Vanessa Miranda was honest after her first days as a Direct Support Professional. “I told my mom that I wasn’t going to last a month. I definitely didn’t think it wasn’t going to be ten years, at the beginning.”
A decade later, Vanessa is providing exceptional support to residents at Agovino residence in the Bronx. She had some previous experience in a similar field, but her first day at the residence was her introduction to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I had been working as a Home Health Aide before but not as a DSP,” Vanessa said. “But working with them I’ve become so passionate; I want to try hard every day. Their daily living is just not like the rest of the population. They need more of us. It’s more passionate work for me because every day you have to put more into it.”
Her passion is not lost on her colleagues. “Her calm, reassuring approach and her energetic spirit, specifically during unpredictable and trying times (personally and professionally) never wavered,” said Beth Ann Silvestri, an Assistant Director with Residential Services. “No matter the circumstance, she ensured people remained comfortable and well cared for throughout the pandemic. When many of the men and women at Agovino were initially upset that they could not attend the senior center or go to their day programs, she provided alternative programming in-house and was able to ensure that we could meaningfully occupy a person’s day despite being together 24/7. She taught the residents at Agovino about what safety measures to take, which impacted many so that they in turn began wearing masks and feeling more comfortable with them. Even the mask she wore was one with a smile.”
Overcoming Challenges at Work and at Home
Vanessa began working the overnight shift initially due to family considerations but has grown to appreciate her schedule for other reasons. “In the mornings, the residents need us more than ever. We need to assist them with showering, eating, and getting ready for their day. For some people, it might be better to be there on the evening shift, but we feel great doing our jobs in the morning and helping them settle into their morning routine.”
The start of the pandemic brought new challenges for the residents and for staff members such as Vanessa. “At the beginning, it was so hard for us because we have families too. They had to stay here all the time. It was especially hard for me because my mom got sick in Honduras. My heart was there but I always tried my best with the residents. It was very demanding, but they need us. That’s what I signed up for.” Thankfully, her mom made a full recovery.
Vanessa ensured that Agovino’s residents could stay in touch with their loved ones, as well. “We would usually call the family and tell them that their family member would be ok. It was so hard for the families too because they could not come and visit their loved ones,” she explained.
Vanessa is grateful to her loved ones, especially her son, for letting her follow her heart at work. “My son and my family are so understanding. They know this is my passion.” She encourages anyone looking for something new in their life to experience being a DSP.
“I would say to come and try this work. It will fill you with a passion to support them and fill them with everyday life. To hear the residents say thank you, even when they don’t have to, that makes my day.”