AHRC New York City is proud to be part of the coalition that officially launched Project SHINE—the Sexual Health Innovation Network for Equitable Education with Youth with Intellectual Disabilities—on March 29, 2021. AHRC New York City, along with six other community-based organizations, aims to close long-standing gaps in equitable access to sexual health for youth with intellectual disabilities.

A key component of the work is ensuring people with disabilities have a seat at the table and a voice in the work. An advisory board was created and is comprised of self-advocates, staff and family members who will guide the project to create innovative, inclusive and equitable sexual education curriculum for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We are honored that two AHRC New York City staff members were vetted and selected to serve on the Project SHINE Advisory Board: Tanika Marshall, Community Support Supervisor for Employment and Business Services, and Jason Conover, PEIR Program Manager for Family and Clinical Services.

Tanika Marshall, MSW

Tanika Marshall strongly believes that all people have inherent sexual rights that must be affirmed and respected. Unfortunately, bias persists against people with I/DD, contributing to the lack of sexual agency, and appropriate and accessible sex education. Being a part of Project SHINE affords her the opportunity to not only raise awareness of this issue, but actively work with a group of like-minded individuals to foster change.

“For too long, people with disabilities have been left out or treated as a footnote in the larger conversation of sexuality and reproductive health,” said Tanika. “I cannot explain how excited I am to be an active participant in a group geared toward creating more comprehensive and accessible curricula. Being a part of this project means that instead of simply griping to my colleagues, I am taking that action step and channeling my frustration into something that helps change the narratives around sexuality and sexual autonomy among the I/DD population. Having been part of this project for a few months now, I have already expanded my knowledge base as it relates to current issues and future possibilities. I’m always fascinated by the topics presented and the differences in perspectives from those who work in the field, their families, and people with disabilities themselves. I look forward to continuing this work and seeing proof of its impact in the (hopefully near) future.”

Jason Conover, LCAT, CASAC, RDT/BCT

Jason Conover is excited to be a part of Project SHINE because it’s important to have accurate, up to date information for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities about sexuality and sexual health.

“Project SHINE is my first experience being part of an advisory board and I really enjoy engaging with and working alongside such a diverse group of individuals,” said Jason. “It is a pleasure to serve on a board whose mission is to ensure that individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities receive access to quality, up to date and accurate information about matters related to sexuality and sexual health. I am currently running a sex and sexuality group as part of my prevention work and I hope to bring new ideas to the group as a result of my work with the board and Project SHINE.”

About the Team

In addition to our incredible board members, AHRC New York City’s Julia Shapovalova, Quality Improvement Officer, serves as project lead along with additional expertise from Sarah Baier, Associate Vice President of Performance Improvement and Innovation, and Mary Donahue, Vice President of Behavioral Support. Further support comes from the Quality Improvement team and Behavioral Intervention Specialists in both assessing curriculum and facilitating research focus groups.

AHRC New York City looks forward to providing continued updates on its exciting involvement with Project SHINE.

Read the official Project SHINE press release.

Interested in learning more or getting involved with Project SHINE? Visit the official Project SHINE website for more information.