The Borough of Manhattan Community College website says that the major of Human Services “attracts well-organized people with excellent communication skills and a desire to improve the lives of others.” For Fidelia Telfort, the description could not be more fitting.

When I graduated from high school I wanted to work in this field,” she said during a break between her classes. “There was a job fair at BMCC where a rep from AHRC was there and she told me about the agency. I attended one of the Home Care open houses on a Friday after that.”

Beginning over a year-and-a-half ago, Fidelia joined AHRC NYC as a Community Habilitation Counselor. In this position, she is responsible for improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities in their own homes. This can include anything from helping to prepare meals, to assisting with academics, to teaching important skills to increase independence.

I have many cases with both children and adults,” Fidelia explained. “I’m teaching them basic life skills. Some are non-verbal, and I have to communicate with them through signs or by writing.”

Connecting to People without Language

Fidelia described in detail one instance where the use of alternative communication came in handy. “I work with one person who is almost totally non-verbal-when she wants to go out. She just says ‘Out.’ When I got there one day she was very upset. Her family knew she wanted to go out but she couldn’t express why.” Fidelia encouraged the young woman to express herself in a different way. “She drew a picture of peanuts. So we went out to the store and got some, and she was so happy when she came back!

Learning from Each Other

Fidelia, who immigrated to New York from Haiti six years ago, has found that her work can often be mutually beneficial to herself, as well as to the person receiving services. “A lot of times they teach me things I don’t know,” she said. “When I’m helping one person with his homework, I say words with my accent and he corrects me on the right way to say them.”

Perhaps Fidelia’s most admirable trait is her time-management, balancing the rigors of school with a steady work schedule. “I take four classes per semester, and I don’t work on Mondays and Thursdays. I have to keep that balance. I must have time to study and to go to work.

Despite her busy schedule she manages to be to work on time with nearly no cancellations and performs her work duties flawless showing no fatigue,” Tyshaun McCallum, Field Supervisor, said. “She is loved by all of the families and individuals she works with. Ms. Telfort is a great employee and I enjoy the pleasure of working with her.”

Going forward, Fidelia wants to further her education and plans to remain in this industry. “I want to stay and work more in this field, and my goal is to get a [Masters in Social Work]. I want to go from one level to the next.”