Wayne Aguiran - Social Work
Wayne Aguiran didn't have to visit Southeastern to know it was the school for him. After a recommendation from his pastor and a little research, he fell in love. A few months later, he was accepted and en route from sunny Hawaii to the Sunshine State of Florida.
"It had to be what God wanted because Southeastern was the school I was looking for," Aguiran said. "It was a professional school, and a faith-based school, so I knew I was going to go. I also wanted to challenge myself, leave my comfort zone and venture into the unknown... I knew this (was) what I needed to do to find who Wayne Aguiran was without the things that defined me at home. It was a growing experience."
At first, Aguiran thought he wanted to be a psychologist or a counselor, maybe major in business, but his advisor, Associate Professor of Social Work Marleen Milner, recommended social work. Milner explained that developing programs to better the lives of youths is one aspect of social work. Aguiran was hooked.
In addition to Milner's advice, Aguiran's classes at Southeastern helped him decide to major in social work. He took an interpersonal skills class and a field seminar, both of which helped him develop skills he uses today as a youth program director. In his interpersonal skills class, Aguiran learned how to listen intently, probe to obtain useful information, and critically think through a response before giving it. All these skills are essential to social work.
"We all think we can counsel, but social work is like a science and an art," Aguiran said. "It is science because of all the philosophies and theories of counseling. And it is an art because the counselor needs to apply these theories to fit (his) personality. This makes the counseling session meaningful and personal."
During his senior year at Southeastern, Aguiran participated in an internship at the Lakeland, Florida, campus of Peace River Center, where he worked as a children's case manager, specializing in mental illness. His role was to follow-up with children, visiting them at home and school to ensure they were getting the services they needed.
"Basically linking them with the services in the community," Aguiran said, "bridging the gap between schools, parents, and doctors, making sure they're taken care of."
In addition to the hands-on experience he gained through his internship, Aguiran also appreciated the mentorship he received from Southeastern's social work professors.
"It was genuine; it was authentic," Aguiran said. "(Milner and Criss) just gave us a whole wealth of knowledge, and I guess one of the greatest things about them is that they challenged us tremendously. They really groomed us."
It was because of this grooming that Aguiran decided to pursue a master's degree in social work. He attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, and received his master's degree in one year; students who hold bachelor's degrees in social work can skip-and receive credit for-the first year of two-year master of social work programs.
"Honestly, I didn't think I could do another year after my senior year at Southeastern," Aguiran said, "but I'm glad Milner and Criss pushed me. I feel much (more) prepared in the field."
After graduate school, Aguiran headed back to Hawaii. He is now the director for Ku'ina Program, a youth services program through Maui Community College. "Ku'ina" in Hawaiian means "to connect or join." The program's motto is "Connecting to Your Future." Ku'ina is funded by the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
Aguiran obtained his first job in social work two months after obtaining his master's degree. He was a case manager and counselor for Ku'ina. Five months later, Aguiran was promoted to program director. He credits Southeastern for his success in the field.
"In the profession, you often (recognize and use) the things you learned at Southeastern," Aguiran said, "and so everything you learn is valid, and you don't realize that until you're in the field."
As the program director for Ku'ina, Aguiran encourages and facilitates the successful transition of disadvantaged teens to independence and self-sufficiency. Many of these youths have a high risk of dropping out of high school. It is Aguiran's goal to coax these adolescents into high school diploma equivalency programs, post-secondary education, the military, or job training. Through Ku'ina, 14- to 21-year-old youths can participate in workshops and internships to aid their transition to adulthood.
Aguiran says it's rewarding to guide young people along a successful path. "These are students that would otherwise not be in college, but are because of your services, because you reached out to them."
During his time at Southeastern, Aguiran was inducted into Psi Chi, a national honor society for psychology, and Alpha Chi, a national honor society that emphasizes character and academic success.
At Southeastern, Aguiran also spent time in residence halls with friends and a guitar, worshipping God through music. When he wasn't worshipping, Aguiran was often riding a mountain bike, practicing martial arts, snowboarding, skydiving, taking road trips, and participating in extracurricular activities.
"Southeastern was like youth camp all year long because everybody that you know loves God," he said. "...they're passionate for God, and they want to excel in God. It was so much fun."
Aguiran helped entertain prospective students, and he was a First Teams leader, a peer mentor for freshman. During his peer mentoring sessions, Aguiran discussed faith and how to develop personal character in college. He also was a leader in Southeastern's social work club for two years. His involvement on campus and the community earned him the school's most outstanding social work student award in 2004.
Aguiran loved Southeastern so much that he has recruited four students from Hawaii to attend the university, and he can't wait to go back himself to visit.
As a Southeastern graduate Aguiran cherishes the impact the school had upon him. "The people, the places, the professors, the wonderful memories are priceless," Aguiran said. "I feel like I have learned so much about myself and other people. I became confident not because of who I was, but because of who God was in me."