Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sinergia: A Look Back at 2010's Accomplishments

2010 was a year full of change for Sinergia, and before we fully embark into the New Year and start tackling all the challenges it is sure to bring, we’d like to pause for a moment and take stock of some of our accomplishments in the last 12 months. January started out with a flutter of activity because, after much planning and preparation, in early February we finally carried out a major relocation to East Harlem, taking over two floors at 2082 Lexington Avenue. Our sparkling new offices are situated in the heart of a community that is very near and dear to us, and one that is home to a large number of the individuals with disabilities and families we serve. Our new location in El Barrio affords us with better opportunities to connect children and adults with disabilities and their families to community supports. Here we are also well poised to contribute to the capacity building that is bringing many organizations back to East Harlem, including the Hunter College School of Social Work of the City University of New York, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and the Aprendes Foundation, which is planning on opening a Charter High School in the area. We have active collaborations with all of them and expect to expand that in the future.

In April we hosted a ribbon cutting event which opened our offices to the public and included a ceremony acknowledging the contributions of five pioneer Latino women leaders. Later on, during the summer, we immersed ourselves in the Promise Neighborhood movement to bring wraparound services to at risk children with the aim of reducing the achievement gap of students and which calls for solutions to strengthen the East Harlem community that they call home. More than a dozen organizations collaborated with us in this major effort. Unfortunately Sinergia’s was not one of the winning submissions, but our hope is to leverage the connections we initiated to help lift educational barriers in El Barrio. A follow-up community educational forum was held in November to engage parents, educators and key stakeholders in finding solutions to the problems that are besetting Latino youth, who are at the bottom of education and employment indicators. We hope this will be the first of further ongoing discussions.

Sadly with July came news of the sudden passing of our wonderful leader, Dr. Sally Romero (left), who was President of the Board of Directors for the past five years. Her experience and knowledge in the fields of education and social services were a true asset. We will remember Sally with a great deal of affection and extend our gratitude to her family for sharing her with us. Dr. Len Torres took over the helm of the governance structure of Sinergia upon her untimely death, and in September at our annual meeting, three very accomplished new members were added to the board of directors. We presently have fourteen members on our board and are extremely thankful for all they do to advance our mission.

Our collaborations with the PACER Center’s National Family Advocacy Support and Training Program led Sinergia to pilot four of the program curriculums for parents and translate them into Spanish. The sessions were conducted bilingually at the height of one of the worst snow storms of the year in February and despite that were extremely well attended. This past month we also partnered with the Healthy Families University Settlement Society of NY on a proposed project to help improve the outcomes for parents with intellectual disabilities and their infants, toddlers and young children. We are especially pleased about our relationship building with the Association to Benefit Children.

On the technology front, Sinergia was selected as one of eight Parent Training and Education Centers and Community Parent and Resource Centers to be part of the Technology Leadership Initiative funded by the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education (OSEP). This initiative will increase our technology building capacity to serve people with disabilities and their families. We are also making full use of the social networks by disseminating valuable information through an active Facebook page and a blog as well as a monthly eNewsletter which is also translated into Spanish and reproduced in hard copy for those families without computers. And through the generosity of IBM and the PACER Center, Sinergia received 10 Young Explorer Computers (pictured) and software which were distributed to seven early childhood centers in the area.

Our new space has been graced with two beautiful art exhibitions this year: one by noted Puerto Rican artist, Samuel Lind, and the current one by East Harlem artist Clemente Flores (right). We are very grateful to these two accomplished painters for their generosity and willingness to share their visions of Island and El Barrio life with us.

Myrta Cuadra-Lash, Sinergia’s executive director, has been asked to speak on several occasions, including at a forum on culturally competent programs sponsored by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at Fordham University, and at the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities - Women of Excellence event. In addition she was interviewed in July by the Harlem World radio program on Sinergia’s Promise Neighborhood submission.

This year we bid a fond farewell to OPWDD Commissioner Diana Ritter Jones, Assoc. Comm. Kathy Broderick and Dr. Hugh Tarpley, Director of Metro DDSO, and our own Rocio Mendez, an Intake Specialist who is pursuing her acting career with the NJ Shakespeare Theatre. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

Last but not least, our recap of 2010 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of our fun activities, and our annual summer family picnic in Central Park was a lively example of that, with over 250 children and parents attending. Then in December Sinergia held its annual Christmas celebration at Lincoln Center’s Julliard School -- now in its 25th year! The Department of Sanitation of the City of NY (Unit M7, below right) has been our ongoing sponsor, and they helped make this the best one yet. The large space was filled to capacity and overflowing with the joy of children playing, singing and anticipating Santa’s arrival. All the happiness and laughter in the room rejuvenated our commitment to our mission: that of helping children, adults and families to realize meaningful, fully inclusive lives. Sinergia wishes to thank all our funders, particularly the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Ed Programs (OSEP) as well as all our friends, families and staff for their unwavering support.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Personalized Appointment Book Helps Sol Keep Track of Time

Sol G. is an individual with disabilities who has been receiving services from Sinergia for more than 20 years.  Recently, Sol himself and the staff that work with him, had begun to notice that he was having trouble recalling the dates and times of his appointments, and who they were with.  Additionally, Sol, who also works for Sinergia four days a week as an office assistant, was having trouble keeping track of the days he worked and when to expect to be paid. These issues had begun to cause him a great deal of frustration and anxiety and on several occasions he lamented to the staff working with him that he was very unhappy with this turn of events.  Given the anxiety and angst that Sol was demonstrating, we knew that we had to do something that would help to alleviate the stress that he was feeling. Sol’s treatment team met and discussed several options.

