New Counselor: Mr. Matthew Catinella


Aidan Khelil, Writer

Shawnee High School welcomes Mr. Matthew Catinella, the newest addition to the guidance staff. The Renegade Report sat down with Mr. Catinella to ask him about himself and his life before Shawnee.

RR: Could you describe your position at the school as a guidance counselor and what can students come to you with if they need to talk about something?

Mr. Catinella: There are three major areas that a guidance counselor can help students with. One is career [choices], so talking about career choices after college. Maybe even talking about college majors, etc. Academic counseling is a big portion of what a counselor does, helping the students find solutions to some of their academic problems, helping them figure out some different strategies. It could also be helping them select their courses.

That’s another part of the academic piece. And then, the whole other piece of the personal, social, emotional type of counseling that each guidance counselor [is responsible for]. I can speak for myself and I know a lot of the counselors here also in the department, we get a lot of paperwork, which is necessary, but I know a lot of us do the paperwork because it allows us to do the actual counseling, the personal, emotional, social counseling that a lot of us went into this field in the first place for.

RR: Did you always want to do this as a career or did you decide maybe later in life, “This is what I want to do?”

Mr. Catinella: Actually, my first job out of college was doing social work, so I was working with kids who have had trauma in their life. They were elementary and middle school kids, and they would live in this facility for about six months at a time. So, I started off doing that, and I really liked the counseling piece from there. I knew eventually that I would like to work with teenagers, and I wasn’t sure at first in what setting that would be, but  I eventually figured out that working in a high school was what I wanted to do.

RR: Did you enjoy your own high school experience?

Mr. Catinella: I loved my high school experience. I had some great teachers and great coaches. I was fortunate to have some good friends and teammates in high school, and I think part of my decision to work in a high school was because I had such a great high school experience. For me, it was kind of like a way of paying it forward.

RR: What was your first job? Did you enjoy it? How did you realize that’s what you wanted to do at first?

Mr. Catinella: To be honest, my degree was in teaching and education, so I started off working teaching at a summer school. That evolved into me doing social work and running groups for kids with behavioral problems and teaching kids coping skills. So, I think it started with the idea that I wanted to be in a helping role. I wanted to help kids, and then it just kind of evolved from there. I find that a lot of times in life that’s how it works. You have a general plan, and then what has been really helpful for me is having a plan but also being open to new doors that you never really thought were possible.

RR: Are you a part of any activities at Shawnee? Could you describe them?

Mr. Catinella: I am the adviser of the L.I.F.E. Club, which stands for Living Influence Free Everyday. It’s a great club, and the kids seem very motivated to make a difference in this school. Essentially, it’s to promote the idea that you can have fun without having to be involved in drugs and alcohol. I know that’s a big peer pressure for students today in high school. I think the club is important because it teaches that there are alternative ways and safe ways to have fun, make friends, and have an enjoyable high school experience without risking your physical or psychological health. Also, I’ve been volunteering with the cross-country teams, and I’m an adviser for Green Dot.

RR: How do you like the school so far?

Mr. Catinella: I love the school so far. The kids have been great, they’ve been very respectful. I’ve had some good, engaging conversations with kids so far. The staff has been super helpful, the administration has been great, even the parents [have been great]. It’s been a great experience so far and I’m just looking forward to seeing what the journey holds.

Before the interview was concluded, Mr. Catinella had this very important message to the school about the specifics of his position:

Mr. Catinella: I’m a guidance counselor and also the Student Assistance Counselor. A Student Assistance Counselor is a little bit different to a counselor; the focus is different. The focus of a “SAC” counselor is to help kids resolve issues of substance abuse in a very confidential matter. Things students share with me are kept confidential with the goal in mind of helping the student figure out why they’re using and maybe alternative choices they can make that might be healthier ways to cope with whatever is going on in their lives. Again, it is done in a confidential matter, so my role here is as a Guidance Counselor and also as a Student Assistance Counselor.

Mr. Catinella is a genuinely interesting person, and it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to sit down and talk to him. I would encourage any student who has a problem to speak to Mr. Catinella about it. Sometimes what a student needs is more than a counselor. Sometimes a student simply needs a cool person to talk to, and Mr. Catinella is definitely that.