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

Latricia’s Comeback Story – You Helped Latricia Find the Rainbow After the Storm

Latricia participating in a custodial maintenance training

Latricia grew up as an only child and from an early age her family noticed her gift for helping others. By the age of nine, Latricia was volunteering to spend her free evenings and weekends caring for her sick aunt. “I just liked helping older people,” she remembers. Latricia made it well known to her family that she would grow up to become a nurse.

By junior high school, Latricia was also a star athlete, excelling as the point guard on the basketball team, in track and field, and cheerleading for the football team. She was her family’s joy and no one could have predicted the devastation and trials that were just ahead.

“Why did THAT happen to me?”

Latricia at Graduation

When Latricia was 12 years old, her family moved from North Carolina to Newark, New Jersey. It was there that, at the age of 13, Latricia was sexually assaulted by a distant relative. “Immediately everything was different,” she recalls. Her passion for helping others turned into constant anxiety. She stopped playing basketball, running track, and cheerleading. Within a year of the assault, Latricia began experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. A young teen, incapacitated by her trauma, she spent countless sleepless nights asking the question, “Why did THAT happen to me?”

“I was at my bottom. So many demons. I just wanted to stop, so I went to get treatment and things started to turn around.”

At 16, Latricia dropped out of school and the next 30 years of her life were heavily influenced by substance use. During those times, there were joys, like the birth of her daughters, but there was always great instability.  At times she had a job and at other times she didn’t. At times she had a place to stay and at times she was homeless.

For the sake of her family, Latricia finally decided to take a stand and face her past. “September 8th, 2015,” Latricia remembers, “I was at my bottom. So many demons. I just wanted to stop, so I went to get treatment and things started to turn around.” In her treatment program, she heard about ACE and felt moved to sign up.

“At ACE, I learned how to use the computer.”

Latricia with a bright smile at an ACE event

“At ACE, I learned how to use the computer” she recalls, “how to interview, how to have enough patience to go out and clean New York City streets.  ACE helps a person that’s down on their luck and doesn’t know which direction they’re going.”

Latricia spent four months building her experience in ACE’s initial program, Project Comeback. She attended classes, worked on sanitation crews, and met with ACE job developers to find employment leads. She began going on interviews and in July 2016 she landed a job as a housekeeper at a hotel in New Jersey. A week after becoming employed, Latricia used the money she saved from ACE’s work experience training to move into her own apartment.

Most important of all, Latricia is now restoring the bonds with her daughters and mother that were strained during her years of instability. “My kids are grown now,” she says. “I just had a grandbaby. At ACE, I kept a smile on my face because I knew that if I stuck with it, something good was going to happen. There’s going to be a rainbow after the storm.

Elbert Copeland, ACE Quality Control Officer – In The News

Elbert Copeland, ACE Crew Supervisor

If you see Elbert Copeland out wearing a red uniform, he’s probably inspecting the streets to make sure they’ve been cleaned.

Copeland is a supervisor for ACE Programs for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization that trains and employs homeless New Yorkers.

He started out in the field sweeping and cleaning the streets, then the organization hired him to do “quality control.” “I just go around and make sure everything is nice, tidy and clean,” he said, “make sure there’s no complaints and everybody’s happy.”

Copeland said he was “down in the trenches” prior to getting in touch with ACE’s program.
“It put me back on the right track and gave me a new outlook,” he said. “It gave me a completely different way of thinking and train of thought.”

In the three years since he’s worked with ACE, Copeland considers himself a more compassionate person. His favorite part of the job is that he gets to see all of the different communities in New York City.

“Queens by far is the most complicated only because you can walk down one block and be somewhere else totally,” he said. “It’s a little confusing, but I’ll get it.”
Copeland, who now lives in Richmond Hill, said businesses often come out to thank him and his team for their work. Once residents and business owners see them a few times, they recognize their service.

“When you get one little thank you, it moves you on,” he said. “It keeps you going.
“We really try to do our best to change people’s lives,” he added. “You have to have something different you’re aiming for.”

