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Caitly Dominici ’24 Awarded Inaugural SUNY Scholarship

One of the first 11 recipients of a SUNY/CUNY scholarship to expand and diversify New York’s mental health force. 

Caitly Dominici ’24 (psychology, sociology minor) is one of the first recipients of a $4 million scholarship program to support underrepresented students entering or enrolled in mental health degree programs at SUNY and CUNY schools, made possible by a federal grant awarded to the New York State Office of Mental Health.

The scholarships intend to “expand and diversify New York’s mental health workforce, which lacks sufficient representation of ethnic and racial minorities, especially in roles requiring advanced degrees or education-based certifications.”

Dominici’s goals for herself align perfectly with those of the program, as she intends to provide mental health care to underserved communities where young people can see themselves in their providers.

Lived Experience

The details of her own experiences with racism and mental health struggles not only formed the basis of Dominici’s application essays but became a driving force to help others.

Attending a predominantly white high school in lower Manhattan, Dominici was made to feel less-than because of her skin color and race, with ridicule that began one week into freshman year.

“I was told the reason why I was accepted to the school was because they needed to diversify, not because I was smart. That really followed me throughout high school and ruined my self-esteem.”

With no support from the administration, her mental health spiraled downward.

“I grew up struggling a lot with my mental health, and so that has pushed me to want to help children and adolescents that were once me.”

Finding Community at Purchase

Purchase offered something entirely different.

“Purchase is such a diverse school that I saw myself in a lot of the students, and I felt like it would become a community that I could feel that I was a part of. That’s something that I didn’t get to experience in high school, where I experienced a lot of racism and things that were not super welcoming.”

The rising senior lives in a predominantly Hispanic Black community, where mental health resources in the community and the schools are inaccessible or unaffordable. She witnessed firsthand the toll it took on her peers, citing 500 students who would report to a single guidance counselor.

“I didn’t really know how to acknowledge my mental health because I didn’t have that support system in place from school, which should be one of the most important places that you’re supposed to get mental health resources from at a young age,” she says.

She wants to help change that.

“It made me want to study psychology to help low-income communities that don’t have access to mental health resources.”

And she hopes to provide the diversity so lacking in mental health currently.

“Psychology is such a predominantly white field that it’s unlikely for people of color to find someone that understands their struggle as a Black or Hispanic person or person of color,” she says. “And so, I want to represent my community but help people also feel safe and understood by someone that reflects them.”

With plans to attend graduate school to earn a PhD in child and adolescent psychology, Dominici eventually would like to open a nonprofit organization in a low-income community where residents can affordably access mental health resources and children living in toxic home environments can find a safe haven.

Hands-On Experience

Dominici has already earned the certificate in Early Childhood Education, completing an internship at the Children’s Center on campus, and she’s completed an internship at the Counseling and Behavioral Health Services office here.

She teaches STEAM and entrepreneurship classes to third and fourth graders locally at an iCamp after-school program.

And she serves as a Teaching Assistant for Research Methods I for Assistant Professor of Psychology Carolyn Cates, whom she credits with providing the support and guidance to pursue her current path. The Childhood Development class Cates taught provided the turning point.

“She’s really guided me in the field that I want to go into—her Childhood Development class was what made me want to go into childhood specifically—and has been a very supportive faculty member.”

Dominici maintains a stellar GPA and will step into a leadership role as a Resident Assistant next year.

About the Scholarship

Students selected for the scholarship program will be provided with a monetary scholarship as they progress through the program; mentorships with mental health professionals; enrichment programs consisting of presentations by mental health professionals and experts in the field; as well as internships in mental health facilities and/or with mental health providers, according to the press release.

“Through this partnership with SUNY and CUNY, we are taking a crucial step towards creating a public health care system that is truly reflective of the communities it serves,” says Governor Kathy Hochul. Congratulations to the latest recipients whose dedication to this field will contribute to a healthier, more equitable future for all New Yorkers.”