On August 16th, ACE honored 37 Project Comback graduates, the most in a single graduation in the program’s history, at the New York Law School. The ceremony room was filled to capacity and those in attendance learned about the accomplishments of an amazing group of formerly homeless men and women who’ve found full-time employment and are on the road to self-sufficiency.
These graduates worked hard every day sweeping the streets of New York keeping our great city clean and beautiful, while completing Project Comebacks job training and education courses. We appreciate their work ethic and praise their commitment to a better life.
Congratulations to our 37 graduates!
Shawnee is a mother to two, a grandmother to one and is a recovering addict who has been clean the last six moths. She heard about ACE at the American Red Criss and after looking into Project Comeback she joined the program.
Three months later Shawnee is happy to be at ACE. “ACE provides recovering addicts and those previously homeless with stability and teaches them to cope with society without the use of drugs. If gives us an opportunity to catch up on certain skills like taking the GED,” she says, “I love how family oriented and supportive everyone at ACE is. The staff is always there to help and you can talk to them about anything; both personal and private.” Shawnee has been attending job training workshops and is also learning how to use a computer. “The teachers are so helpful and take their time to make sure we learn properly.”
Shawnee’s favorite part about Project Comeback is the cleaning. “I love meeting and being around different people and cultures. They really appreciate what we are doing on the streets and many thank us for the cleaning we do.”
Shawnee hopes to take her love of people further and is looking forward to graduating from Project Comeback and going back to school to get her nursing license. She still plans to stay in touch with ACE via Project Stay.
Junior Committee Fall Soiree
On September 20, 140 young professionals gathered at the Crosby Street Hotel for ACE’s Junior Committee Fall Soiree. The Junior Committee is a group of young professionals who support ACE and its mission to provide job training, work experience and a lifetime support network to the formerly homeless men and women of New York City. The Soiree was hosted by Barbara Duerrer, Tim Morehouse, Adriana De Moura and LuAnn de Lesseps.
Meet Leslie Marcarello, ACE’s Newest Education Coordinator
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you heard about ACE?
“I was working at the Education Department at the New York Public Library where I did a little bit of everything; intakes, organized ESL classes and assisted the Centers for Reading and Writing. I was ready to move on and found out about ACE online.”
So what exactly does the Education Coordinator do?
“I work on the literacy side of Project Comeback so I do intakes and orientations, facilitate English and computer classes and assist with job training activities. I also work one-on-one with some of our clients who read at or below a 6th grade reading level.”
What stood out to you about the Education Coordinator position and what has been your favorite part so far?
“It seemed like the right move to make given my background. My life inspiration is to have a job that has meaning and isn’t just a paycheck. Through this position I’m not only able to help people but since the program is evolving I have the opportunity to come up with new ideas and really make something my own. I enjoy my one-on-one tutoring sessions the most as I have now become personally invested in our clients and want to help them reach their goals.”
On Tuesday, March 6th, ACE Executive Director Jim Martin and Project Stay Coordinator Elizabeth McNierney attended a Homelessness Awareness Symposium at Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School. Students from four different NYC high schools attended and four different organizations (ACE, Rock & Wrap it Up, Picture the Homeless and Masbia) presented the unique work they do to help NYC’s homeless population – everything from advocacy, to food pantries, etc. Jim and Liz facilitated discussions with the students on their perceptions of homelessness, the underlying causes of homelessness, ACE’s unique approach to tackling those underlying causes and how the students can get involved in their own communities in the fight against homelessness.
The power to give is an important one, especially during the holidays. While our clients come from different backgrounds, there is a common theme that arises from a history of homeless: separation from community. Our clients work everyday towards rebuilding their lives and reestablishing themselves within their communities, and ACE makes sure to provide our clients with the power to give during the holidays, which serves as a source of empowerment and encouragement towards their greater goals.
Each year, ACE distributes brand-new children’s winter coats to our clients who have children ages 10 and under. We partner in this endeavor with an organization called Hope on Wheels, and this year we were able to provide winter coats to 36 children of ACE clients. ACE also runs an annual holiday toy drive. This week, we will be distributing bundles of gifts to clients with school-aged children. These gifts often include toys, books, play sets and electronics. In enabling our clients to provide physical necessities and material comforts to their sons and daughters, we are allowing them to actively participate in the holidays and strengthen their ties to their children, and to their communities.
Last week, we celebrated our Project Comeback Graduation. Graduates, their proud friends and family, current program participants, and ACE staff gathered at the Joyce Theater to celebrate. The afternoon was, as always, filled with incredible stories of the men and women who, with ACE’s help, have left homelessness behind.
Kim told the audience about the importance of trust: “Steve said something to me one day when I first started: he said ‘I trust you.’ Trust?! My name and the word ‘trust’ do not go hand in hand. No one had ever trusted me before, and so I thought maybe I’m not such a bad person after all. And it was because of the motivation of the staff that I was able to keep going on.”
Navy veteran Mark spoke of his appreciation of ACE’s opportunities: “I had a rough life coming up, and growing up the way I did, my attitude was very negative. It takes me a while to get along with people, since I’ve never had a lot of trust in my life. I’d like to thank ACE for really being there. There are not a lot of places who would open their doors for me, especially when they start doing criminal background checks. But being a military vet, one thing you know is that failure is not an option. I fall down, I get back up. Maybe when I get up it’s not in the right direction, but there’s where ACE comes in, to give me the right direction. I’d like to thank all the staff for giving me that push.”
Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving with some of the current program participants and graduates of Project Comeback. Local restaurants donated turkeys, stuffing, sweet potatoes and more to create a holiday spread for the entire ACE family.
It was a wonderful opportunity for the community to thank the men and women who work hard to keep our neighborhoods clean, and it was a chance for past graduates of the program to reunite with the ACE staff who helped them get back on their feet.