Native of: Havana
Why she came to the United States: "It was the beginning of the Castro regime and my family foresaw problems." So, when Fuentes was 6, they moved to New York City.
Breadth of experience: Vast! Fuentes earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University/Albert Einstein College of Medicine and her bachelor's in psychology with a concentration in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.
That training prepared her for a wealth of careers nationwide, including clinical, administrative, forensic and school psychology. She was a clinical psychologist in New York and Florida; chief of psychological and social services at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.; director of various psychiatric units nationally; and a psychologist with the U.S. Justice Department.
Most exciting career experience: In 1980, Fuentes was a consultant to the U.S. Public Health Services Refugee Mental Health Unit during the time of the Mariel Boatlift, a mass Cuban exodus to the United States. At the time, the U.S. trade embargo was sharply undermining Cuba's economy. With tensions mounting, the Castro regime announced that anyone who wanted to leave the country could. Among the thousands who came to the United States were exiles who had been released from Cuban jails and mental health facilities. "We had to help sort these individuals and find appropriate resettlement placement," Fuentes says. "It was an honor to be involved with the office of then-U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop."
Current job: Fuentes is now a bilingual school psychologist in Polk County, Fla., screening and evaluating at-risk pre-K children and working with their families. She is a professor at Polk County Community College as well as a forensic consultant. Fuentes made the move to school psychology in 2000 after she and her husband, Gustavo, adopted two children from Siberia. "I wanted more time with them," she says. Their daughter, Lyudmilla, and son, Michael, are both 12, born five months apart.
Best-laid plans: But her career change hasn't always allowed for more family time. "I'm in the car a lot driving to see students' families and other consulting functions—sometimes away from home for 10 hours a day," she says. Still, school psychology has its rewards, she adds. "We reach a lot of kids and parents, including transient migrant families who wouldn't get help otherwise."
Proudest achievement: "My doctoral degree," says Fuentes, who was the first in her family to get a higher education degree.
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