Led by Johanna Stieg, LMSW, who is working as a consultant with Sinergia’s UpLiving program, the team devised a communication and appointment book that would help Sol remember tasks, his job schedule and other events in his life. The book is a binder divided into several sections including a To Do list, a communication section for staff and Sol (with staff assistance) to report on various issues, a money management section to help Sol with budgeting and an icon driven weekly calendar. The calendar includes small laminated symbols and pictures of events, people and places that are each backed with a circle of Velcro so that each individual piece can be placed on the hourly grid that corresponds with the time and day that this event occurs. All of the people, places and events portrayed in each laminated icon are regular parts of Sol’s day to day life and their placement on the daily grid makes it much easier for Sol to visualize and grasp his busy schedule. At the beginning of each week the icons are adjusted or replaced by other symbols to indicate recurring or new events for the new week. This allows Sol to graphically review his week by looking at the grid for that particular day. So far, the book has been a great success and both Sol and his staff are enjoying its effectiveness.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Brought Trial and Victory for Sinergia's Day Hab Program

For Sinergia’s Day Habilitation Program, consistency is an important foundation for progress. As we mentioned in an earlier post, the program helps adults with developmental disabilities to expand their social, recreational and vocational skills. Changes in scheduling can be very disruptive to the Day Hab participants but early in 2010 they demonstrated how well they could handle a big transition. That's when Sinergia packed up and moved to a new location in East Harlem, at 2082 Lexington Avenue on 126th Street. After much anticipation and fanfare, Sinergia’s brand new offices were ready on February 1st. On that day and in the months since then, the Day Hab participants have shown that they don’t adapt to new surroundings by trial and error but by trial and victory! They quickly learned new transportation routes and braved new bus rides home. When the new elevator was being repaired, they climbed the stairs or took an alternate elevator. It’s as though every participant was determined to make 2082 Lexington their new home.

Putting their green thumbs to work at the Carver Garden.
While the neighborhood in Harlem is very different than the one at 29th Street, the Day Hab participants have embraced change and used it as a springboard for adventure. Day Hab groups have volunteered at the Carver Garden on East 124th St., growing fresh vegetables and learning how to prepare them. They’ve visited the library and shopped at the brand new mall on 116th St. which houses Manhattan’s first Target store. They've also walked to Yankee Stadium, gone swimming at the local public pools and played basketball and football games at the park on 130th Street.
Go Yankees!

The new location has not been an impediment to continuing past activities like Encore Meals on Wheels or exercising at the YMCA and Riverside Park. Life on Lexington Avenue has continued as usual with fun activities and adventurous new excursions. Some participants volunteered at the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition Shelter, walking homeless dogs and caring for lonely cats. In July, some of them went “Walking with the Dinosaurs” at Madison Square Garden. They've visited exciting places like Rye Playland, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and Coney Island, and also had fun closer to home, barbecuing in a local park and picnicking in the garden.
Riding the Staten Island Ferry
The new spacious conference room on the fourth floor was the perfect place for the first Volunteer Award Ceremony and Spring Art Exhibit, as well as the annual Thanksgiving Lunch on November 24th. Day Hab also observed Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month with informational celebrations, we premiered our first Photography Exhibit, and had a costume party for Halloween. The participants are now looking forward to holiday celebrations in December and the Dinner Dance in January.  With the coming of the New Year, Day Hab will continue taking on new challenges and adventures in stride. It’s what they do!

--Rob, Vianka, and Erin

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spotlight on the We Are Parents Too Program

Parents with developmental disabilities are frequently considered unable to provide adequately for their children, and as a result the youngsters then end up being placed in the foster care system. According to Through the Looking Glass (TLG), a disability nonprofit agency in Berkeley, California, the out-of-home placement rate in foster care for children of parents with intellectual disabilities is 25 to 60%.

In the 1980’s Sinergia pioneered a parent training and education program for parents with developmental disabilities.  It was prompted by our experiences providing community housing and supports for families headed by persons with developmental disabilities who lived with their infants and young children.  The premise was that intensive services, supports and parent training were needed in order to help the mothers and fathers become effective parents and keep their families together. This was the beginning of the “We Are Parents Too” program.   We are very appreciative that through these many years the NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities has supported and funded this program which has helped countless families that traditionally have been invisible and underserved.

The program continues to train and help parents to preserve their families by offering a 10 week series of workshops which focus on appropriate discipline, custody issues, nutrition, domestic violence and housing topics (the pictures in this article were taken during a graduation ceremony for this course). In addition to the informational workshops, the program coordinator also conducts supervised visits with the parent and child, and assists in the reunification process. The parent coaching we offer is unique to Sinergia.

The “We Are Parents Too” has also formalized a parent support group for parents with developmental disabilities. This support group is especially important for the participants who have lost custody of their children, since the separation can often be traumatic, confusing and distressing. The support group helps parents to become self-advocates, gain insight into their own behavior and establish a network. Studies report that 90% of parents with disabilities are socially isolated.  Through the support group parents have an opportunity to meet others that are going through similar experiences.  Parents with developmental disabilities, especially those from low socio economic groups, often feel discriminated and judged when assumptions are made about their parenting abilities. A specially designed peer support group brings hope, increases socialization skills and the sharing of information, resources and advocacy strategies.

Isabel Malavet (pictured left in the background), the coordinator of the program, is a tireless advocate on behalf of participating parents and works with the Agency for Children’s Services, Family Court, the Community Partnership Program in East Harlem and the Parent Advocates for the Child Welfare Organizing Project. For more information contact 212-643-2840.

Monday, December 6, 2010

MNN, CCCADI and Aprendes: Making Their Mark in El Barrio

Three organizations will soon bring much needed services to El Barrio. The Aprendes Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to community engagement and education, strategic partnerships, fundraising and critical interventions for East Harlem and the Bronx. They help organize charter schools and support communities that want to take control of their public education. Aprendes president Tony Lopez (photo left) says they are currently submitting an application for a proposed community grown charter school opening in September 2011.

Founded in 1992, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) offers Manhattan residents the ability to create and submit their own videos for air on four Public Access cable TV stations, potentially reaching 620,000 viewers. MNN offers free training and certification classes in video production, editing and broadcasting to Manhattan residents. According to Zenaida Mendez (photo right), who is in charge of Community Outreach & Media Services, this year they trained 11,000 people, 300 of them youths. Their Youth by Youth Media program trains young people with skills they can use to make money, and she says a control room operator can earn around $60,000 a year.

MNN purchased a firehouse on 104th Street between Lexington & 3rd Avenue, turning a building which had been empty for 18 years from an eyesore to a cutting edge facility with 9000 square feet of open multi purpose space that will help break the digital divide in Spanish Harlem.

The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute started 34 years ago as a research project and has been awarded a firehouse on 125th Street. "We're in the process of phasing in and should be completed by May 2013," says Director Martha Moreno Vega. "It will be a state of the art cultural center for use by the community. We are cultivating various projects, among them "Mi Querido Barrio," and its accompanying cultural tourism and public campaign. As part of that we are training young people on how to lead a non profit organization. Another project is "University Without Walls", for young people to acquire an arts degree online," she added.

