August: Human and Social Services
We are honoring ABNY YPs improving NYC through the fields of Human and Social Services.
Congratulations to our August Spotlights of the Month, Jerry Bruno and Dana Rachlin!
My mom is my biggest cheerleader, best friend, chase bank, but all jokes aside, my mom made huge sacrifices so that I can have a chance at a better life. Raising two black boys on her own was not easy. She worked multiple jobs to ensure that my brother and I had all that we needed to be successful. My upbringing informed my work ethic and the lenses in which I see the world. I got to where I am today because I had a strong mother that would push me to be the very best, and who always affirmed my humanity despite what the world will tell me.
I have been working in City government since 2012. I started my journey as a NYC Urban Fellow at the Department of Small Business Services and now I am at the Department of Homeless Services. I am proud to go to work every day on behalf of my fellow New Yorkers. From helping businesses navigate how to contract with government to creating programs that help families transition out of shelter, it is an honor to work in government knowing that I play a role in the lives of some many New Yorkers.
If someone is thinking about the field of human and social services, they should have a deep appreciation of humanity, a radical love to serve, and the humility to be a constant learner.
I realized I was New Yorker: 1) When I turned my Florida driver license at the DMV’s office. It was surreal because all of my family is in Florida and 2) When I visit other places in the world, it makes appreciate how much New York has to offer and how much it is part of my identity.
I grew up in a small neighborhood in Staten Island where exposure to diverse thoughts, cultures and experiences was limited. When I think about where I am today ideologically and professionally I have to credit all of the people and organizations who challenged me and supported me – most of all I have to credit the young people I work with who consistently motivate me and educate me.
I am most proud of starting an organization at the height of “stop and frisk” that challenged members of the NYPD to reimagine their roles in the communities in which they work. NYC Together also sought to have the NYPD re-evaluate how public safety is and should be achieved. We do this by elevating the voices and best qualities of young people most impacted by police interaction and typically most marginalized from participating in these conversations.
I have been hearing more and more that seeking “reform” is thinking too small. What we are doing is reimagining the system completely. The reality is that it is not broken. The system is working exactly as how it was designed—to oppress and marginalize black and brown communities. If we are only going to reform, we are essentially still leaving the same structures in place that contribute to racial and economic inequality. I would advise anyone trying to get into this field to think radically and critically about how to disrupt the system and elevate justice as a value instead of a system.
As a native New Yorker, I realized I was a real New Yorker when I recognized that my NYC experience is not that of everyone and decided to do something about it. Owning the responsibility to make New York more fair and equitable makes me feel like I am living my vision and mission. I regularly ask myself: “If all the great things about NYC can only be accessed by a few individuals then is it really the best city in the world?” I know I need to do my part to dismantle this inequality.