January 17, 2008

I see ASC as an instrument of opportunity. Our mission of helping many, one by one is expressed in how we treat people when they walk through our doors. And like so many of ASC's clients, I am living testimony to this ideal.

I came to this country 17 years ago from the Republic of Panama, an immigrant seeking the American dream. I faced many challenges, from the language barrier to domestic violence and homelessness. Like many immigrants, I found acculturation painful.

After three years in the U.S., a domestic violence shelter referred me to one of ASC's support groups for women. A short time later, while looking for employment, I heard that ASC was looking for a receptionist. I applied for the position—and got it. I answered the phone in English and Spanish on the job, and studied English as a Second Language at Catholic Charities after work.

Beginning with that job as an ASC receptionist, ASC became an open door to opportunity for me. Every day during that time, someone here would encourage me to go back to school. I was a single mother with two children, working full time. But I saw others in similar situations resuming their education and thought, "If they can do it, I can too."

Fourteen years later, I'm sitting here as ASC's Co-Director of Prevention Services, supervising a department of 20 staff members. I've earned my Master's degree in Social Work, been named a CDC Fellow, and am completing the requirements for my New York State Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling (CASAC) certification. I intend to go on for my Ph.D.

This is what makes ASC so special. We're fiercely dedicated to our clients because many of us, at one point or another, were those clients. ASC walks us through the process to regain control of our lives, achieve stability, and return to the workforce. It's a chain reaction. Now we're on the other side of the table as Social Workers, Health Advocates, or Outreach Workers. We take our mission of helping many, one by one very seriously.

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