Gina Buono has spent the past twenty years as a teacher and a mentor.
Full of energy and care for our area’s youth, she began mentoring for Young Scholars over two decades ago and three years ago, started to work with ICAN through our Independent Practice Association (IPA).
During the day you can find her teaching Honors English at Donovan Middle School in Utica. She has been with the Utica School District for nearly her entire career, teaching elementary school for a stint before moving to the middle school, which she loves.
Many years ago, when her own three children were younger, she considered joining the IPA but at the time found it a tough juggling act to be there for her kids while finding time for a case load. Her kids are now 20, 25 and 26 and with them out of the house and her having more free time, the IPA was the perfect way to fill it and to also fulfill her love of working with youth.
She joined Revere Youth Services, a contract agency with ICAN led by Brian Revere. She began with mentoring services and found it very rewarding, especially taking kids on “first time experiences”, as so many of those she works with aren’t able to engage in many out-of-home activities due to various challenges or barriers in their lives. “Watching a kid take in the Stanley Theatre for the first time is magical,” she shares. “It’s a place they have been by so many times, but many never had the full experience of seeing a Broadway show.” Getting kids into the community and finding creative ways to keep them busy and open their eyes to new things is very gratifying.
Gina was soon identified as someone who would excel at providing behavioral services for Child and Family Treatment and Support Services (CFTSS) and Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) cases. As a teacher, she was qualified to take on those more complex and serious cases and after her first client, she fell in love with it. As a self-proclaimed “type A” and an educator, she enjoys the concrete goal setting and week-to-week progress of behavioral management. Building a good rapport with parents is key. If the parent is all in for ICAN and the services, it helps achieve a great outcome for the kids AND their entire family.
Right now, she is working with about a dozen clients, mostly girls age 11 and up (where she has found her niche), but she does also work with two fourth graders. One great thing about being part the IPA network is the flexibility – providers are able to make their own schedules that work around their professional and personal lives. Gina is usually visiting with clients Monday through Wednesday or Thursday evenings after school and she spends Sundays planning out visits for the week.
Gina also shares how beneficial the connection is between the IPA providers and ICAN. If she has a crisis with a kid or any kind of question, there’s always someone to call or reach out to, from fellow mentors to social workers and clinicians. Also, during the holidays, providers work with ICAN staff to get their clients linked with their Thanksgiving for All effort and the Adopt a Family program to be able to bring joy to families and lower stress during the holiday season.
There are many kids and families needing services and Gina is a big advocate for individuals becoming part of the IPA, as it has so many benefits. It provides extra income and flexibility for providers but it also helps make our community as a whole become stronger – providing youth confidence, experiences and a consistent positive presence while giving families extra support and someone who is always in their corner.
Fun facts about Gina:
- She has three kids – Brianna (26), Bodhi (25) and Julia (20) and three grandchildren
- She loves reading and usually has two or three books going at a time, including audio books
- She cannot sit still even watching a movie, so cross stitching has become a beloved hobby
- Summer is her favorite! Her backyard is an oasis with a pool, tiki bar and other amenities and as a teacher… she is off work!