At one point in the pandemic, CRSM alumna Marilu Bueno, 22, a college psychology and theater major, realized that high school students at her alma mater had spent a significant chunk of the last two school years isolated from friends and in a fractured learning environment. She wondered if it made them feel sad, anxious, lonely, or stressed-out.
Her musings prompted the Class of ’19 grad to focus her senior-year qualitative research project at Kalamazoo College on CRSM juniors and seniors. She was interested in exploring mental health issues and how they impact minorities and other vulnerable populations. The effects of the pandemic brought them to the forefront, making her research very timely.
“My goal with the project was in many ways to let the CRSM students know they are not alone if they are struggling with anxiety, depression or feeling overwhelmed,” says Marilu, 22. She is on the Dean’s list at Kalamazoo and is a Schuler Scholar and voted “Most Outstanding Student,” while at CRSM.
Marilu returned to Waukegan this summer to spend two months interviewing, observing, and working with a focus group of about 20 CRSM juniors and seniors. Now back at college, she is compiling her findings to be presented to CRSM social workers and leadership later this fall, and of course her professors.
Despite the grace and resilience CRSM students demonstrated as they dealt with the challenges of COVID-19, they, like many other teens, have difficulty seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, she says. As children of immigrants, CRSM students also face some generational challenges in trying to get their parents on board, says Marilu.
“There is a culture stigma,” she says. “I know this myself that students are worried that they are letting their parents or guardian down because our parents are very proud of us being in school. As first generation students, we feel it is our role to uphold the legacy of the family and that we must succeed. Students feel like if they say they are depressed or anxious, they are letting their parents down. One of my goals most likely will be educating the older generation and the community that it’s okay to seek help from a counselor.”
An aspiring psychologist, Marilu wants to work with vulnerable populations such as immigrants and plans to go on to graduate school to further her education.
Her advice for CRSM students: “Understand that especially as upper classmen, there is a lot of stress as you’re trying to figure out what college you want to go to and what you want to major in. Take one step at a time, but don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Cristo Rey has caring teachers and counselors who are there to help you.”