Recap of Community Educational Forum

Sinergia was very pleased to host a Community Educational Forum on December 1, 2010 at our Metropolitan Parent Center. Community leaders, parents, and stakeholders interested in advancing the academic, employment and career achievements of young people were invited to share information and discuss possible solutions to deal with the educational inequities that impact the lives of Latino children and youth. In one of the heaviest downpours of the year we had an amazing turnout of about twenty six people.

Although Sinergia did not receive the Promise Neighborhood grant this year, we are committed to pursuing collaborations and strategies that will reduce the overall achievement gap between East Harlem children and youth and those residing in more affluent communities. This forum was just one of our  efforts to engage the community in improving the quality of life of children and youth throughout their life span and advancing efforts for groups to work together to build and strengthen El Barrio. 

Juan Cartagena from the Community Service Society study presented a new of Latino Youth in New York City, which was very propitious to the meeting's agenda. The report, which was recently featured in the New York Times, focuses on youth from 16-24 years in New York City and the trends in school, work and income of this group. The statistics are sobering:

  • Latinos make up the largest portion 33% of the age groups of children (fewer than 16 years of age) and youth (ages 16-24).
  • Puerto Ricans, especially males, are the most disadvantaged youth group in New York City, with rates of school enrollment, educational attainment, and employment lower than any comparable group, including black males.
  • Young Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are the two largest Latino subgroups and have extremely low rates of employment
  • Latino youth live in poor households (those with annual earnings of $18,000 for a family of three) more than any other ethnic group.
  • Puerto Ricans face the greatest challenges of all youth sub-groups, despite the fact that they are overwhelming born in New York City.

Dr. Marta Moreno VegaDr. Martha Moreno Vega, Director of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, stated that the sad truth is that many small to midsized nonprofits have and will be shut down. "The infrastructure that was built is getting decimated and in the absence of action our institutions will continue to erode. We need leadership to give voice to these inequities," she added.

The last agenda item of the meeting was a discussion of next steps to move the conversation along. They include:
  • Developing a different narrative to deal with the new and grim realities affecting our students, families and communities.
  • Broadcasting future community forums through the Manhattan Neighborhood Network.
  • Inviting public and elected officials to the forums.
  • Soliciting greater youth participation from the communities we serve and getting their perspectives.
  • Fostering greater parent engagement in the educational status of young people, and helping them understand the data and outcomes that affect their children's future.
  • Community organizing, community organizing, community organizing!
  • Greater use of internet and social media to share and disseminate information, studies, reports, data.
  • Demanding greater access, accountability and responsibility from media, particularly Spanish media, to expose the truth and tell the stories of children and families.
  • Creating coalitions to salvage small, vulnerable organizations and institutions that face extinction or reductions in vital services to our communities.
  • Expanding voter registration drives.
This Community Education Forum was an exciting and promising start to conversations dedicated to improving the academic performance and achievement of Latino and other minority students. If you would like to join our efforts please email us at information at

During the second part of the meeting we had three organizations who are deeply committed to making significant contributions to East Harlem gave presentations about their relocation plans to the neighborhood. See more below.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sinergia Gathers Community Leaders to Address Achievement Gap in East Harlem

As a follow up to the East Harlem Promise Neighborhood grant submitted on June 2010, Sinergia is putting together a very special meeting and inviting the planning team, which includes schools, partners and supportive organizations that participated in this initiative plus other East Harlem stakeholders who are interested in advancing the state of education and the development of the community.

Although Sinergia did not receive an award this year from the U.S. Department of Education for the aforementioned grant, the non-profit is determined to pursue other avenues that address the educational inequities and the achievement gap that exists between the children of East Harlem and other more affluent communities.

A new study released by the Community Service Society makes this even more imperative. The report analyzes data showing that Latino youth have the lowest school enrollment of any ethnicity, and young Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, the two largest Latino sub-groups, have extremely low rates of employment. Puerto Rican youth, in particular, stand out as having alarmingly high rates of disconnection from school and work. These figures reinforce the need to develop comprehensive and sustained solutions that will address this issue.

In addition, a report by the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy evaluated 672 foundations that gave at least 1 million in grants to education from 2006-200. Only about 11 percent of those grants went to "marginalized communities", defined primarily as children in low-income families and minority children. Just 2% of those funds went to fostering long-term change through advocacy efforts and community building.  This means that the "alarming inequities in educational opportunities" in America remain unaddressed, as the report charges. Since about half of public school funding comes from the local level, students living in poor areas tend to go to schools that are under-funded, and kids in richer areas go to better funded schools. This feeds the persistent achievement gap between low-income and high-income students and minority and white students.

This meeting will be a unique opportunity to construct a collaboration that addresses the student achievement gap and fosters a supportive community that embraces our children and families. During the first hour there will be a discussion about the achievement gap of children in East Harlem and ways we can continue our efforts to establish a Promise Neighborhood in the area. Juan Cartagena from the Community Service Society will speak about their youth report and the status of Latinos.

The second half of the meeting will be a presentation by three organizations: the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Manhattan Neighborhood Network and Hunter College School of Social Work, CUNY (which will be moving to East Harlem). In addition to that, the Avance Charter High School will also present their proposal for a community grown charter school for East Harlem. This will give you an opportunity to meet with their leaders and learn how they will contribute to the community.

What:   East Harlem Educational Community Meeting
When:  Wednesday, December 1, 2010 from 3-6 pm
Where: Sinergia, 2082 Lexington Avenue (between 125-126 St.), 4th floor
RSVP:   212-643-2840

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sinergia's Board President Gets High Honors

On October 15th, 2010, Sinergia Executive Director Myrta Cuadra-Lash and Deputy Executive Director Michael Mitchell traveled to Long Beach, NY to attend the 1st Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Dinner Dance sponsored by the Long Beach Latino Civic Association. Created by concerned members of the community, the Long Beach Latino Civic Association developed this event to honor outstanding local citizens who have made notable contributions to the City of Long Beach.

One of the three honorees was Len Torres, Ph.D (pictured above far right, next to fellow honoree, Rosa Marie Goeller, and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg), who also serves as president of Sinergia’s Board of Directors, and who was selected for the years of public service that he has selflessly dedicated to the people of his hometown. In addition to his years of teaching, working as the Dean of Students at Long Beach High School and serving as an Assistant Principal, Dr. Torres also taught English as a Second Language at Adelphi University and was a Principal and a Superintendent of Schools in Puerto Rico and the Bronx. He has also served on the Long Beach Zoning Board Housing Commission, is the Program Director for the Long Beach Latino Civic Association and is also the first Latino to serve on the City of Long Beach Council.

