Juztino (Juice-Tee-Kno) Panella, Counselor/Instructor at Chabot College, does much more than his title would suggest. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, he also serves as a member of the Mental Health Force and provides Mental Health Counseling and crisis intervention as needed. In addition, Juztino is involved with the coordination and leadership development of our Peer Advisors, serves as the Counseling Lead to the First Year Experience program, and is a member of the Student Equity Workgroup.
Andrea Salazar, a student who has worked with Juztino, commented, “I have taken a class with him which allowed me to be comfortable in expressing and communicating with peers, it also helped with reflecting my own life. He is also the main trainer for Peer Advisors, so I am constantly learning new ways to be a better advisor especially in empathetic skills.”
Before starting at Chabot, Juztino spent his early adult life teaching the Italian language, music, and cooking to High School students, as well as organizing travel immersions to his ancestral country of Italy.
“My great-grandfather was a traveling Vigianese musician from the South of Italy, who came to the U.S. with his harp to see if he could make a living. Music, traveling, and sharing love through the food we prepare has always been central to my family. This is why you may see me playing drums with students at an event or carrying a toaster oven into a class to make some traditional bruschetta for students. Gotta keep true to my roots!” Says Juztino.
As a young man, in addition to making a living as the Italian Pied Piper (as his friends jokingly called him – given his primary instrument is the flute), Juztino would volunteer as a meditation and yoga instructor in different jails, and also facilitated groups to formerly incarcerated individuals as part of their recovery process. In fact, it was his work in the jail that inspired Juztino to earn his masters in Counseling and Psychology, which he received in 2009 with the intention to have more skills to deal with the trauma that group members would bring forth.
Two years after his graduation and well into his work interning as a psychotherapist, Juztino heard about an opportunity to play the flute at the Loss & Grief Ceremony that was happening at Chabot College. At the event, he met the Coordinator of Mental Health who happened to be looking for a Mental Health Intern.
Juztino was working on completing the 3000 clinical hours that are needed for licensure and jumped at the opportunity. In 2012 he was hired as an Intern. Shortly after he became a part-time Counselor, and by late 2014, he was hired in his full-time role of Counselor/Instructor.
When interviewed Juztino commented the projects most dear to his heart are the work he does co-facilitating the Rootz2Rise Men’s Group and the Justice Arts Collective with Tommy Reed, Chabot’s UMOJA Director.
“It is such an honor to be able to work with a colleague like Tommy, who shows up with so much heart and love for students. Together we create safe spaces where they can be real with one another, support each other emotionally, and support one another with things like basic needs and access to resources. Then as a by-product of these relationships and their feeling of connection to Chabot, the students naturally do better. They can envision how school will empower them with the tools necessary for their success!” Said Juztino.
Julian Garcia, a Rootz2Rise member, commented, “I learned about myself and life since I joined Rootz2Rise. Juztino has been like a guide who shows you the way but at the same time lets you explore your own walk of life. There was this whole side to humanity I didn’t notice until I started looking and Juztino really brings it out in the way he talks to people, confronts conflicts and has helped me in the men’s group and outside of it.”
Rootz2Rise is a men’s support group founded in 2012 and co-facilitated by Juztino and Tommy. At the meetings, students are encouraged to “check – in” or talk about exactly what and how they are feeling.
As men, we grow up with the idea of bottling up emotions because it is not manly to be in tune with your emotions. Tearing down the barrier of masculinity, Rootz2Rise enables students to effectively communicate in all aspects of life. Each meeting is confidential, so students can share whatever they like. Each session ends with everyone putting a hand in the center and saying a word or phrase that captures the session for them.
“R2R has provided a safe space for me to reflect on myself as well as other issues without feeling judged about being vulnerable.” Joan Cortes, student.
This support group is an open group that invites self-identified males to come any Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in room 552. In addition to weekly meetings, students can also participate in occasional outings and retreats such as the Mendocino Multi-Cultural Mentoring Retreat.
Aside from the real talk, the men at Mendocino engage in activities such as poetry writing, drumming, dance, and storytelling. It was through a rap cypher at Mendocino in 2015 that the award-winning Justice Arts Collective was born. Juztino, Tommy and the Chabot students that year created beats that turned into an hour-long freestyle rap in which dozens of youth were able to express their pain, joy, and resilience in freestyles that received love and recognition from the whole camp.
The music was so healthy for everyone that they decided to bring it back to Chabot to recreate this sort of possibility. In addition, women joined into the process, and together with the R2R men, they began making beats, raps, and songs and within a year had formed the JAC.
Then in Spring of 2017, they recorded a music video of their first song, “From Mt. Tamalpais to Fruitvale Station.” It won first place at My Hero Film Festival in Los Angeles last Spring, was a finalist in the Oakland International Film Festival and is currently being shown in Whales, England at the Cardiff Film Festival.
As written in the credits of their video, “The JAC creates and performs music to express pain and resilience, reveal and challenge systems of oppression, and build a community to protect and celebrate life.”
Taufa Setefano, President of Nessian’s Unite and JAC member, commented, “JAC has influenced me to be not only conscious of what’s going on in the world but also makes me question my involvement in this fight for peace, equality, and justice.”
Another JAC member Joan Cortes, expressed, “The best lesson that the JAC taught me was to think beyond myself.”
With a non-hierarchical structure, decisions are made within a circle with all members input. All members outreach and propose opportunities. You may have seen the JAC perform or lead a workshop at the Stop Violence rallies, Oscar Grant Memorial, Ethnic Studies Summit, UMOJA Conference, Chabot Transfer Day Celebration, JAC Open Mic Night, Sanctuary Celebration, UMOJA Family Day, College Day for Faculty and Staff or at the My Hero Film Festival. Their last performance was on Saturday, May 19, at UC Davis’ Black Family Day.
If you are interested in becoming involved as Juztino says, “Benvenuti, all are welcome.” Just stop by the Student Initiative Center any Thursday between 5 and 8 to come jam and hang out, or get on the mic!