Team Stories

How Head Start Helped a Migrant Family

Corona Head Start Senior Program Director Yolanda Vega with Johana and her two children, a migrant family.

A long-time Child Center employee reflects.

By Yolanda Vega, LMSW
Senior Program Director, Head Start Corona

Corona Head Start Senior Program Director Yolanda Vega with Johana and her two children, a migrant family.

Blog author Yolanda Vega (far right) with Johana (center) and her two children

This is a story about a family who traveled on foot from South America to the United States.

Johana and her partner, José, had their first child in Venezuela. When their first child was one, Johana and José made the decision to leave the country, as economic and political turmoil made it increasingly more difficult to get by. The family then settled in Peru for six years where they welcomed their second child. In 2022, the family made the difficult decision to leave Peru, facing economic hardship and challenges accessing critical services and resources because they were not recognized as citizens; only their baby, who was born on Peruvian soil, was considered a citizen. Traveling by foot through Mesoamerica and Mexico with two small children, Johana and José were determined to make it to the U.S. to provide the best future possible for their family.

I met the family in the fall of 2023, shortly after they had finally made it to the United States. I made a recruitment outreach visit with my co-worker Aaron McIntyre, Corona Head Start’s family service coordinator, to the homeless shelter where the family lives. It is customary for us to conduct these outreach efforts to let families in the community know of our program. On the day Aaron and I met Johana and her young son Misael, I was immediately struck by Johana’s enthusiasm for our program. She wanted to give her child the opportunity to learn how to read and write, as she never learned these skills and knew how hard life was without them. She wanted better for her son and worried that she couldn’t teach him. Aaron and I quickly shifted our attention to speaking with mom rather than showing her pamphlets and forms. We talked, and Johana listened attentively. She was so happy to learn that her son would be eligible, and about all he would learn at Head Start, including, though not limited to, academic readiness, so that he could begin his educational journey at the same level as his peers, and her own lack of knowledge would not hold him back.

Many of our migrant families have made the trip north through very dangerous circumstances, especially when walking through the “frontera,” or the divide between two countries, which many times is filled with gangs and other perilous circumstances. This family, sadly, was no exception. They were robbed in two countries. One time, the robbers pulled out machetes and stated they would slaughter them if they did not give up their cash. Though they had little money with them, who can argue with a machete against their throat?

The family’s journey through eight countries took them through Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and, finally, Mexico, where they surrendered to U.S. immigration officials and, eventually, got on a bus to New York for a 36-hour ride to the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, where all migrants are taken upon their arrival to New York. After they completed the process for entering a shelter, the family was given a room with a kitchen and their own bathroom. When the family got to their room, Johana got on the floor to thank God for finally having a bed for her family to sleep on.

After the family had been living at the Manhattan shelter for a year, the NYC Department of Homeless Services moved them to a shelter in Corona, Queens, which is how my team and I came to meet them and enroll Misael in our Corona Head Start program, where he has been thriving.

After assessing Misael’s development in various areas, as we always do with students, our Head Start team worked with Johana to get Misael evaluated through the New York State Department of Education (DOE) Committee for Pre-School Special Education for a suspected speech delay. As Johana awaits word about Misael’s placement for speech therapy (which we can provide on-site through a collaboration with the DOE), Misael is flourishing in the classroom. The class’s language immersion has helped him tremendously. He is able to state his wants and needs to his teachers, which he hadn’t been able to do previously. As a result of being understood, he is much calmer and ready to learn.

The Child Center takes a holistic approach to serving families, and while we care for Misael’s development, we also help the family meet other needs. Both Misael and his brother received backpacks filled with school supplies that they can use in their shelter room, pajamas, sneakers, books, and coats. Through the collection efforts of several of our teachers, Johana received much-needed shoes, a coat, and other clothing.

Johana is extremely grateful for all of what she has gained from being connected to our program, and she often comes to my office to keep me posted on the jobs she and her husband have taken. Johana has found work in offices, though she doesn’t find openings as often as she would like. Her husband, who is a food delivery person on an e-bike, is busy working seven days a week. On a recent weekend afternoon while I was in my car waiting for the light to change, I heard my name, “Miss Yolanda,” and as I turned my head to face where the voice was coming from, I saw that it was Misael’s dad, who was waving at me. I blow my horn, and wave “hello.”