Sinergia is proud to salute Dr. Torres on his accomplishments and his well deserved acknowledgement on a night that was filled with good food, outstanding music and the company of great friends. Among the celebrants were Harvey Weisenberg, a member of The Assembly of the State of New York (pictured above on the left), and Karen Cerna, also a member of the Sinergia Board of Directors, the Long Beach Latino Civic Association and chairperson of this fabulous event. We feel lucky indeed to have such a well-respected and experienced person as Dr. Len Torres connected to Sinergia and appreciate his efforts on our behalf and for the people with disabilities that we serve.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sinergia's Quilting Tradition Continues

Sinergia has developed a tradition of quilt making by parents who have participated in various programs throughout the years.  The first quilt, pictured above, was made in 1997 by parent groups that assisted in the formation of advocacy groups of parents with children with disabilities in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. A parent, Cynthia Wallace, took the lead in the design and sewing of the quilt. There are 48 patches surrounding a large square denoting the theme, “It Takes A Village”. The parents embroidered poems, messages in Spanish and English, paintings of flowers, the sun, shooting stars, houses, names of their children and parent groups. A poet, Jean Wood, also inscribed one of her poems, From A Sermon, which reflects on the importance of each one of us and how we are interwoven and inextricably linked with each other. Each patch in this original quilt became a shared message of love for one’s children, home and family and the enveloping circle of community. The quilt is displayed  at the Christine Cuadra Conference Room on the 4th floor of Sinergia.

The second quilt (immediately above and below) was started a decade after and was created by  fifteen parents with developmental disabilities who participated in the “We Are Parents Too” program, as well as others attending the Day Habilitation and Residential Programs. Under the guidance of Maria Torres Bird, a staff member who is a quilter, the parents created a colorful quilt that focused on parenthood. The project gave parents an artistic and creative expression, allowing them to relive loving memories with stories and pictures, regardless of whether they have custody of their child(ren) or not.  This has been especially important for those parents who have lost custody since it is an acknowledgment of their parenthood and their hopes of one day achieving reunification. After completion the participating parents will decide where it will be displayed.

We hope that the quilting tradition at Sinergia will continue for many decades to come since it is a visual representation of stories of families, love and community.

You might also want to read our post last year: "We Are Parents Too" quilt project.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enlaces en Español sobre "Bullying"

¿Está su hijo o hija siendo acosado por niños malos? Este comportamiento, conocido por "bullying," es muy dañino y cruel, especialmente para aquellos con incapacidades. Infórmese sobre cómo proteger a su hijos con estos artículos preparados por PACER:

Creencias Comunes Acerca de Bullying
Hable con su Hijo acerca de Bullying
Mantenga un Registro
Notificando a los Administradores de Escuela de las Preocupaciones de Acoso
Utilce el Programa Individual Educativo (Individual Education Program - IEP) del Niño

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day Hab Program Participates in Pet Support

Day Hab Volunteers for Pet Support

Over the summer, art specialist Erin McSorley along with some of our Day Hab participants (pictured above: Maritza C., Terri B., and Edith C.) volunteered to care for animals at the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC Shelter). We had a lot of fun walking the dogs and meeting the cats who are all waiting for loving homes. They even have a chicken! Volunteering at BARC was a great opportunity for us to learn how to care for, socialize with and give affection to animals, since many program participants do not have pets in their own homes. Though it was sad to leave them, we will not forget the new friends we made. BARC is a 501c3 not-for-profit, no-kill, privately run animal shelter located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. To get more information about donating, volunteering, or adopting a pet visit

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spotlight on Sinergia's Day Hab Program

Sinergia's Day Habilitation Program is a five-day-a-week program that develops social, recreational and vocational skills of adults with developmental disabilities. While the program is headquartered out of Sinergia's new main office at 2082 Lexington Ave., many of our activities take place off site in the community. The 40+ individuals in the program range in age from 21 to 64, and we tailor the activities to suit their needs and desires. Monday through Friday you will find participants volunteering for "Meals on Wheels", gardening and harvesting vegetables at a local "pocket garden", bowling, visiting museums, photography, working on job skills, writing resumes, engaging in internships, working on computer skills, working out in our gym, visiting amusement parks, partaking in group discussions about current events, learning how to become better self-advocates, creating artwork and needlepoint, learning how to traverse the New York City public transit system and much more.  Some individuals take part in groups that work on job related skills that have helped them acquire and maintain actual jobs.

Twice a week in the mornings, the Day Habilitation participants offer light breakfast refreshments and coffee in the ever-popular "Café-Café" program. They walk through our offices taking orders and delivering breakfast sandwiches, fruit, juice and, of course, hot coffee. This provides an opportunity for them to increase their social skills and create friendships that go beyond the program itself.

Recently, one of the participants held a weekend party to celebrate his 25th birthday and many of his Day Hab friends attended. They arranged their own travel and purchased presents all by themselves. The family of the young man celebrating his birthday was very touched that so many of his peers could arrange to come on their own on a Saturday to join in the celebration.

For further information on Sinergia's Day Hab Program call Lore Barcelona at 212-643-2840 ext. 318.

Sinergia Delivers 10 Computers to Local Preschools

The IBM KidSmart Program is a joint initiative between the PACER Center and IBM that awards Young Explorer computers to preschools. As a partner, Sinergia identified 10 schools in New York City and delivered the kid-friendly PCs with all the software to the sites this past week.

"We received the unit, unpacked it, set it up and started using it the next day. The kids love it!" --Rita Brito, Child Center of New York

The following preschools received the Young Explorer computers:
  • Association to Benefit Children, 419 E. 86th St., NY, NY 10028
  • Echo Park Early Childhood Center, 1841 Park Ave. NY, NY 10035
  • Bilingual Head Start, 440 East 116th Street NY, NY 10029
  • The Child Center of NY, 60-02 Queens Blvd. Woodside NY 11377
  • Escalera Head Start, 169 West 87th Street NY, NY 10024
  • Falu Foundation, 333 East 118th Street NY, NY 10035
  • LSA Family Health Services, 333 E. 115th Street NY, NY 10029
  • Union Settlement Head Start Assn. 237 E. 104th St. NY, NY 10029
  • Sinergia, Inc., 2082 Lexington Ave, 4th Floor NY, NY 10035
Sinergia's Young Explorer (pictured above) will be used by children whose parents attend the educational workshops or await their case managers, or for other staff. The only problem is keeping the big adults away from them since they are so cute!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Promise Neighborhood Grant Update

We are sad to report that Sinergia was not selected as a recipient of the Promise Neighborhood Grant. Our proposal was to develop a one year planning program that would create solutions that would close the achievement gap of all the children in the East Harlem community, including children with disabilities and English Language Learners. Nevertheless, we wish to express our deepest appreciation to all the organizations that worked together and formed an enthusiastic partnership during the preparation of this important initiative.