When asked how long he plans to work for ACE, Copeland chuckled and said, “Until the day of my demise.”

Raymond’s Comeback Story – I Just Know I’m a Loving Person

Raymond, 54, has been employed for 9 months and in his own apartment for 3.

At the age of 29, while serving a prison sentence, Raymond realized he was suffering from decades old trauma. From the time he can remember up until 11 years of age, Raymond lived in an extremely hostile environment, and only years later did he realize the effect it had had on him. His younger brother’s father had abused their mother regularly, in front of Raymond.

“My brothers were young,” he remembers. “They didn’t have to see my mom get violently harmed. It really played a part on me. I wasn’t very effective in school and I didn’t know what to do. When I look back. I remember I was preoccupied with finding a way to help my mother—to protect and save her. When I explain to certain people the actual details of the violence that went on and how consistent it was, they are astonished.”

 “I was preoccupied with finding a way to help my mother—to protect and save her.”

Despite the traumatic environment, Raymond was a dutiful and loving older brother. His mother worked a morning and evening shift and in between the shifts she would come home to tell Raymond what he needed to do to take care of his brothers. He fed and bathed them and cleaned the house on a daily basis, all before he was even nine years old.

Into his teenage years, despite a positive relationship with his brothers, the trauma had placed a distance between him and his mother. “I would rather be on the streets than be home,” Raymond recalls. “I had no dreams. I had no hope. I was hurting constantly, I was just hurting and hurting and I didn’t know how to say it, or if I did say it, it didn’t seem that anyone cared.”

In his 30’s and 40’s Raymond had a son and a daughter, whom he loves dearly, but he still was having major struggles and setbacks, bouncing between housing and homelessness and coming in and out of jail for extended periods of time. Despite what the world told him, Raymond clung to his belief that he was a loving person. “I had acquired this long criminal history,” he remembers, “and judges and district attorneys and lawyers are saying, ‘He’s a menace to society.’ And I’m saying to myself, I’m nowhere near what you’re saying I am, but I can’t make anyone see. I just know I’m a kind and loving, affectionate person, but my experiences that I’ve been forced to be a part of have played a major part on my demeanor and my rearing. I had to survive.”

“I’m saying to myself, I’m nowhere near what you’re saying I am, but I can’t make anyone see.”

Raymond in his work uniform.

In January 2016, at the age of 54, Raymond came to ACE from a substance use treatment program. He recognized a number of personal barriers were holding him back. “I wasn’t confident about having much success with my criminal history,” he recalls. “I’m not very computer literate. I had fallen off with my education, my reading and math.”

With a full schedule of classes and work experience training, Raymond redoubled his commitment to achieving his goals. Raymond says, “I had to clean the streets. I wasn’t particularly crazy about it, but I cleaned the streets and I did a job like I would do in my home. It gave me something to look forward to financially and I was able to give my daughter and my son a few dollars every week.”

Through ACE’s community internship program, Raymond balanced a maintenance internship at a local church with his schedule of classes. The staff there was so impressed with his work and attitude that in July 2016, after 6 months in ACE’s initial program, they offered him a full-time position. Just three months after accepting the job, Raymond had saved enough money to move into his own apartment. “I’m content with what I’m doing right now,” he says. It’s keeping me emotionally alive, keeping me spiritually alive, it’s keeping me mentally alive. I’m happy right now. “

Raymond details his journey At ACE’s Graduation Ceremony.

Raymond has now been employed for nine months and in his own apartment for six months. He has a great relationship with his 20 year-old son and is back in his 10 year old daughter’s life, rebuilding bonds. He counts himself fortunate and is incredibly thankful to everyone who helped him get here by supporting ACE.

“I thank God for you and for this organization”

“I was in the cell and I was praying to God, if I could just walk down the block again. And here it is, not even a year later and I have my own apartment. I have a job and am back in mainstream society. I wonder if you truly know what you have done. I thank God for you and I thank God for this organization.”