Colin Johnson ‘16 G’24 first attended Anna Maria College as a Criminal Justice major who was drawn in by the small town-like atmosphere on campus, the attentive faculty, and the fact his brother was already an Anna Maria alum. Almost a decade later, Colin is back at Anna Maria College earning his Masters in Social Work degree after life circumstances and second chances renewed his passion for helping people.  

After graduating from the CJ program and seeing instances of people who needed help first-hand, Colin realized that he was interested in a different form of helping others as a social worker. “I just wanted to get more into a hands-on helping field and I felt like social work was more on that level for me. I also felt like combining my two interests would be very beneficial and provide a unique perspective. I believe that my mix of criminal justice and social work gave me the ability to talk to people and deescalate situations.” 

It was while working at DCF and juvenile detention centers that Colin started to realize that social work was the key to his future. Whether in DCF and working through trauma or in the juvenile detention centers, Colin found that the kids and teenagers would open up to him and talk about their feelings. Colin also related to what they were going through as someone who struggled with alcoholism in his younger years. 

“It was interesting to have conversations with them. I tried to show the kids, even those who had committed crimes, to learn from their mistakes and to change their path so they didn’t end up spending a future in jail,” Colin said, “People deserve a second chance. Those kids just want you to talk to them. They’ve been introduced to violence their whole lives. They just want someone to have a conversation with and when you sit down and talk to them, then they respect you on a whole different level.”  

Once Colin realized he wanted to pursue a career in social work, he knew he would return to Anna Maria College, the place that had supported him during some of his toughest times.  

“I really enjoyed my time at Anna Maria, they were really good to me overall and really understanding, especially at a time when I was struggling with alcohol really bad,” Colin said, “The faculty held me accountable and helped me get through and I haven’t had a drink in six years. So, when I wanted to earn my MSW, I turned back to Anna Maria because I know the professors really get to know you, really care, and I felt like I could always get help if I asked.”  

Colin enjoys the interactive nature of the MSW program and the case studies and discussions that the cohort has together. Currently, Colin is completing an internship at Arbour Counseling in Worcester. Prior to joining the MSW program, Colin had worked at Arbour in more of a therapeutic and community support role, but through his internship he is experiencing the outpatient side of therapy and is hopeful that the internship will result in a job with the counseling organization.  

In addition to the faculty at Anna Maria College, Colin credits his mother for inspiring him to help people through social work. “She had a huge impact on me choosing social work as she took in foster children for over 25 years and takes care of the elderly now. She was a single mom, and she was inspirational in how hard she always worked to make sure we were loved, had a comfortable place to sleep, always had food on the table, and presents under the tree during Christmas time. She is definitely my hero!” 

Ultimately, Colin’s goal is to work at a school whether it is a recovery school or public school to help the next generation of kids and teenagers perfect their coping skills and make better life choices. He enjoys one-on-one sessions the most and plans on opening his own private practice to continue giving individualized attention to those who need it.  

“I love social work because you can really see someone progress and improve in real time. You can see someone who has been through a lot of trauma decide not to give up,” Colin explained, “The clients I work with are really tough because they also struggle with poverty and other factors that can interfere with someone’s mental health and recovery. But it’s empowering and it gives me strength to see other people push forward and never give up.” 

To learn more about Anna Maria College’s MSW program visit: