The Go-To Girl – Tenisha’s Comeback in Her Own Words

Tenisha graduated from ACE’s initial program in September of 2016 and has been employed for over a year

My name is Tenisha Sanders. I am a mother of three and a grandmother of three.

In my early years, I was a social butterfly. I spent a lot of time mixed up with the wrong people, places and things. The things those people were involved in, I thought would never affect me. But I was wrong.

On May 28th, 2010, I was walking to the cardiologist with my youngest daughter, when I was surrounded by six vehicles. The police jumped out and they said my name. They told me to put my hands behind my back and that I was under arrest.

I will never forget the look on my 11-month old daughter’s face. She just didn’t know what was going on. Her first birthday party was planned for the next day. It never happened. Those decisions cost me five years and six days of my life. From May 28th, 2010 until June 3rd, 2015 I was incarcerated.

“I will never forget the look on my 11-month old daughter’s face.”

Tenisha gives a speech at graduation

During the time I was away, I worked every day from 8:45 A.M. to 12:45 P.M. for 16 cents an hour. My only support was my family. My mother at this time was battling brain cancer, but she still remembered what was important to me, my birthday, special things I like to eat.

I lost so much. Material things you can get back 10 fold, but while I was incarcerated, I lost my mother to brain cancer. I lost my grandmother to liver disease. I wasn’t able to tell them I’m sorry and say my goodbyes. During this time, I also had to endure the foster care battle for my baby daughter.

After my release, I entered the city shelter system, and my case manager told me about ACE. I came to ACE in October 2015, five months after my release. At ACE, you receive educational classes, certifications, job search assistance, and hands-on work experience to get you used to being back in the workforce.

“I worked everyday from 8:45 A.M. to 12:45 P.M. for 16 cents an hour.” 

I started out and learned the ACE sanitation routes. It wasn’t really that hard, it was just a matter of motivating yourself. I got my work routine in order. People around the neighborhood started telling me ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ and I felt appreciated, it motivated me more. My supervisor, Steve, had me train people on the routes. It just felt good that he trusted me to show people what to do. Between my peers and the staff, it was like family.

Tenisha stops by the ACE Center for Workforce Development to inspire ACE participants

ACE set up an opportunity for me to be part of a 13-week internship program with a company called UNIFORM, where I had the experience of steaming, packing and shipping orders.

At the end of the internship, my boss at UNIFORM gave me a special t-shirt, which represented women dealing with domestic violence. The t-shirt says, “Today I am brave” and that spoke to me.

Today, I am brave.

During and after the internship, I continued classes and job searching at ACE, and I’m proud to say, On June 28th, 2016, I found employment at a hostel in New York City.

“Let me tell you something, as long as I have the strength in me to do it, and I am able to do it, I am going to do it.”

I started as a housekeeper and, in February 2017, I was promoted to Supervisor of Maintenance. I do everything at my job. I fix showers, I fix sinks, I fix doors and I clean. It’s not for everybody. My co-workers call me “the go-to girl”. Let me tell you something, as long as I have the strength in me to do it, and I am able to do it, I am going to do it.

Recently, I was talking to my oldest son. He told me, “Big baby”—he calls me Big Baby—he said, “I’m proud of you. You came home and in less than ten months, you got your own place and a job, and you are getting your baby girl back.”

Today, I’ve got my own one bedroom apartment, a full-time job, and a wonderful relationship with my children. I love it. I love my life.

It takes hard-work, dedication and courage to overcome the extreme circumstances that Tenisha faced. Partners like you make the entire journey to independence possible. As our city faces a crisis of homelessness, please help these men and women achieve their goals of economic self-sufficiency by making a tax-deductible contribution today.

ACE Graduate Herbert Gives Testimony at NYC City Council Hearing

On September 20th, Herbert Hodge testified at the NYC Council Committee on Education’s hearing on Adult Education and Literacy programs. Herbert came to ACE in 2015 and took part in ACE’s Project Comeback, which includes Adult Education and Literacy as a main component of its curriculum. Mr. Hodge has been employed full-time since July 2015 and was recently promoted to a supervisor position with ACE’s contract services team.

The Committee hearing aimed to learn more about the programs that provide Adult Education and Literacy in New York City. ACE does not receive any public or city funding for it’s Adult Education and Literacy program. Successes like Mr. Hodge’s are possible because of partners like you. Join us in our mission to empower New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.




NBC 4 New York – ACE’s Sept. 2017 Graduation Ceremony

On Thursday, September 28th, over 150 supporters gathered for ACE’s Fall Graduation Ceremony at the ACE Center for Workforce Development, and honored the incredible men and women who have overcome homelessness and secured full-time employment. After months of classes, industry-specific trainings, and in-the-field work-experience, ACE’s 45 most recent graduates are now employed in full-time positions across sectors. At Graduation, these individuals inspired us by sharing some of their hardships and triumphs in their personal journey, and offered guidance to ACE’s current participants who are preparing themselves to become employed.


The graduates have now moved on from ACE’s initial program, Project Comeback, and are active in our employment after-care program, Project Stay. In Project Stay, we help our clients retain employment and increase their earning capacity. We commend each graduate for all that they’ve accomplished as they achieve their goals of economic self-sufficiency, and thank each ACE supporter for the contribution they have made to every success.

Video courtesy of NBC 4 New York

Amy’s Comeback Story – Amy Overcomes Homelessness and Abuse to Start Her Family

ACE participants in the new Richard D. Kaplan ICT Career Lab

Amy is a smiling young woman in her mid twenties. If you ask her, she’ll tell you her childhood wasn’t that difficult. The details, though, tell a different story. Amy was raised by her grandmother and her aunt in Bronx, NY. “I grew up in a bad neighborhood, “ she remembers. “A lot of killings, a lot of drug activity. I saw a lot of craziness.”

When Amy was in high school her grandmother became ill. With her mother and father gone, and her aunt working long hours to support the family, Amy took on the responsibility of caring for her grandmother. “I didn’t want to see her suffer so much,” Amy recalls. “She always asked me to stay home and help her.” Amy started missing school on a daily basis to care for her grandmother. Eventually, this led to Amy dropping out of school to provide full-time care, at the age of 17.

One year later, in 2008, after a long struggle, Amy’s grandmother passed away. Amy was devastated by the loss. “My grandmother raised me. It’s still hard to think about that.”

“I didn’t want to see her suffer so much.” 

Inside the classroom at new headquarters, ACE Center for Workforce Development

In the years that followed Amy helped her aunt at home, caring for her young nephew. Her aunt had been financially supporting the family for Amy’s entire life. Amy wanted to start working and contributing financially, so in her early twenties she went back to school to get her GED. Unfortunately, she would not finish the program. Her aunt informed her that she was moving out of the Bronx and could no longer afford to house Amy. Without a job or a place to live, Amy checked into a homeless shelter.

“My grandmother raised me. It’s still hard to think about that.”

After several months in the shelter system, Amy’s case manager referred her to ACE. She immediately signed up and started making the most of everything that ACE had to offer. “I got real credentials from ACE, like my OSHA,” she says. “They helped me with my resume and coached me on my interviewing.” ACE also helped Amy through all the steps to renew her security guard license.

At the same time as things were looking up at ACE, Amy became romantically involved with a man who seemed to be kind and caring. He had a stable home, where he lived with his mother. A few months passed and they made the decision that Amy would move out of the shelter and into his apartment.

Amy maintained her progress at ACE,  gaining work experience sweeping streets and continuing in classes and trainings. After 3 months she started going on interviews and after four months she received good news: she had been hired as a security agent. “It felt great to get hired and earn a paycheck. My aunt was really happy.”

“It felt great to get hired and earn a paycheck.” 

ACE crew member keeping the streets of Long Island City clean

About the same time as being hired, Amy got life changing news. She found out she was pregnant. “I was scared to tell my family,” she recalls. “I thought they would be upset, but they were happy for me.”

This news, however, came at a time when her relationship was in a bad place. Tragically, over the course of their year-long relationship, her partner’s kind demeanor had changed. At first, she had noticed him becoming more and more aggressive, and then he became fully physically and verbally abusive.

“He was hitting me and cursing at me. He was so controlling, saying ‘I can throw you out anytime and you will be back on the streets.’ I was scared. He had thrown me down the stairs. Kicked me in the stomach. It was the most difficult time of my life.” Knowing the environment was too unsafe now that she was pregnant, Amy got out of the relationship.

With nowhere to go, Amy had to find time during the work day to make appointments to get her housing in order. She found a room to rent, but her job let her go because of the work she missed while searching.

