When senior psychology major Isabel Cantó was 8, her father died of cancer. Growing up in Puerto Rico with her mother and three sisters, she attended Catholic schools. With the help of scholarships, she was able to enroll at The Catholic University of America. "Beginning life in a new and different culture was hard, but in order to reach my goals, it was necessary,” says Cantó.
Initially Cantó had planned to enroll in the University’s pre-med program. But, while taking an elective course in abnormal child psychology, she says she found her “mission field.” A human growth and development course prompted her to declare a minor in early childhood education. “Since then I have never doubted that this path is my passion, my vocation, and as an added bonus my profession; it became my way to help others.”
"Part of the greater good of acquiring a higher education at Catholic University is that it has not only helped me; it has given me the tools and knowledge to give back and live out my Catholic values."
At the University, Cantó found a mentor in Sandra Barrueco, associate professor of clinical psychology. She worked for three semesters in the University’s Multicultural Research Laboratory for Young Children and Families, which Barrueco directs. With encouragement from Barrueco, Cantó won an internship in the spring of her senior year with the prestigious Society for Research in Child Development. There she has helped to translate research into lay terms, which is shared with Congress to guide future policy. “Isabel is not only exceptionally talented in her academic and research endeavors, she has dedicated herself to helping others through clinical and policy training,” says Barrueco.
Cantó spent a semester in Spain, where she landed an internship with the Make a Wish Foundation, which grants special wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions. She says the experience “made me more empathetic. The incredible courage and resiliency of both the children and their families was a life-changing experience.” During her spring break this year, she went to the Dominican Republic, where she visited an orphanage for girls, bringing toys, clothes, food, and books for the children.
Recently Cantó learned that she had been accepted into the five-year doctoral program in Child and Adolescent Psychology at Carlos Albizu University’s Miami campus. Reflecting on her time at Catholic University, Cantó says, “Part of the greater good of acquiring a higher education at Catholic University is that it has not only helped me; it has given me the tools and knowledge to give back and live out my Catholic values.”