It is moments like these, when I run into clients, and they seem so genuinely happy to see me, that confirm why I continue to work for The Child Center of NY. The mission drives right into my heart, and I often think of that professor who said when I wanted to join the Peace Corps, why are you doing this when you are so needed right here where you are! Indeed, I love living and working in the communities I serve as it confirms: The Child Center of NY strengthens children and families with skills, opportunities, and emotional support to build healthy, successful lives.

Yolanda Vega has worked for The Child Center of NY for 22 years, first as a part-time Head Start social worker, followed by promotions to assistant director of early childhood programs and director of one of The Child Center’s Prevention and Family Support programs, and now as the director of our Corona Head Start. 

Team Spotlight: 2024 Russell L. Carson Visionary Award Winner Simeon Pollydore

Listen to Simeon’s thank you speech upon receiving the Russell L. Carson Visionary Award.

Since 2015, the Russell L. Carson Visionary Award has been awarded every year to a Child Center of NY employee who performs above and beyond expectations, initiates creative solutions despite limited resources, and demonstrates entrepreneurship in increasing the accessibility to services and opportunities for children and families. The award recognizes employees who propel The Child Center forward—much like the contributions of Mr. Carson, a steadfast supporter of The Child Center, have advanced our work. Candidates are nominated by their colleagues, and any member of the Child Center team can nominate an employee for the honor.

This year’s award went to Simeon Pollydore, program director of Redfern Cornerstone Community Center.

Cornerstone Community Centers, supported by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development and operated by community-based organizations like The Child Center, are located in public housing developments and offer community members of all ages a place where they can engage in dynamic, enriching activities, including high-quality afterschool programs, so everyone can rise together.

Redfern Cornerstone Community Center epitomizes this concept, and it’s in no small measure because of Simeon’s deep dedication and hands-on leadership. Watch the above video to hear Simeon talk about what the Carson Award means to him, and read on for more about Simeon’s amazing story!

The Child Center of NY: Tell us about the journey that led you to The Child Center.

Simeon Pollydore: My literal journey began in a small town called Buxton in the country of Guyana in South America. I was 18 when I immigrated here. I came with my mother, straight to New York and lived right here in Far Rockaway. We already had some family living here.

My career journey started when I was a child. I always had a strong drawing to children and was doing this work even when I was a child myself! I played with my cousins after school in Guyana, and one of our favorite games was “school.” It was literally an afterschool program! We would come home and play school, and they would push me to be the teacher. I guess I had a natural knack for that, so I would always be the one teaching the class, and they were the students. It was so educational and fun, and we loved learning. Since I was blessed to go to a better school, I got more information than they would. It was a wonderful way I could share with them, and they shared with me what they learned and knew.

What did you study in college that prepared you for this work?

I double majored in dance and theater at Queensborough Community College. A year after graduating from QCC in 2012, I began working at Redfern, which was run by a different organization at the time. I started as an activity specialist for dance, so this position was a perfect melding of my two passions, dance and working with young people. I worked in various positions for the organization that previously ran Redfern before I became Redfern’s program coordinator, which is an assistant director position. That’s the position I held when The Child Center took over the operation of Redfern. I became program director in 2019.

Can you describe for us what you do as Program Director of Redfern Cornerstone Community Center—both big picture and day to day?

Big picture, I help provide quality, life-sustaining programs to the entire community. We serve from twinkles to wrinkles, from 5 years to if you’re 99, 109, we have something for you!

Adults gather at Redfern Cornerstone Community Center for a Sit and Paint event.

A Sit and Paint event at Redfern (see below)

Day to day, it’s about quality programming for elementary, middle, and high school participants during the week and teens and adults on evenings and weekends. We also have a senior program where older adults  share food, play cards. … It’s just the place where seniors come to fellowship and have a really good time!

Parents come in, stakeholders come in, and we partner with other community organizations who bring in workshops. We’ve had turkey giveaways, coat drives for the entire family, GED classes, and fun things, like during the winter holidays we have a sit and paint where participants create artwork. We have Saturday Night Lights, which focuses on our teens and offers sports programming from 5 o’clock to 9 o’clock weekly. A few weeks ago, we went on a trip to Dave and Busters. We’re open six days a week throughout the school year and seven days a week in the summer.

Can you describe a particularly memorable experience as Program Director of Redfern?

