Addictions & Mental Health student Maria Checchia sitting in chair

Maria Checchia ’20 always knew she wanted to help others. The Franciscan mission of Alvernia supplemented that need and supported her program choice of behavioral health. An interest in family/child services led to an introductory course in social work, beginning the pursuit of an academic career filled with mission, service and internships.

Checchia — who was born, raised and attended high school in Philadelphia — visited Alvernia’s campus on the advice of a friend who described how much she loved the campus and environment.

“When I stepped on campus, I was extremely nervous," she said. "But the people and the atmosphere made me feel at ease. It was like stepping into a second home. From there, no other school had met that same feeling of comfort.”

An internship at Caron Treatment Centers, one of the most prestigious, well-respected inpatient addictions treatment centers in the country, gave her a firsthand look at the impact one can have working in the addictions and mental health treatment field.

“The counselor asked the women to speak out loud about the consequences they faced as a result of addiction," she said. "It was very emotional. You can learn about addiction in books, but when you hear someone’s story, it’s not so black and white.”

Checchia’s internship was a part of the Women’s Continuum unit at Caron, with females aged 15 to 35.

“I knew I wanted to help with women and children and my internship solidified that for me," she said. "It also allowed me to think of working with teen girls as well. The Franciscan mission became a huge part of my academic career. I’ve gone on two mission trips."

Checchia’s experiences included serving the homeless in New Jersey and assisting a church group with improvements to an elementary school in Jamaica.

“Being face to face with the people you’re serving makes you realize ‘I’m doing this for a good reason,'" she said. "There are people out here that need our help. They’re not that different from us.”

Checchia is now pursuing a master’s in social work to complete her goal of becoming a counselor working in the field of mental health and addiction.

Addictions and Mental Health Treatment

Degree Type:
Bachelor of Arts
College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences
  • Reading Campus
Program Type:
Undergraduate Major
Credit Hours:
Also available as a minor