When Thomas Canale ‘13Ed first considered attending St. John’s University, his focus was on becoming a lawyer. But after attending an open house at the University, he had a change of heart.
“St. John’s has an excellent law school, and that’s what drew me to the University in the first place,” said the native of Massapequa, NY. “Then I went to an open house and I met Dean Ross and I was inspired,” he added, referring to Jerrold Ross, Dean of The School of Education.
Fast forward two years, and Tommy (as his friends and professors call him) has shifted gears once again. Now, he is focusing on pursuing a career in psychology. “I really want to help people with their problems,” he said. “My plan is to become either a developmental or clinical psychologist.”
Despite that fact that his career goal falls outside of the realm of education, Tommy is putting his studies in the School of Education to good use. “Even though my plan is to become a psychologist, my course work in the School of Education has really helped me to learn how to learn,” he said. “It’s also given me the tools I’ll need down the road to show others how to understand and cope with things they might find difficult.”
An active member of the St. John’s community, Canale is a Dean's Scholar, the highest academic honor in the School of Education. “When I first came to the school, I thought I would love be a part of the Dean’s Scholars,” he said, looking back on his first exposure to the organization. “Then I learned that you needed a 3.75 GPA to be considered and at the time I thought ‘well, that’s impossible.’” Tommy far exceeded the minimum requirements of the organization, earning a perfect 4.0 in his freshman year. This stellar academic achievement has also earned him a position in Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education.
A commuter student, Tommy takes advantage of all that the Queens campus has to offer. “The D’Angelo Center is great. I was there for the opening and it’s amazing. Marillac Hall has changed, too, in the time I’ve been here. The constant improvements really fuel your passion for the University.”
When he’s on campus and in need of a break, Tommy finds solace in St. Thomas More Church. “I go there a lot during midterms and finals. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, it’s great to have a quite place on campus to clear your mind and meditate.”
Tommy also serves as president of the local chapter of Active Minds, a mental health advocacy group. “Our primary goal is to raise awareness for mental health,” he said. “We work with students to let them know that I’s okay to suffer from depression and that you can live with it and work through it.”
Of all the changes Tommy has experienced during his time at St. John’s, the most meaningful is the change he’s seen in himself. He’s far more confident and outgoing than he was just two years ago.
A pivotal moment in his transformation came during his freshman year in the classroom of Dr. Mary Beth Schaeffer, Assistant Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “I was one of only two freshmen in a class of mostly juniors and seniors,” he said, looking back. “There was a heated debate and after 15 minutes, I offered my opinion. It was completely different from what everyone else was saying and Dr. Schaefer looked at me and said, ‘Tommy, you’re absolutely right.’”
“She e-mailed me that night to tell me how proud she was of me. It was really powerful,” Canale added. “It was an epiphany to me that I was smart enough to be in college. It made be believe that I belonged here.”