Despite the setback, she refused to give up. Taking advantage of ACE’s lifelong support services, Amy met with ACE staff for follow up support, job search resources, interview attire donations, and even toy donations for her unborn child. Less than a month later, she found a full-time job in a new security position.

“I was scared to tell my family, I thought they would be upset, but they were happy for me.” 

After six months of exemplary work, Amy was granted maternity leave and had a healthy baby boy. “He loves people,” she says, “he is always laughing and smiling when he is meeting people. I still have my security job and I am raising this little one.”

Amy has now been employed consistently for over a year. “For those in the program now,” she says, “I know it’s difficult. Keep moving forward and keep going for your dreams. To the donors and friends that contributed to provide her with the opportunities at ACE, she says, “Thank you. Without you, ACE would not be possible. My biggest goal now is to go back to school, to become a nurse or aid, and show my son that his mom is dedicated to doing great things.”

It takes hard-work, dedication and courage to overcome the extreme circumstances that Amy faced. Partners like you make the entire journey to independence possible. As our city faces a crisis of homelessness, please help these men and women achieve their goals of economic self-sufficiency by making a tax-deductible contribution today.

NY1 Report – Not-for-Profit Helping Homeless Individuals Gets a New Home in LIC

This computer class is hard at work, while taking steps to get back to work. The students have overcome hardships to be here. Some used to be homeless; others like Anthony Antoine are in treatment programs.

“What they’ve helped me do here is prepare my resume, dissect it a little. Get it updated,” said Antoine.

The Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless or ACE provides job training programs, work experience as well as counseling and mental health treatment.

“ACE is like a family. It applies to business side of the things but it’s a family thing. And they teach you not to ever give up on life,” said Delvon Sewer, a graduate of the ACE program.

ACE graduate Delvon Sewer now works in Long Island City cleaning the streets. He was once homeless, now he has an apartment and a new lease on life.

“It feels wonderful. I can’t complain, you know, I don’t do it for the paycheck. I just do it to put a smile on people’s faces because they like it,” said Sewer.

ACE recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and moved to a new headquarters in Long Island City. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer provides more than $100,000 in funding for the group, to employ street cleaning workers in his district.

“We’re training; we’re providing jobs, providing income, providing stability and actually working one-on-one with these individuals, who are well on their way,” said Van Bramer, who represents the area.

Organizers say Long Island City is the perfect location for the new headquarters because of nearby employment opportunities and more space for programming.

“People know that they are welcome here and that the space kind of echoes that. Plus it gives us the opportunity to have movie nights and different events for our graduates,” said Elizabeth McNierney, the director of programs for ACE.​

Video and report courtesy of NY1

NY1 Report – Homeless New Yorkers Get Back to Work by Cleaning Jackson Heights Streets

As Robert Perez helps to beautify Jackson Heights, he’s getting a chance at a clean slate.

“Before I came to this program, I was a mess. Legal problems, I was homeless. I had really no hope,” said Perez.

Perez is referring to the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless or ACE. It’s a work experience program designed to give homeless people a new lease on life.

Perez says getting paid to clean the streets helped raise his self-esteem.

“I didn’t care before, now you know I want to do something good. I’m an older guy, you know they say it’s never too late, but it gets to be a little too late. But they’re giving me hope,” said Perez.

It goes beyond just employment. ACE also offers job training and certifications.

“Things they’re going to add to their tool box, their employment toolbox it’s going to make it easier for them to transfer from this job street sweeping, to something higher paying and a little more competitive,” said Jim Martin, the executive director of ACE.

State Senator Jose Peralta gave ACE a $75,000 grant Friday. It’ll be used to hire two workers, to clean the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue between 82nd Street and 90th Street. Peralta calls it a win-win for the workers restarting their lives, as well as the community.

“It improves not only first impressions of visitors that come here in this area, that are many that come and eat at our ethnic restaurants but at the same time, it helps those individuals who live here and make them feel proud to see that our streets are clean,” said Peralta, who represents the area.

That’s pride Perez can certainly relate to. He says he’s become more aware of what littering does to a neighborhood.

“I’m a proud New Yorker and I want the city to be clean. It looks a lot better,” said Perez.

And Perez says, thanks to ACE, his future looks a lot better too.​

Video and report courtesy of NY1