AHRC New York City


Comics and Community


On December 16, 2015 a group of 24 pairs of artists, filmmakers, website designers, and researchers from Pace University and AHRC New York City came together to showcase collaborative projects from their semester of service learning. Yuliya Khripunkova, of AHRC New York City’s Community Inclusion Initiative, noted that although AHRC New York City has partnered with Pace students  since 2007, “Every semester is unique. The presentations are a wonderful time for people to shine.

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This year, Yuliya and her team have been particularly excited to see one partnership that has continued beyond the semester. Joel Augusto, who attends Mayflower Day Habilitation Center and also receives MSC and clinical services from AHRC New York City, began a typical semester-long service learning partnership with his partner, Christian, last September.  For their project, Joel and Christian created a comic book, Super Dragon Z, which has been printed and distributed to Joel’s friends, family and support staff.  “Christian and I help each other and work as a team,” Joel said.  The pair felt their project was such a success that they decided they wanted to teach other people how to make comic books, and they have already taught a class at Pace. Yuliya noted that the Community Inclusion team has been thrilled to see that Joel is incorporating his new-found skill into the rest of his life, and hopes that others will follow Joel’s path in future service learning semesters.

Joel loves teaching comic book making because he truly believes anyone can do it. “It takes a lot of time to learn, but if you mess up at first, it’s okay,” he observed. Yolanda Padilla, a Community Support Professional at Mayflower, said that Joel already had the skills to draw the comics, but that Christian taught him how to use iPad technology to format his drawings into comic book form. Yolanda was beaming as she talked about how wonderful the experience has been for him. “He always dreamed of doing comic book magazines. It was one of his goals. He was always excited about going to Pace, and for the entire four months of the project, never missed a session or allowed himself to be late,” she said. Joel and Christian have taught one class at Pace on comic book making since the semester ended, and they have plans to teach another one in the coming month.  Joel also has plans to make a sequel to his first comic book, titled Super Dragon Z 2, which he hopes will be printed in color. Until then, he is planning to start selling copies of his first book, and thinks it could also serve as a coloring book for children. For Joel, the service learning experience opened up a whole world of opportunity and growth, and everyone around him has noticed. “I worked so hard. My family is proud of me,” Joel said, smiling.

AHRC NYC Artists Featured at Pace University Exhibition

On Tuesday, December 16, 2015, PACE University hosted an art exhibition event titled, The Art of Appreciation, which featured creative expression through stories from Cory Tyler, Steven Hoelderich, and Darren Smith. This special exhibition was assembled with the help of PACE student, Ashley Spencer who helped to curate the work of the three artists. The exhibition included the curated work, artist bios, and a question and answer session that allowed attendees to engage with the artists.

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I draw the first thing that comes to mind” says Darren Smith, who receives supports through AHRC New York City’s Brooklyn-based TBI program.  “[I like] having people appreciate my set saying, ‘that looks great.’” Darren uses a pencil to sketch his creations, completing his work using crayons, colored pencils, markers, and paint.


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Darren with his family, and presenting his work


Cory Tyler displayed his prehistoric three piece painting, Anaconda, Island Turtle, and an intricately painted chair. This semester Cory created a book titled Terry the Turtle, which is based on his interest in nature. Cory’s character, Terry learns about the world around her as she meets new creatures throughout her adventures.  Cory enjoys participating in a weekly art group, as part of the supports he receives through AHRC NYC’s Howie Stone Adult Day Center in the Bronx.


Cory speaks about his book and with his dad

Cory speaks about his book and with his dad

Artist Steven Hoelderich’s photographic collection, Cultural Canopies of Queens, features a variety of storefronts and awnings around his home borough of Queens. “I started photography since I was a little kid, since 1976, and the rest is history,” he said. This semester he created a video project to document his photography. “My favorite family activity is photography,” he shared. “I like old school film because you can control the functions you want. I can also continue what my grandfather taught me.”


The exhibit provided opportunities for attendees to provide feedback and to show support for the artwork and of the artists.

Melissa Riggio/Hostos Students Complete Inaugural Semester

Looking back on your first semester of college, were you nervous, scared, or excited? Six students reflected on their first semester experience as a new student at Hostos Community College in the Bronx as part of AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program. At the start of the semester, Javaris Haynes, Jessica Gonzalez, Krysten Lopez, Geraldine Roche, David Olenick, and Kieamisha Fowler were asked to write down their fears and place them in a time capsule to review when they graduate in 2017. Upon completion of their first semester they had many exciting experiences to share.