Thanks go to the Global Neighborhood Secondary School, Esperanza Preparatory Academy, and Renaissance Charter High School who were our school partners.  I cannot adequately express my admiration for these creative and dedicated principals of these schools who are true leaders.  The other institutions who continuously serve the community and who responded to our call to work together for the children and community were  Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Center, Boriken Neighborhood Health Center, Union Settlement Assoc., Hunter College, Hostos Community College, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Association to Benefit Children and the Committee for Hispanic Children.  

It was a great collaborative effort that has solidified relationships that will work together in the future to help children in East Harlem make educational progress that will enable them to achieve successful outcomes into adulthood and strengthen the community.  Thanks to all, especially the writers of the Sinergia proposal who worked long and hard in the preparation of this grant and all others for their valuable contributions.

We congratulate the recipient of the grant in the New York area, the Abyssinian Development Corp. as well as the other recipients throughout the U.S. We wish them much success and as their plans unfold we hope for a future full of promise for all children.

“There is only one child in the world and the child’s name is All Children.”
--Carl Sandburg

Sinergia Elects New Board Members

Sinergia held its annual meeting and election of members of the Board of Directors and officers on September 16, 2010, and the following are the officers that were elected:
Len Torres, Ed.D.- President
Cecile Vanech - Vice-President
Cecile Vanech - Co-treasurer
Fathima Torres - Co-treasurer
Melissa Toribio-Boughner - Secretary

Sinergia welcomes all members elected to the Board of Directors. We particularly congratulate three members for whom this will be the first year they serve on the Board:

Fathima P. Torres

Founder and President of a grassroots based organization, DONAR, Inc., which is committed to working with the Latino population of Community District 9 and Council District 7 in Manhattan. The core program focuses on adult education and civic engagement. DONAR also provides technical assistance to the Dominican Republic with a focus on special education. Mrs. Torres has served as Director of Public Relations with the Dominican Women’s Caucus and President of the Parents Council for The Oliver Program. She is a member of the National Dominican Women’s Caucus, member of Community Board #9 and is the Finance Chair for the Dominican American National Roundtable, and founder of Northern Manhattan NOW Chapter.

Johnny Rivera
Long time East Harlem activist and Senior Program Director for Mount Sinai Medical Center, formerly Director of the East Harlem District for Congressman Charles B. Rangel. He also worked as Program Director for the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, and was a community organizer for the Community Service Society and the I Have a Dream Foundation. He is a Board member of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, former President of Community Board #4 and he has served on Manhattan Community Board #11.

Yolanda Sanchez
An institution in the Latino community who has spent over thirty years in the development and management of diverse human services. She serves as the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs and is President of the National Latinas Caucus, past president of the East Harlem Council for Human Services and former director of the CUNY Office of Puerto Rican Program Development.  Ms. Sanchez is a former National Urban Fellow and a graduate of Harvard University’s School of Business, and holds an MSW degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work.

Sinergia congratulates Dr. Len Torres, President of the Sinergia Board of Directors. We are proud to announce his selection as honoree of the 2010 Community Leadership Award by the Long Beach Latino Civic Association. Sinergia is appreciative of Len’s leadership and his long time dedication to the education of all children. Please contact 516-889-4912 if you wish to attend the dinner dance in Long Beach, NY on October 15, 2010 when Len will be presented with this highly merited award.

Flu Season Q and A with Sinergia's Nursing Staff Coordinator

As fall gets underway it's that time of the year again when we need to disseminate important information about the Influenza virus, commonly known as the "flu". Last year the H1N1 outbreak caused more illness in young people and pregnant women than usual, and although the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the same virus is expected to circulate again this flu season, along with other seasonal flu viruses.Click  her for more on the current situation.

We asked Sinergia's Nursing Coordinator, Asuncion Muyalde BSN-RN, some basic facts to keep in  mind.

What is Flu? 
As defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is a contagious illness caused by the influenza viruses. It can be mild to severe and at times lead to hospitalization and even death.

When I should get the Influenza vaccine? 
Annual outbreaks of the seasonal flu usually occur during the late fall through early spring. The best time to get the vaccination will be during the month of October and November.

What is the biggest issue for persons with disabilities and their parents?
The dissemination of information is the number one issue – knowing the importance of getting a vaccination and where to get one.
Most people that don’t get flu shots don’t think they need one until the peak of the season when they get sick and sometimes it’s too late.

Where I can get the vaccine? 
Your primary care physician will offer shots. However, children and adults with disabilities often have a certain set schedule to visit their doctor and get follow ups, and they have to wait until there is an appointments available in their area. So in addition, the Department of Health has immunization clinics in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that offer flu shots at no cost, and also many pharmacies offer them for a nominal fee. In New York, check out CVS, Duane Reade and Walgreen's. Last year Sinergia was a recipient of donations from the DOH; not only for our consumers but for those in our staff who needed it. I have forwarded our request to Department of Health to receive free flu shots again this year and am awaiting their response.

Some say getting the vaccine has more health risks than not getting it. Is that true?

Some people have heard that flu shots will harm their child or that there will be bad side effects so they won't take the vaccination. There may be minimal side effects - like a low grade fever - but these are not fatal or deadly. Your doctor will explain that to you and they always do a pre-assessment questionnaire beforehand in case you have allergies or have had a bad reaction in the past.

Who needs to get vaccinated?
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • Younger people at high risk from influenza and its complications, including children 6 through 23 months of age
  • Residents of Long Term Care Facilities
  • People with long-term health problems such as:
    -lung disease
    -anemia, and other blood disorders       
    -metabolic disease such as diabetes
    -heart disease
    -kidney disease
  • People with weakened immune system
  • Household contacts of people at high risk
  • Healthcare workers, and
  • Children younger than 9 years of age getting influenza for the first time
The Nursing Team urges parents and caretakers of the disabled to seek information on getting vaccinations. Any questions please feel free to call us at ext. 361.

For more useful tips and resources visit

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reminder: Deadline for Puerto Rico's New Birth Certificates is Sept. 30

A new law was recently passed that will invalidate all birth certificates issued in Puerto Rico on or before June 30, 2010. It takes effect on September 30, 2010.

