Jerrod Ulysse is one of many Community Support Professionals who have transitioned to supporting people directly in their homes at AHRC NYC residences in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. He is amazed at how quickly he became part of the AHRC NYC residential family.
“I’m surprised how I’ve been embraced,” Jerrod said. “I did not expect a group of people that didn’t know me to warm up to me so quickly. I already feel like I’m a part of the residence.”
A Commitment to Providing Essential Services
Jerrod has worked for AHRC NYC’s Day Services for more than three years, seamlessly moving between site-based community habilitation and Without Walls programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan. He was inspired to work with people with developmental disabilities due to a familial connection.
“My aunt, Susie Valcourt, receives services from AHRC,” Jerrod explained. “I wanted to find a way to give back because of her. My wife was asking if I would think about working another job that could help people. In this work, you get to step outside yourself and you get to learn so much about yourself while helping people learn about themselves.”
Jerrod is a professional dancer and artist and often used those skills with the people he supported. When the COVID-19 crisis forced a change, Jerrod still found it important to continue his essential work in direct support at the 72nd Street residence in Bergen Beach.
“I was a little nervous because I didn’t know where I would be placed. Marina Daurman, being the great Program Director that she is, did her best to find a residential opening in Brooklyn, where I live. I told her wanted to do it,” Jerrod said.
Jerrod has found a groove now after just a few weeks. “We do a little meditation in the morning to let go of their anxieties that they may have gotten through the night,” Jerrod said. “We work out and we stretch.” Jerrod has often improvised to encourage physical activity such as demonstrating how to use the chairs and walls to assist with push-ups. “After exercise, we discuss handwashing, cleaning ourselves, and talk about social distancing and why it’s important. We do art, and after art, we dance and they go to lunch.”
Bringing Joy to Other People
Much of Jerrod’s work is focused on promoting self-care and self-expression, which has never been more important. “I teach stress-relieving painting techniques,” he said. “I used to dance more often with the people I supported, but painting is more accessible. It allows us to release a lot of tension.”
Jerrod’s flawless transition has come as no surprise to Marina. “Jerrod is a talented artist and always shares his gift with people that he supports,” she said. “In this time of crisis, he uses art as a way to comfort and distract people he is working with. It is also a great way to promote self-expression when words may be hard to find.”
Jerrod’s enthusiasm for going into work even in the toughest of times is palpable and admirable.
“I’m not nervous to come here–they motivate me to want to come, even just to see the expressions on their face when I come in,” Jerrod said. “I just appreciate how much they embrace us even with what’s going on. They double-check with me to make sure I am coming back tomorrow. I can’t even put words together about how happy it makes me to bring joy to other people.”