AHRC New York City’s Advance and Earn Program is making connections on Staten Island to better serve people aged 18-24 looking for work and education.

The Advance and Earn Program, part of AHRC New York City’s Employment and Business Services, hosted a gathering to connect with nearby Staten Island organizations as well as recognize colleagues for their commitment to supporting workers with disabilities. The program, funded by New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development, (DYCD,) supports New Yorkers aged 18-24 with two options: pre-high school equivalency (HSE) instruction and preparation, and a track towards becoming a direct care worker certified by the National Association of Direct Support Professionals for those with a high school diploma or HSE.

Arsen Babayan, Employment and Community Supports Coordinator, speaks with a Staten Island community member.

Arsen Babayan, Employment and Community Supports Coordinator, speaks with a Staten Island community member.

There is now a major workforce crisis in the field of supporting people with I/DD,” said Steve Towler, Vice President of Programs and Business Development. “We were having challenges with hiring pre-pandemic as well.” AHRC NYC saw an opportunity when DYCD put out a request for proposals for a program that could serve young people on Staten Island looking for employment.

We’ve been able to bring more people into the field and to have a career path for young people with I/DD and find a new way to become employed,” Steve said.  “We need partners on Staten Island and in other parts of New York City to help us achieve these goals.”

EBS-Staten Island encouraged like-minded organizations to work with them. Attending the event that day included Staten Island Center for Independent Living, United Activities Unlimited, Arches Program, BlueCross BlueShield and Youth Pathways.

Together we can do more, together we can do better,” Steve said. “We are 100% committed to making Staten Island a better place.”

How Advance and Earn Changes Lives

The community partners heard directly from a young person whose life was changed after receiving the appropriate support. Evan Baker said he discovered Advance and Earn at the right time in his life.

Before I found this program, I was struggling badly. Not only did the pandemic limit the things I needed to get done but there were other challenges in my life,” Evan explained. “I came across an unexpected ad on Craigslist for Advance and Earn and it was exactly what I was looking for. The next day I got a phone call from Arsen Babayan [Employment and Community Supports Coordinator at EBS-Staten Island]. That phone call was the most important experience of my life.”

Evan Brown, an Advance and Earn program member, is now interning at 25 Victory Blvd.

Evan Brown, Advance and Earn program member, now interning at 25 Victory Blvd.

Evan said that he had trouble in school. “I explained that I had struggled with math and certain academics and that was the reason I had challenges.” He joined Advance and Earn with the goal of gaining his HSE. It was exactly what he had been waiting for.

It was a very different experience than I was in high school—everybody was so on point when it came to helping me,” Evan explained. “I’m so proud of myself  for things I’ve been to accomplish so far.”

Evan is now interning at Employment and Business Services-Staten Island’s 25 Victory Boulevard facility, learning critical work skills such as customer service and organization. He says he gained more than just the internship and an academic program.

The program was almost like a family through that experience I’ve made a great friend here. I’ve also gotten the chance to work with great managers. This is such a great program. I’ve seen people come to this and help themselves out, including myself.