This policy was enacted to address the fraudulent use of birth certificates issued in Puerto Rico in order to unlawfully obtain U.S. passports, Social Security benefits and other services. New Yorkers born in Puerto Rico can continue to use their old birth certificates until September 30, 2010.

If you were born in Puerto Rico and use birth certificates as identity documents for program services and other purposes you will need to take action by ordering an updated version of your birth certificate via mail or the Internet.

Additional details can be found in the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration website (also available in Spanish.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sinergia Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with Local Artist Exhibit

To coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month, Sinergia and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute are holding a joint opening reception of "A Nuyorican's Nostalgic Journey," an art exhibit featuring the work of East Harlem artist Clemente Flores.

Flores was born and raised on 112th Street and Madison Avenue and his watercolors depict his childhood experiences growing up in the migrant, urban, mostly Puerto Rican community that was El Barrio in the 1950s. Kites flying from tenement rooftops, an afternoon of dominoes, and rush hour at La Barberia, the local barber shop - Flores has laid a multitude of memories on canvas to depict scenes from his youth.

"We are very pleased to feature a community artist in our exhibit space. There is tremendous talent in El Barrio and we want to do what we can to cultivate creativity," says Ms. Cuadra-Lash, director of Sinergia.

"I am proud that through my eyes and expressions I am able to stimulate interest in my cultural background. I never believed that one day my paintings would help me to be accepted as respected artist in the community, especially in East Harlem where I grew up and still reside," says Flores.

Art Exhibit: "A Nuyorican's Nostalgic Journey"
by Clemente Flores

Date:     Tuesday Sept. 21, 2010

    6:00 - 8:30pm

: 2082 Lexington Avenue, 4th floor (between 125th & 126th Streets; #6 train to 125th Street)

Contact: 212-843-2840, information at

Note: The exhibit "Gateway, An Artistic Response to the Immigration Crisis," presented by Art For Change, will also be open for public viewing on the 1st and 2nd floors on that same date and time.

About the artist:
Clemente Flores was born in 1943 to Puerto Rican immigrant parents and raised in East Harlem, El Barrio, within a family of artists and musicians. A self-taught artist, he began to draw and paint in 1985 where upon he began sketching on sheets of paper and realized his hidden gift for art.

Mr. Flores grew up and came of age on 112th Street and Madison Avenue in the 1950s in what he describes as an adventurous life in a colorful vibrant Puerto Rican community caught between American values and those of his immigrant parents. “It was a period much cherished as the entire neighborhood took care of its children. Especially in the summer time, when you stepped out of your house and were bombarded with so much liveliness. You could hear the shouts of kids playing stick ball, fighting over marble games, or arguing about who could spin the top better on the street pavement. I cherish these moments, because as working class kids, we were very crafty about creating our own games or building wooden scooters and go-carts from baby carriages. Likewise we created our own kites that we flew from rooftops. In the 1950’s you could see what seemed to be hundreds of kites floating in the sky.”

At street corners you could see the older men we used to call ‘jibaros,’ proudly wearing their Guayabera shirts, playing dominos, talking about their beautiful island Puerto Rico, politics, baseball or “La Bolita.’ At the same time, you could see the Doo Wop singers on the street corners, singing at house parties called ‘Sets’ and in the hallways, to enhance their songs with the beautiful echo sounds. It was a fun way to attract girls. You could also hear the sounds of Plena and Bomba players and conga drummers playing Latin rhythms of Afro-Cuban beats.”

“The images of this nostalgic journey are the creative forces that continue to be pervasive in my mind reflecting upon a tender period of my life that I thought I lost forever. But I have a reservoir of memories and I am inspired to express them in my art.”

Clemente Flores’ artwork has been exhibited extensively throughout New York City and Puerto Rico since 1988. His work was the subject of a major retrospective “Clemente Flores, Memories of El Barrio” at Museo del Barrio of New York in 2001. Other exhibits have been hosted at Boricua College, Union Settlement, Cuando Gallery and the Spanish Institute among many others.

Mr. Flores holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology from City College of New York and continued his studies at Fordham University. His work garnered recognition for his diverse talents and community work including an Award of Appreciation from the school of Medicine of Mount Sinai Hospital of New York and a 2009 East Harlem Arts Grant from the Association of Hispanic Arts.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Spotlight on Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center

Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC) is a federally funded Parent Training Information Center (PTIC) whose mission is to empower parents of children with disabilities by providing them with knowledge and skills. Our aim is to provide them with information and training and connect them with specific educational services and opportunities that will enhance their child's quality of life.

In February we relocated to a new facility at 2082 Lexington Avenue, near 125th Street, which is at the crossroads of the communities we serve: East Harlem, Central Harlem and the Bronx. In this new location we provide one-on-one assistance and advocacy to parents experiencing difficulties with their child's education. Our staff is bilingual (English/Spanish) which is important because a large percentage of our consumers have limited or no English language skills.

We help families in low-income areas who are traditionally under-served or unserved. They are often the most disenfranchised and face many barriers to service. With our help they are able to receive information, navigate the system and secure the most appropriate services for their children.

We cover the full range of disabilities from moderately to severely disabled, from birth to 26 years of age. Read about a recent success story we had in getting the best care for one of our consumers.

The MPC Team

Co-Director                        Co-Director
Godfrey Rivera                    Cassandra Archie

Educational Advocates
Lizabeth Pardo                     Yesenia Estrella

Facilitator of Parent Support Group
William Bird Forteza


Meet the Education Advocates

Yesenia Estrella
"Helping others has brought a great deal of satisfaction to my life.Three and a half years ago when I started working at Sinergia as a Service Coordinator, I discovered a world that was completely unfamiliar to me, the world of children with special needs and their families. I quickly decided that I wanted to learn more about special education and started taking training workshops that were offered through our agency. During these trainings I got to know parents by listening to their stories.  I quickly noticed that most of them shared similar challenges and feelings of frustration by having to struggle to constantly obtain adequate services for their children.  My first thought was 'I have to do something to help.'

I tried to learn as much as possible about disabilities and about the skills needed to effectively advocate on behalf of parents and their children.

The Metropolitan Parent Center has given me the opportunity to work with many parents that were having difficulties obtaining a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

When looking for an educational advocate, parents should look for someone who is committed, knowledgeable and who has good negotiation and mediation skills."