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Javaris is proud to have a Hostos I.D. card because he feels included in the campus life. “I can use my I.D. to borrow books or movies from the library and also to work out in the gym,” Javaris says “This semester I took freshman seminar and I learned a lot about personal relationships.” Javaris is putting together a job portfolio to help him when applying for a career.

Javaris and Mike Ortega, Higher Education Support Professional

Javaris and Mike Ortega, Higher Education Support Professional

David is studying criminal justice, “I joined the criminal justice club where we watched the Central Park Five film. They brought in one of the men who was wrongfully accused to speak with us,” David says. “We got to interview him and I learned what it was like for him to be falsely accused, but he expressed how he got over it.

Each student had an end of semester project to complete; Jessica’s project included things she is interested in such as writing, reading, and studying. “I wrote about Martin Luther King Jr., homelessness, and a project about domestic violence,” Jessica says “I learned that in domestic violence [cases] those who were abused were often driven to shelters.”

Janelle Younger and Amado Marte, Mentors

Janelle Younger and Amado Marte, Mentors

The campus offers a variety of activities and clubs that students participated in. Krysten took a Zumba class and is interested in painting and drawing. “Next semester I would like to find an art club or a place to display the art I have created,” she says. Krysten’s end of semester project was learning about people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Geraldine auditioned for a dance club and took part in a capoeira class. “For some reason I didn’t really like capoeira, but next semester I am excited to take a Spanish class since I can speak it but cannot read Spanish,” she says.

Kieamisha Fowler, Marina Esquelin, Mentor, and Krysten Lopez

Kieamisha Fowler, Marina Esquelin, Mentor, and Krysten Lopez

This semester was just the start of many exciting things to come in the future. Kieameisha’s goal is to work in a day care. “I volunteered for the campus community shows as an usher. My next step is to volunteer and work at the day care on campus,” she says. “I love working with children because I have a son myself.”

The students have some advice for those who are set to begin their first semesters later this month. “To learn how to adjust to the campus and you might be nervous since you don’t know what to expect,” David says. Kieamisha adds, “Don’t push yourself too hard, and adjust by taking it day by day.”

Next semester each student will take one or two classes to get them closer to graduation in 2017. They will collectively work on a newsletter that will be read on campus.

Tech Project Seeks to Foster Independence and Life Skills

Have you ever heard the sentence ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’?

Charles Umaña asks this question to Autumn Hester, a student enrolled in AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at Kingsborough Community College, in an effort to demonstrate a typing exercise. The sentence, Charles explains, uses every letter of the alphabet. “When you have some free time and you want to practice your typing, remember that phrase,” he encourages Autumn. Together, they try out the exercise.

Charles is helping teach Autumn this and numerous other functions on her iPad, which she received as a participant in the Individualized Technologies Strategies-Balanced Incentive Project, (ITS-BIP). “This is a grant-based research project where the primary goal is to correlate technology with independence,” Charles said. “Technology is an important factor in everyday life. We use it on a regular basis, but not all the people we serve have access to it or know how to use it.”


Thirty-two people from across three departments in AHRC New York City, (Adult Day Services, Employment and Business Services, and Residential Services) are taking part in the project. Charles, along with Tenzin Pao Dhashi and Glenna Sasiadek (all of whom are Individualized Technology Strategy Specialists), works with a specific group of people and assists each one of them for an hour per week, providing individualized technological support based on their needs. The ITS-BIP is supervised by Philip Proctor. People needing varying levels of support and many types of assistive technology are involved in the project. For example, Charles said he is working with a person whose main device is the HAPIfork, a utensil designed to assist people with difficulty eating in practicing safe mealtime habits. Among the goals for people in the project are health, academic success, employment, stress management, and community and social skills.  

Autumn’s hopes for her involvement in the project include improving her organizational skills and learning how to use technology to improve her everyday life both in school and outside the classroom. “I want to know how to use the iPad so I don’t have to use so many pages to do schoolwork,” she explained. She is interested in a number of subjects, such as history, marine biology, and especially education, as she wants to become a preschool teacher. She also wants to use the iPad for reading and research, and when asked what feature she is most looking forward to using, she excitedly said “I can take pictures, of course!

Charles said technology has been a huge factor in his success at AHRC New York City and that he is excited to share his knowledge of it with the people he supports. “My goal over time is to get [the people I support] to use tech on their own and to have staff be comfortable with it,” he said. Although the project is still in its early stages, having started in mid-January (and lasting until September), he was able to share a heartwarming story. “One person I’m working with expressed a desire to relearn the piano,” Charles said. He showed him a piano-based app on the iPad. “He began to play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ and I could see the emotion in his face.”

Pace University Announces Bullying Symposium

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