“I know it sounds cheesy,” says the San Antonio native. “But it looked like a great place to study. I can still remember the ’70s-green carpet, the wooden chairs … it was all about comfort.”
Beyond the library, Valentine was particularly attracted to Marymount College for the five-year bachelor’s/master’s program in social work it offered with Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service. She moved from Texas to New York in 1999, without ever visiting campus, and immediately felt at home.
“At Marymount I became who I am,” she says, “and then at Fordham I was really able to shape myself professionally.”
Now a licensed clinical social worker, for the past five years she has been supervising veterans programs for Westhab, a Yonkers-based nonprofit that provides housing, employment, youth, pantry, and other social services to New York residents.
“I know I’m in the right career, not just because I enjoy what I do,” she says, “but I really believe I’m channeling good work for people.”
This spirit of service has also drawn Valentine to volunteer work. She has served on the Marymount College Alumnae Board and the Sacred Heart of Mary Extended Family Board, and she is currently a member of the Fordham University Alumni Association Advisory Board, which is supporting Fordham’s Day of Service events in April and May in honor of National Volunteer Month.
She also serves on the alumni board’s Forever Learning task force—a perfect fit for someone who loves fulfilling the continuing education requirements needed to maintain her license as a clinical social worker. “You learn about different things outside of your own work,” she explains. “I did one in pet therapy, one in working with food aversions. It can be really interesting. But I’ve always been about seeing open doors and opportunities.”
In 2018, Valentine became the youngest recipient of the Golden Dome Award, given to an alumna whose continuous service has advanced Marymount’s mission.
“I always feel like I could do more,” Valentine says, “and it’s always hard to see the impact of what we do, so it’s nice to see it through somebody else’s eyes.
“To be part of this elite group of Marymount women who have done amazing things before me … it’s something very unreal.”
What are you most passionate about?
I believe in volunteering time, energy, and ideas; helping each other out as people or through organizations; self-care of body, mind, spirit, relationships; active listening; family; work/life balance; not keeping your gifts to yourself; acknowledging a person’s strengths and challenges; believing in yourself; the power of a good story; being in the here and now; living life to the fullest; the need to love, be loved, and be part of a community; continuing education; doing what you love; taking risks; everyone needing and accepting help in some way or another; decompressing; disconnecting from electronics; sending cards in the mail; saying thank you—the list can truly continue.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Professionally, when I was in high school my Aunt Sylvia suggested I consider a career in social work. That sparked a fire in me. It clicked; something just felt right. So, whether she knew it or not, she guided me in the right way. She saw something in me I didn’t know was there. Now I love what I do and cannot see myself in another career.
Personally, the R.S.H.M. retreats and days of reflection have taught me to slow down in this hustle-and-bustle world. It’s not as simple as driving your car slower but rather taking time to be at peace spiritually, with myself and others. It’s about mindfully listening and looking around you and not constantly being on the go 100% of the time. This can be quite challenging for us intrinsically driven folks. My husband came into my life about seven years ago, and he also indirectly taught me to slow down without compromising my goals.
What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
I don’t have one favorite physical part of the city. My favorite aspects are the experiences and complexities of NYC. There are parts that stand still and then ever-changing parts. I love experiencing parks, gardens, museums, theater, history, new and old architecture, and the variety of faces and food. My favorite place in the world is a tie—I love being anywhere in Texas, my home state, because nothing beats the feeling of home. And I love vacationing with my husband, my favorite person. With him, I love going somewhere new, just being, and completely unplugging from work.
Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I loved the tone, the family and social complexities of the time, and the characters. Oh, the drama! Plus, Austen’s novels translate fantastically to film. This was the first classic novel I embraced at a younger age. I love a good book that can sweep you away and plop you right into the story. While I never aspired to be a writer, authors like her leave me in awe of the art.
Who is the Fordham or Marymount grad or professor you admire the most?
As is true for countless Marymount grads, Ellen Marie Keane, R.S.H.M., is someone I hold dear to my heart as a friend and an example of how to serve others.
As my first-year academic adviser, she was the first sister I remember meeting at Marymount in fall 1999. As a philosophy professor, she was always challenging us as women to question any system.
She was a born teacher who could speak to any audience. She was the embodiment of the R.S.H.M., both professionally and personally: passionate, intelligent, gifted, religious, patient, loving, dedicated, nonjudgmental, unconditional. She was a champion of women, children, and the poor. I admired her commitment to service to the R.S.H.M., Marymount, and the college program at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women. Sadly, Sister Ellen died in August 2018, but she inspired hope in so many.