One of the most memorable that I still hold onto was in 2020, literally months after I was ordained as director, being able to give children of this community iPads. That was one of the biggest highlights of my career. I’ll never forget that. Through DYCD, we offered YMI [Youth Mentoring Initiative] every year. We had 12 middle school participants. The program focused on mentoring, who they want to be when they’re a little older, and preparing them for high school and life. They also got to do special things like cook and go on trips. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the things we felt a lot of participants did not have was advanced technology in their home. A lot of them were still waiting for Chromebooks from the school. I got the OK to use funding for iPads to give to the participants to continue their schooling and also as a token of the work they’d been doing in YMI because even after the pandemic hit, we were still meeting with them online and they were continuing to do the work. I remember personally when I was their age, I was so into computers, and that helped me because everything we do now is on computers. It’s how we navigate the world. They had never received such a gift like that. They were stunned. The fact that a program was giving them something so exceptional, it was really an abundant blessing for them and made them feel valued.

Simeon poses with two Redfern Cornerstone Community Center YMI participants upon receiving their iPads.

Simeon (center) with YMI participants Samira (left) and Samir (right) upon receiving their iPads

It was also memorable for the staff. Only I knew about it at first, and the higher-ups who had to approve it. But on the day of the event… oh, they were blown away. It’s something we all held onto for a long time in such gratitude. It’s something I still hold so dear and memorable just because of the impact, both personally and professionally.

What would you like to say about your team at Redfern? 

I definitely have to talk about my team because God blessed me with them! I still have three staff members I inherited from my early days. I have an amazing team, both people I inherited and those I found on my own … people who really want to do the work and care so much about the children and people in general. There’s Keith, our evening/weekend program coordinator, who is so invested in the well-being of our teens. Hunter, who works with middle schoolers, created an amazing vision board activity with them recently, and does workouts with K-2 participants. Shakia, who is now our office manager, started out as an arts specialist; she still does art and decorates the center so beautifully. Shakia worked diligently through the pandemic, even with the introduction of learning labs: For that year, we were this full-fledged school from 8 a.m. to 10:00 at night, Monday to Friday, and 10 to 5 on Saturdays, still serving twinkles to wrinkles, serving food and meals, distributing cleaning supplies and PPE [personal protective equipment], while still helping children, afterschool programming … all possible by my entire team. It took a huge team effort, even the people that are not here with us right now. I’m so thankful and appreciative of the time they spent with us, especially during that time. We are still doing amazing work!

One of our most dedicated staff members, Miss Loretta, passed away in December. She contributed so much to the center and to the lives of everyone who passed through our doors. She is dearly missed and still lives on in those who knew her.

I just count my blessings from God and know how blessed I am to be in a position to serve others and leave my mark on the world and make my corner of the world a better place. I’m very much grateful to God to be chosen as the vessel to do all that I do.

National Social Work Month: Q&A with Gerda Gonzalez, LMSW, School-Based Clinical Coordinator

Gerda Gonzalez, a social worker at the school-based mental health center at Pam American International High School, presents at a CIOB event on self-harm.
Gerda Gonzalez, a social worker at the school-based mental health center at Pam American International High School, presents at a CIOB event on self-harm.

Gerda presenting at the Consortium, Internationals, and NYC Outward Bound (CIOB) Schools counseling meeting last month.

The road Gerda Gonzalez, LMSW, took professionally to become a social worker was not a straight path, but today, she’s confident it led her to the right destination.

Gerda serves as school-based clinical coordinator at Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Queens. She manages the school’s mental health wellness center and also sees clients in therapy.

The Child Center of NY provides school-based mental health (SBMH) services at 11 NYC public schools. In-school counseling programs overcome common barriers to mental health treatment by offering services to young people in the convenient space of their schools. The Child Center’s SBMH programs operate on three levels: mental health educational services to the entire school community, selective services with children who might be at risk, and targeted services in the form of therapy.

Pan American International High School is home to students who have immigrated to the United States within the past four years. As a first-generation American who lived outside the U.S. for part of her childhood, Gerda understands the challenges and traumas young people face when they arrive in a new country with an unfamiliar culture and language. In honor of Social Work Month, we asked Gerda about the role social work plays in easing the transition for these young immigrants so they can develop positive coping strategies and flourish.

The Child Center of NY: You told us you never intended to become a social worker. How did that happen?