Lizabeth Pardo
"Being an advocate allows me to work in the field of education, which I feel very strongly about.  I come from parents with little formal schooling but who placed a lot of importance on an education. As a law student, I studied about the right to an education; I took two independent classes because I believed that by having knowledge, issues of poverty could be overcome.

That was ten years ago, and my experience with my son in public school and my work at Sinergia have deepened my convictions. Although that is the background I bring, it is certainly not at the forefront of my mind when meeting with a family about their child's educational needs.  For people with disabilities, access to an education is a right that must often be fought for. I enjoy the many levels that my work involves when working with families individually, both within the New York City school system, and in collaboration with community organizations."

The Ethics of Advocacy

At Sinergia we practice the role of advocacy with a focus on ethics that ensures the work we do with and on behalf of families and children with disabilities is being delivered with the highest standards. Our advocates must:

    * Ensure the limits of their role are clearly defined
    * Offer honest information and opinions
    * Point out weaknesses and strengths
    * Identify provisions of the law
    * Inform parents of their basic rights
    * Assist parents in obtaining consultation or services from a licensed attorney if necessary
    * Abide by the decision of the parent
    * Use his/her best effort to achieve the goal(s) of the parent
    * Conduct advocacy in a civil and professional manner
    * Maintain confidentiality
    * Work with the family until issues are resolved


What Parents and Professionals Are Saying About the MPC

"From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your time and dedication, advice and work. May God always bless and protect you. With enormous affection..."

"(Sinergia's) work ethics are outstanding. I have never worked with an advocate agency so efficient and competent before, and believe me I have worked with quite a few".

"I always talk to my friends about Sinergia and I recommend it. A friend of mine is also receiving services now and I know she is very happy with the help she is getting."

"Special thanks to Yesenia Estrella. She always helps me. Any time.  She is a wonderful person. Thank you"

Choosing a Special Education Program for Children with Disabilities

When it comes to education for children with disabilities, there's no "one size fits all." Parents need to look along a continuum of programs provided by the New York City Department of Education to see which ones fit the individual needs of their child best. Once the appropriate program has been selected parents must monitor their child's progress so that if they need to they can transfer him or her to one that ensures educational benefit. That way their child is not locked in an inappropriate setting throughout their years in school.

Which program is right for your child is guided by the least restrictive environment mandate which requires that students be educated with typically developing peers to the maximum extent appropriate. This is important because, as our U.S. Congress discovered, education is more effective when the learning environment has higher expectations of its students. 

The programs below are described generally and may be different in your school. The continuum of services listed here are from less restrictive to more restrictive.

From Least to More Restrictive
General Education with SETTS: the student is generally enrolled in their zoned school and attends a general education class. A special education teacher or SETTS provider generally pulls out a student in a small group. The group can be as many as 8 students who share similar academic needs. SETTS services may also be given in the classroom as well. 

Collaborative Team Teaching (or Integrated Co-Teaching): is classroom taught by two classroom teachers, one special education and one general education. Students with IEPs are integrated into a classroom of non-disabled students and taught a curriculum that is at grade level. The number of students with IEPs should be less than half the classroom.

12:1 program in a community school: this is a small class, 12 students, in a community school, typically the students have a learning disability and are without disruptive behavior. There may be as many as many as three grade levels in a classroom. Many schools do not have this program and so accepting this program may mean a change of schools. Community schools should be located close to the family's home. This program is offered only in elementary and middle schools.

12:1:1 program in a community school: This class differs from the 12:1 program in that students require the additional supervision of a classroom paraprofessional. The disability of the students is more varied but academically the students must be functioning within 3 grade levels of one another.

15:1 program in a community school: This is a program similar to the 12:1 program but for high school students.

Specialized School or District 75 programs are city-wide programs that services students with disabilities whose needs cannot be met in a community school. Students may reside anywhere within the City but usually live within the same borough. The programs are 12:1:1, 8:1:1, 6:1:1 and 12:1:4, with smaller classroom servicing students with more educational needs. Most of the programs are for students with developmental disabilities, although there are also programs for students with difficult behavioral management needs. The 6:1:1 programs normally serve students with autism and the 12:1:4 serve students with multiple disabilities.

Programs considered more restrictive are approved non-public schools, day treatment programs, residential placements, and home or hospital instruction.

Here's more information about these and other special education services.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Understanding "Related Services" for Children with Disabilities

Related services are fundamental to meet the educational needs of children with disabilities.  They are developed to offer students with disabilities specialized assistance in areas such as speech and language therapies, physical therapies, occupational therapies, counseling, hearing services, mobility services and health services.  

Typically, personnel from the Department of Education (DOE) provide these services while the child is in school. However, this is not always possible and a lot of students end up receiving the services elsewhere. The most common reason for this is when schools run out of providers. When this happens, the DOE looks into associated or contracted agencies in order to offer the services within the school. If they are not able to find any, parents should receive a Related Services Authorization (RSA) letter, which allows them to find an independent provider paid by the DOE.

Parents should contact the schools as early as possible during the semester to find out if their children are receiving the mandated related services.  They should also know that these services are only mandated if they are written on the child’s Individualized Education Program, or IEP

If a child is missing some or all of his or her related services, parents need to contact the district office and request RSA letters. The DOE also provides transportation reimbursement to and from the therapist office, and some therapists are able to travel to the child's home to provide the services. 

When obtaining RSA letters, parents should also receive the list of independent providers with their contact information. Here's a list of related services providers by borough.

MPC: Real Stories From Real Parents

Transfer to District 75 Stopped Using Mediation

Daniel was an 8th grade student in a 12:1:1 program in a community school when his parents contacted Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC). They needed our help because their son was being recommended for a more restrictive 8:1:1 program in District 75 with a classification of emotional disturbance (ED).  The parents did not know 8:1:1 programs are intended to serve students with autism, but were told that the smaller class would provide Daniel with more assistance.

Daniel’s parents, now represented by the MPC, rejected both the program recommendation and the classification of ED. However, soo after that Daniel was suspended by the school, in what looked like retaliation. Undeterred, the parents requested a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA), which they had learned was a document required by law before an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team can consider a more restrictive placement for behavioral reasons. As previous meetings had been very heated, and the FBA and Behavior Plan would halt any school transfer, getting the school to support Daniel in his current program was going to be a challenge.

The MPC suggested the parents consider mediation as a voluntary dispute resolution process and after some convincing both parties agreed to it. Although not a smooth process, mediation allowed both parties to express their concerns and resulted in a redirection of efforts from pushing Daniel from his current school to providing him with the support and services he needed. He received counseling from a school psychologist with whom Daniel was able to develop a trusting relationship with, and was also assisted by his tireless, dedicated teacher. Within months progress was evident. Today Daniel is in a high school for the arts and is doing fantastic work!

