WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2016
Eileen Marinakis R.N., M.A., A.P.N.
Chair, Beacon College Board Of Trustees
CAREER PATH: I’ve had a long history in both Nursing Education and Community Based Nursing. In my early career, I taught Nursing, first to Licensed Practical Nursing students and later to Associate Degree R.N. candidates. Later, as a parent of school aged children, I became cognizant that general education had much to learn from Nursing. I became aware that there is a natural correlation of Nursing and Special Education. My conviction developed as a result of my experiences and disappointments with the poor quality of individualized education of special learners in the public education system. In the care of patients, regardless of the setting, nurses assess, develop specific care plans and provide appropriate care for their patients, as individuals. Why, I asked did education have such difficulty in accepting their responsibility to customize education for special learners as required by the Federal Public Law 94-142? Seeking answers, I set about entering the public school system as a school nurse and counselor and pursued post graduate studies leading to certification as a Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction. I learned that good teaching is good teaching, regardless of the ability or level of the learners. When the teacher improves instruction for the student who learns differently, they improve instruction for all students. The teacher, like the nurse must customize the modalities and pace of instruction they utilize to fit the learners’ needs, not the preferences or long held practices of the teacher.
Challenges: First, I was professionally challenged to achieve graduate level education in Nursing. Educated in a three year hospital based School of Nursing, I achieved R.N. status and was inspired to earn a B.S.N. and then an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University. The educational pathway was slow. I enrolled in 1965 with only 40 T.C. approved credits and finally earned the B.S.N. in 1969 while holding full time Nursing positions. Aided by financial support through the Federal Nurse Traineeship Program, administered by T.C., I earned my M.A. in Nursing Education in 1973.
My greatest personal challenge was to partner with my spouse in rearing emotionally healthy, educated, moral and highly functional sons, one of whom was diagnosed as having a non-specific learning disability at age 5. Together, we succeeded in both instances through sheer determination, on-going commitment and awareness of the law as it applies to the rights of students who learn differently. Today, I can proudly say that both of our sons have achieved academically, professionally and personally. As a result, we share a strong and loving relationship as a family.
Accomplishments: I’ve been provided professional preparation, both academic and experiential, which has paved the way for me to achieve in multiple Nursing roles in a variety of health care and educational settings. I’ve been awarded multiple awards for professional practice at the community level with such agencies as the Cape May County Traumatic Loss Coalition and Municipal Alliance against Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Additionally, I was awarded the New Jersey Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award and was appointed to the position of Nursing Coordinator for the Volunteers in Medicine, also of Cape May.
In 2007, I was appointed to the Beacon College Board of Trustees; first serving as the Board’s Secretary for three years and eventually elected to the Chairmanship, a positon I’ve held for five years. I can proudly point to the advancements of Beacon College and its Board of Trustees under my leadership, including the appointment of George J. Hagerty Ed.D.as our third President. Beacon College, located in Leesburg, Florida is the first and foremost college in our country entirely dedicated to the baccalaureate education of students with learning disabilities, A.D.H.D. and other learning differences. Our enrollment numbers are soaring and we have been recognized for achieving a 83.3 % graduation rate.
Mentors: I have learned and been influenced by multiple people throughout my life experiences and learning opportunities, afforded to me over decades of both personal and professional experiences. I hesitate to name just one or only a few of the many people who have positively contributed to my development as a person and a professional. However, recollecting, I believe that I have been most influenced by and learned the most at the hands of the of the hundreds of patients and students with whom I have partnered in the provision of their care and education. Among them are the many special needs learners and their families who day in and day out fight a largely intransigent educational system that only minimally meets their needs and limits their ability to achieve full functionality in their lives
TURNING POINT: My son’s enrollment in 1993 and completion of a B.A. degree from Beacon College in 1997 marked a significant turning point in my life. The completion of my son’s formal education, along with his emotional growth, as well as his establishment of solid and healthy peer relations, marked his readiness for independence in his personal life and readiness to fill a professional role. My son’s achievements allowed me to reprioritize my professional goals. In 1995, I earned licensure by the state of New Jersey as an Advanced Practice Nurse, with prescriptive authority, in the specialty area of Mental Health and Psychiatry.
GOALS: My primary professional goal for the future is to change the educational landscape for children and their families who are challenged by learning disabilities and differences, so that there will exist an established educational trajectory whereby the opportunity to continue formal education, beyond the high school level, becomes the norm, not the exception. I envision a better day, marked by a future where the goal of reaching one’s individual maximum potential is given more than lip service, but, instead becomes a reality for all learners who hereto fore have been denied access to high quality, appropriately staffed and adequately funded, higher education. I envision programs leading to the development of marketable skills.
I’ll only be satisfied when multiple collegiate programs, similar to Beacon College, generate markedly increased numbers of once denied graduates who are full participants, contributory citizens, and mentally healthy members of our increasingly complex society.
After fighting the fight and dreaming the dream, I want to continue to play a leadership role in the cause of these special learners fueled by the conviction that the goals for true educational equality, while lofty, are attainable. #