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HUMAN SERVICES COMMUNITY DAY OFFERS OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF TO SHARE AND LEARN
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (November 16, 2022) — Earlier in November, LaGuardia Community College/CUNY hosted the Human Services Community Day, a gathering for Human Services students, faculty and staff to obtain information about the program, share stories and experiences, and celebrate students’ achievements. • • • •
The event was created 10 years ago as a result of the College’s Common Reading initiative, when it was originally called the Human Service Common Day. Since then, it has become a platform of expression and sharing by those who participate.
“The event has continued to grow as a way to gather with each other in an intentional and focused way,” says Dr. Maureen Doyle, Professor of Health Science. “Everyone responds so positively to it, that we have continued doing it each and every semester.”
This semester Dr. David Whyne, Professor of Health Science, gave a presentation about the nutritional needs of seniors, connecting the Human Services Community Day to the Food Day event, which is a collaborative effort between the Human Services program and other academic programs.
Dr. Juline Koken, Professor in Health Science, says one of the unique aspects of the Human Services program is the amount of professional training students receive in addition to traditional academic curricula. In fact, in LaGuardia’s core Interviewing and Counseling course (HSS 216) students receive 24 hours of training in motivational interviewing, a style of communication used across human services agencies as well as in healthcare and other fields.
As part of their participation in the interviewing and counseling class, all students earn a micro-credential (a certificate of training completion) in motivational interviewing, “a skill very much in demand in employment settings,” says Dr. Koken. “Most students would not receive comparable training until graduate school, if even there. Training like this is rare for a community college. Our program not only prepares students academically for four-year colleges and beyond, we also prepare them for professional employment through their coursework, required internship, and mentoring.”
During the Human Services Community Day some students shared their unique stories on how they persevered and decided to make LaGuardia their choice to obtain their degree.
Keyara Handy, a Human Services and Mental Health major from Queens, says she chose to attend LaGuardia upon her sister’s recommendation. Keyara hopes to become a social worker and says she has enjoyed her learning experience so far.
“My experience at LaGuardia has been great,” says Keyara, who is also enrolled in the Accelerated Study in Associate Program (ASAP). “I’m learning about the field I wanted to be in, and the professors have been very supportive.”
Florence Bukhari, is a Human Services major originally from Central Florida. She chose LaGuardia after her friend shared the positive experience she had at LaGuardia as a non-traditional student.
“I decided to check it out for myself,” Florence said. “I was nervous about going back to school, but everyone (faculty and staff) has been so helpful.”
Reasons to students decide to major in Human Services vary, but Dr. Carr says many LaGuardia students are drawn to Human Services because, “they’ve loved someone who struggled with mental health, with addiction, with neurodivergence, or with aging and they’ve been inspired to find ways to become the support that people facing those challenges deserve,” she says. “It’s because they’ve experienced challenges that they were inspired to help others – so those challenges are integral to their stories and their successes. Especially to the story of their motivation to persevere and graduate with their Human Services degree.”
Such was the case with Adolfo Roman, a Human Services major from Queens. Adolfo has been navigating his educational path at LaGuardia after experiencing personal struggles with drug addiction and getting in trouble with the law.
At the age of 16, Adolfo was held on Rikers Island in the Juvenile Facility known as C74. It was there that Adolfo learned about LaGuardia Community College.
“As juveniles in Rikers, it is mandatory that those under the age of 18 had to attend class while in the prison,” Adolfo said. “There was a group of professors from LaGuardia who used to come three times a week and prepare those who were serious about taking the GED exam. There were also mentors who came from the college to talk to us and encouraged us to consider college as the next step after we were released.”
Adolfo earned his GED in prison in August 2000. After that, he enrolled at LaGuardia while his mother was preparing to graduate from LaGuardia with an Associate of Arts in Accounting.
“My mother was another reason why I decided to pursue a degree and attend LaGuardia,” Adolfo said. “Plus, I love LaGuardia! It’s so New York and this college prepares you to work with all cultures and educational etiquette to be more proficient in what we do (to serve the community.”
Pauline Mcleish-Blake, who is a Human Service and Mental Health major, is originally from Jamaica West Indies. She also experienced many personal struggles in her life that motivated her to seek a degree at LaGuardia Community College.
“I was sixteen-year-old when I became a single mother without an education,” Pauline said. “I got pregnant at the age of fifteen and had my first daughter immediately after my sixteenth birthday. I felt my dreams of becoming an English teacher were shattered, because there was no hope for me to go back to school.”
Pauline never gave up. While in Jamaica, Pauline continued to seek a better life for her and her daughter. Pauline received help from her grandparents, whom she was living with, and helped watched her daughter while she went to work as a live-in domestic helper, cleaning houses washing clothes and, take care of other children. Pauline immigrated to the United States in 1994, and began working as a housekeeper. She then decided to take a nursing assistance course and was later hired to work in a hospital in Queens. Pauline earned her high school diploma in 2016. She is now married and has two boys.
Community service is important to LaGuardia students, and many have found ways to make their mark in the neighborhoods and communities they serve.
“The way I currently serve my neighborhood is by voting,” says Keyara, who plans to transfer to a four-year college and is deciding between Hunter College or York College. “I think it’s extremely important to vote because it is a moment to have your voice be heard. And don’t vote only during presidential elections, local elections are also important because they impact your neighborhoods and community.”
“I help homeless individuals who have housing vouchers find affordable housing in the city,” says Florence, who plans to attend the CUNY School of Professional Services in January 2023. “The process can be overwhelming and time consuming. I do my best to provide support by making appointments, attending open houses, and helping them with all the paperwork and collecting the correct documents.”
Celebrating 8 years of sobriety, Adolfo says he has found community service to be a great outlet to staying engaged and healthy.
“I do community service by staying sober and doing something with my life and sharing my story,” says Adolfo, who plans to transfer to Hunter College. “I'm living proof. Helping the community is so crucial in my life because it all starts by doing something positive in our neighborhoods.”
Pauline says her experience as a LaGuardia student continues to motivate her to serve her community.
“I have been working in a hospital as a Patient Care Associate in my community for the past 25 years,” she said. “I love serving the community. I believe it is important to serve the community where they live or work. It feels rewarding.”
The Human Services program offers more than a rigorous academic experience. Dr. Doyle says the goal of LaGuardia professors has been “to be a welcoming place where ideas are explored, knowledge is shared and created, and skills are practiced and refined. All of this for the purpose of contributing to NYC helping professions. Our students hopefully leave LaGuardia feeling more confident and capable as they move on to pursuing their professional and academic dreams.”
LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.