 Gerda Gonzalez, LMSW: Both of my parents are immigrants. My mother is from Bolivia, and my father is from Spain. Spanish was the only language spoken in my home growing up. I started first grade here in the U.S., but I grew up for some years in Spain and returned to the U.S. when I was in 10th grade. When it was time to choose a career path, I knew I wanted to help kids that age, so I became an English teacher. I taught ninth and 10th grade English for two years. I realized I didn’t like the teaching aspect as much as I liked interacting with students and supporting them with their emotional needs. A lot of them would come to me and tell me what they were going through, and I didn’t have the skills to support them. That’s when I realized what I wanted to do: become a social worker.

What led you to The Child Center?

I got an internship with Yessenia Rodriguez at The Child Center’s old Elmhurst Clinic. This was in March 2020—right at the beginning of the [COVID-19] pandemic! But mental health services are considered essential, so the work of the clinic never stopped. I worked with families with children ages 0-5. We did a lot of work around providing guidance to parents so they could develop their parenting skills and best support their kids. When I completed the internship, Yessenia was like, I don’t want The Child Center to lose you! She was transitioning to the perinatal program. Since it was new, there weren’t any positions available, but Yessenia alerted me to openings elsewhere at The Child Center. Due to my background as a teacher and first-generation American, I applied for a school-based mental health position at Pan American. That was in January 2021, and I’ve been here ever since!

What kind of mental health issues are you seeing at your school?

The population I work with is mostly students who have been in the U.S. for less than 4 years. I can kind of put myself in their position. Coming to a new country in the middle of high school is a big transition. There is definitely immigration trauma. Students often come from really difficult circumstances, left family behind who they really loved, and are in a completely new environment. All of those pieces create a cluster of trauma. Here, there is an individualistic approach that is unfamiliar to people from Central and South America, where the culture is more about the group, everyone working together, supporting each other. Here it’s more about doing things on your own and what you can accomplish individually. For example, in the countries they come from, you get eggs from your aunt, milk from a neighbor … everyone helps each other out. When families come here, they have to get used to everything being more separate.

Of course, there is also the language issue. All students at Pan American speak Spanish and learn English as they go through high school. I provide therapy in both languages. In therapy, you want to be comfortable, you don’t want language to be a barrier, so usually sessions are in Spanish. But by 12th grade, some students choose to have sessions in English.

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of self-harm. During the pandemic, and now from the effects of the pandemic, there has been a lot of depression and risk of suicide. With time, I’m seeing more anxiety and self-harm. Students often don’t know how to manage their emotions. Self-harm is their coping strategy. It’s easier to think about negative coping strategies than positive ones. It’s quicker, you immediately feel relief, and so you end up resorting to that instead of trying positive methods, which they may not be aware of since they are not as popular in the media and other aspects of their life.

What are some positive coping strategies you help students develop?

Deep breathing exercises, art as a medium, going for a walk, exercising, creating positive self-talk … even writing on a sticker, “You’ve got this today!” can help shape your day and manage your emotions. Journaling is another great strategy. When students feel overwhelmed, I help them create a list—seeing it in writing makes it easier for them to understand how to shape their day—and understand time management.

You recently presented on self-harm at the Consortium, Internationals, and Outward Bound (CIOB) Schools counseling support meeting. Please tell us about it!

The meeting was for social workers and counselors to discuss building a culture of prevention and how to support students who are self-harming. I do presentations here at Pan American—it’s part of the work I do here as lead clinical coordinator. So when Tania Romero, supervisor of social workers at CIOB schools, needed speakers for the event, my colleague Karla Pina, a social worker on the school guidance team, said, “I thought of you immediately!” I said yes because I see so much of it [self-harm].

I think it went well. I was able to present to school social workers and guidance team members from more than 15 different schools in the NYC area, so that was very exciting. It was a great opportunity to talk about self-harm; there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around it. For example, there is a myth that students who self-harm are suicidal, but that’s not always the case. Many don’t want to die; they are self-harming so as not to get to that point. They are more at risk to consider suicide, but they still have hope, which is important to highlight, and to work from.

Can you talk about a particularly memorable or rewarding experience as a social worker?

Of course, there’s Breinny! There is also a student I started working with when he was in 10th grade. He was from Colombia, from a town full of gang violence. When he came here, he had a survival mentality because of what he faced in his home country. His anxiety was very bad; he struggled to sit still and experienced panic attacks. He didn’t care about his classes or studying; he wanted to leave school and start working so he could help his grandma, still in Colombia, financially.

