’s career. 


“Mariah’s existence helped inspire my decision to help those in need. The goal is to be a better role model for my kids by letting them see that even if life provides difficulties, they can get through anything with determination.” 


Dana Baker and Mariah

Alvernia University Philadelphia Center Director Dana Baker with Green-Alston's daughter, Mariah


After earning an undergraduate degree, Green-Alston was told by an Office of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor that she did not possess the ability to continue with a higher degree. Thankfully, professionals who worked with her saw something different. 


One of these individuals was Dana Baker, director of Alvernia’s Philadelphia Center. Baker understands the type of support that adult learners, like Green-Alston, need in their educational pursuits and helped convince her to return to Alvernia to continue her education. 


“Danielle has always approached her education with such commitment and determination,” said Baker. “I have seen her through the bachelor’s degree and then the master’s program in clinical counseling. The dedication to her studies, coming in early, working in the computer lab on papers and presentations outline her future success.” 


Green-Alston remembers Baker’s caring and encouragement to continue her education. 


“On one occasion, my daughter’s nurse was not available to care for her, and I had to bring her to class last minute. I was scheduled for a mock counseling interview that was part of my final exam. Dana stepped in without being asked. This act of kindness was greatly appreciated and was just one of many ways she has helped to support my educational goals.” 


Green-Alston currently serves special needs children as a therapeutic staff support specialist for Resources for Human Development and as a psych tech for Fairmount Behavioral Health Systems. As a member of the Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling Class of 2019, she continues to prove that life’s difficulties are not limitations. 


“After all of that, I like to think that I did not choose Alvernia, but that Alvernia chose me, and I am grateful for having been chosen to be taught by outstanding leaders and experts in the field of counseling.”