We worked together until he graduated last year. He learned to manage his anxiety very well—I say “manage” because anxiety never goes away, you just learn how to manage it—so that it no longer affected his day-to-day activities. He also started realizing goals he had for himself. He realized he loved photography. I encouraged him to think about what it would look like if he studied, the possibilities that could give him for the future. That helped him with the motivation piece. He was very bright, but he didn’t know how to use his intelligence in a way that benefited him. I connected him to resources at school—one of the wonderful things about Pan American is all the resources to support students!—to help him with his classes. He put in the effort and got his grades up. I encouraged him to apply to college. One of the schools he was interested in was FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology], for fashion photography. It seemed like a great fit. He got in, and he’s at FIT right now!

That is wonderful! It really speaks to the rewards of social work. As we all know, there are also challenges. What are some of the challenges you have experienced as a social worker?

For me, one of the biggest challenges is wanting to be able to do more and just not being able to, due to time constraints and limited availability. We have a waitlist for students, and it weighs on me. I would love to be able to service them all, but I know that I cannot take on more clients with my current caseload. As a whole, I believe that some of the struggles of being a social worker, in general, center around wanting more resources for your clients than what is available.

Are you glad you became a social worker?

Yes, I’m very glad! Through the work I am doing—even if it is on a micro level—I am making a difference for my clients and their families. As the daughter of immigrants, being able to work with adolescents who recently arrived in the country fills me with purpose and hope that we all are continuing to work toward creating a healthier environment for everyone in New York City. Aside from this, the time I have spent being a social worker also has helped me to reflect on myself and my own identity in a way that I might not have been able to do otherwise—especially as a first generation American.

RTF Clinical Coordinator Youngkwang Moon on Gender-Affirming Care and the Role of Social Workers

 

Clinical Coordinator Young Moon with a client of The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility

Earlier this summer, we shared with you sobering statistics regarding LGBTQ+ youth in America—and how critical it is that we support them, now more than ever. Clinical Coordinator Youngkwang (Young) Moon and the team at The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) in Brooklyn are on the frontlines in this critical endeavor.

The RTF serves young people ages 12-18 who have had multiple psychiatric hospital placements or have been involved with the juvenile justice system. It is the only facility of its kind in the region. We care for youth people have given up on multiple times. They often struggle with significant mental health challenges, trauma, and social determinants of health. Yet they are as full of promise as any young person, as you can see by the personal stories of former residents like Danny and Nyomi.

They also are overwhelmingly LGBTQ+. According to Young, 75 percent of the youth at the RTF identify as LGBTQ+. Sadly, they often lack the support that most young people can take for granted.

But when they come here, they find a support system waiting for them. In the Q&A below, Young describes in eloquent and moving terms what that means for the youth here, and why he believes social workers play a pivotal role in moving society toward a truly inclusive and caring society. Young will be leaving The Child Center at the end of this month, and we are deeply grateful to him for strengthening the RTF in ways that will benefit our youth now and in the future.

The Child Center of NY: You are clearly very passionate about social work. What inspired you to become a social worker?

 Young Moon, LMSW: Growing up, I loved the idea of helping people and providing a big impact for the community. People around me talked about joining the medical field as a way to do that. But I had an interest in the community as a whole, society as a whole. Going to school, learning more about social problems, I felt that social worker is a unique role, really addressing those issues and making an impact socially. Social workers support individuals and the community so that overall, as a society, we can improve. I really like that aspect. A lot of issues are not possible to address with medical care alone. We can medicate everyone only so much, but that’s not going to give youth the skills and tools they need to do well in the community. That’s what we need to do instead of always going to hospitals and having psychiatric stays.

As I worked in the field, I saw how important social work is for everyone. Social workers are in a unique position to have a big impact on our society as a whole. I identify with how social workers think, and I felt like I could do my part for the world as a social worker more than anything else.

Can you describe what it means to be clinical coordinator at the RTF?

The way I like to break it down is in three ways. First, the individual aspect; I work directly with clients and their families, providing therapy. The second portion is what we call mezza level: case management, connecting clients with government agencies and services in the community, and generally making sure everyone is working together to support the kids. The third level is using my social worker lens to ensure the facility is operating well therapeutically, and our team has the tools to really support our youth here.

Speaking of the team at the RTF, you speak very highly of the medical team. It seems like they have used every tool at their disposal, including their innovation and passion, to support LGBTQ+ youth in meaningful ways. Can you tell us more about that?

The medical team, led by Hannah Rush [Director of RTF Medical Services], really pushed for gender-affirming care. They saw the need for it and made it happen. One very significant thing they did was establish a partnership with Callen-Lorde, a medical provider that specializes in LGBTQ medical care and information. Callen-Lorde brings their medical van to the RTF monthly and answers our LGBTQ clients’ questions, including questions regarding hormonal therapy so they can get some education on it. I had one client who wanted to get hormonal therapy, and we didn’t have the structure for that at the time. But we are building the processes and structure so any youth in the future can get gender-affirming care, which includes affirming their gender identity, using their appropriate pronouns and preferred names, providing items that can be affirming such as chest binders, and referring clients to support systems and groups upon discharge. The medical team is doing a great job spearheading those processes for the kids. It is inspiring that they saw the need and really made a difference.

Why is it so important to offer LGBTQ+ youth this kind of care?

It can be very closely tied to their self-esteem. They experience parents, friends, other people who are supposed to be in their corner, denying who they feel they are. That really takes a toll on their mental health. They struggle with that. These kids deserve a safe space to feel like there are people who see who they are as a person. Even though we’re not their family, we care for them. It’s important they have that support, a place on their mental health journey where they can feel comfortable speaking about who they are as a person and where we provide as much support as we can so they can thrive and improve their mental health.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work at the RTF?

There is a lot that affected me. Seeing a kid who met their treatment goal and went into the community successfully. When I follow up, and they’re doing well, managed to go to school … hearing the struggles as well, but they’re really trying hard to make it work. I’ll hear from parents how their child has improved, that they’re excited to have them back home.

Even when I have cases where things don’t go the way we wanted them to—even in the hard moments—we know we did everything we can, and we hope eventually they will get there, and they know they can count on us for support. The way I see it, these kids don’t have a lot of people rooting for them. That they are able to form some connections here, and to know that people are rooting for them, even when they’re still figuring things out. … It’s one of those moments when you’re like, this is exactly why I entered the field. The youth here don’t have a lot. To be a part of giving second chances so they may be able to turn their lives around is really something. Society doesn’t give a lot of second chances. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for growth. We give them a place where they can really get that second chance in life and grow to be what they want to be–and know they can be.

Team Spotlight: Abraham Santana, MSW, on Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Youth

Child Center of NY Social Worker Abraham Santana works with LGBTQ+ youth at the Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside, Queens

Abraham, a social worker at The Child Center of NY

The Child Center began in 1953 as a single children’s counseling center, based on ideas that were ahead of their time: that children could need mental health services; that serving whole families is a critical component of serving children; and that serving the larger community is at the crux of it all. Seventy years later, we remain as committed as ever to serving the communities—geographic and social—that need us.

Right now, the LGBTQ+ community needs us. Continue reading

Social Work Month 2023: Why I Am a Social Worker

By Anita Sanehi, LCSW
School-Based Clinical Coordinator

School-based Clinical Coordinator Anita Sanehi (right) with her client Kayla

As an eager teenager majoring in sociology and psychology, I began working as a youth counselor at the afterschool program in J.H.S 185.

Every stage of life has its own importance, and even though I was still a young adult, I believed in the powerful impact of childhood. Schools have a great opportunity to be a safe haven and steady support for many students. Sometimes students spend more time at school than with their families. Continue reading

Team Spotlight: Q&A with Linet Peña, Assistant Program Director, Flushing YABC

Linet Pena, LTW coordinator at Flushing YABC (Young Adult Borough Center)

Linet Pena, LTW coordinator at Flushing YABC (Young Adult Borough Center)Linet Peña’s official title is Assistant Program Director/Learning to Work (LTW) Coordinator. But that doesn’t even begin to convey the enormity of Linet’s undertakings, the intensity of her responsibilities, and the impact she makes, every single day.

Linet is what’s known as a primary contact at a transfer high school, Flushing Young Adult Borough Center (YABC), a school for over-age and under-credited students who are at risk of dropping out or previously had done so. A primary contact is a caring and qualified individual whom students can count on for guidance and support.

We say at The Child Center that it’s never too early or too late to change the trajectory of a life. That saying is true only because of people like Linet. Read this Q&A with Linet to find out how she does it and why. Continue reading


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