A New Beginning for Tania and her Son

As a precursor to the Puertorican Day Parade, the 116th Street Fair on Saturday, June 12, 2010 was a feast of food, music and very colorful characters. Sinergia participated in the fun and fanfare thanks to a booth donated by Mt. Sinai Hospital. Our staff members were on hand all day long to answer questions and distribute brochures. We offered free blood pressure screenings in the morning which had a huge response, and during the "afternoon shift," Michael Mitchell, Tiffany James, Carmina Perez, Mildred Ramos and Lizette Dunn-Barcelona greeted people walking by to give them information about Sinergia's many services.

A young woman by the name of Tania, her disabled 9 year old son and her cousin were among those that stopped by. The mother and son had just arrived from Puerto Rico within the last two weeks and were staying with their cousin in the Bronx. Tania's son had had several surgeries in Puerto Rico and she was now trying to get special care for him in New York City. She was in need of medical and educational services for her son, and a place to live.

The following Monday Sinergia began working with Tania and within two weeks she and her son were living in one of Sinergia's Tier ll shelters funded by the Department of Homeless Services. She also began receiving case management services through our Family Support Program. Their case manager will ensure that her son's Medicaid services are in place, that all his evaluations are current and that he is enrolled in a district 75 school in time to begin classes this fall.

Both Tania and her son are doing well and are adjusting to life in NYC. Once her son is settled in school Tania hopes to begin looking for work in order to find permanent housing. She is grateful to Sinergia and looks forward to a long rewarding relationship with us.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sinergia Intern Carries the Message to the Dominican Republic

For two summers in a row we have had a guest intern, Kirsy Rosado from the Dominican Republic who is from La Asociacion Dominicana de Rehabilitacion. The organization has four schools that focus on special education and rehabilitation.  Unfortunately according to Kirsy they do not have much in the way of parent training. Last year she was exposed to many programs at Sinergia and of course the workshops and the work of our Parent Training and Information Center, which she enjoyed immensely. Her internship is sponsored by an organization called DONAR America which provides technical assistance to organizations in the Dominican Republic and NYC, primarily to the Dominican population.

The PACER Center has graciously agreed to share the Spanish translation of their FAST curriculum, which is focused on the development of training modules to teach families and their children to become self-advocates. Kirsy is a wonderful teacher and administrator and we are very pleased that she is bringing this much needed training to people with disabilities in her home country.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Recap of July Events at Sinergia

On Friday, July 9th Sinergia held its Annual Family Picnic in Central Park.  Thanks to the assistance and hard work of the staff this picnic turned out to be just as successful as the ones we have had in the past.  Again this year we featured games, gift bags, balloons and prizes for the young kids as well as music, food and good times for the adults.  The weather was perfect (well maybe a little hot) but the estimated 250+ guests that the staff entertained all seemed to have a great time.  Thanks to our friends at Chem-Rx for their generous donation that once again made the picnic possible.  See you all next summer!

 On Thursday July 29, 2010, Sinergia celebrated the dedication, hard work and passion of its Family Care providers with an Appreciation
. Family Care Coordinator, Kenia Peralta and her team organized a fabulous luncheon and also presented each coordinator with flowers and a framed certificate of appreciation.  Sinergia Executive Director, Myrta Cuadra-Lash attended the luncheon and personally thanked these long-term providers for their invaluable contribution to the lives of the people with disabilities in their care.  These providers open their homes to these individuals with disabilities and treat them like a member of the family.  Many of them have had the same person in their care for more than ten years and in one case, over twenty. The Family Care program is a very unique service provision and the kind of dedication that is required cannot be taught or paid for. We thank the following providers for their continued service:
Regular providers:

Substitute providers:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Our Very Own Secret Garden

Cindy F., Christine V., Mildred R. and Michael C. put their green thumbs to work.
This summer, some of Sinergia's Day Habilitation participants have been learning to grow in a different way - with soil, water, and sunshine!  At the Carver Community Garden on 124th Street we have been planting, tending, and harvesting our very own vegetables. We share a plot with Pathways to Housing, a neighboring non-profit and collaborate with members of their Resource Center to grow a variety of nutritious and tasty plants: tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, basil, collard greens, squash, cabbages, and more!  It has been a lot of fun to watch our garden grow, talk about how to prepare different vegetables and learn about the rich nutrients they provide us with. 

As novices, we often learn tips from some of our fellow gardeners, like James, a gentleman who has gardened at Carver for a number of years and has been a great help. On the other side of our plot, The Nourishing Kitchen grows vegetables for their soup kitchen. They are also experienced gardeners and offer cooking and gardening workshops.

This gardening opportunity has been provided by Urban Garden Connections, a Partnership of the Bronx and Manhattan Land Trusts.  They operate a number of community gardens in Manhattan and the Bronx.  For a list of garden locations visit The Manhattan Land Trust website.

I look upon the pleasure we take in a garden
as one of the most innocent delights in human life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Staff Spotlight: Michael Cortes, Esquire

It is with much pleasure that the Sinergia family congratulates Michael Angel Cortes on being admitted to the New York State bar on August 4th 2010. Mr. Cortes joined the Sinergia family a year ago as a Housing Advocate and has proved to be an invaluable asset to the organization. With Mr. Cortes becoming a licensed attorney, Sinergia can now offer legal advice and representation to our consumers when those services are needed. Sinergia looks forward to many more years of working with Mr. Cortes and in continuing to provide quality services to our community.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Education and Advocacy for the Deaf and Blind

Sinergia will be offering a new program in association with the New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative (NYSDBC), an organization that is funded by the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and is housed at Queens College in Flushing, NY.  The NYSDBC’s goal is to improve services for children and youth from the ages of 0-21, who are deaf and blind. They provide technical assistance that includes needs assessment, negotiation of goals, and decision-making about services in a collaborative environment.

The NYSDBC is interested in our Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC) hosting a series of Parent Leadership Training sessions to English and Spanish speaking parents of children who are deaf-blind and who live in the metropolitan area.  The intent of the series is to train parents to be effective advocates for their children by providing them with useful and valuable leadership tools and skills. The NYSDBC has conducted highly successful trainings in Rochester, NY and will offer trainings in Westchester, NY and on Long Island. Sinergia will be providing the space and the MPC will be in charge of the trainings, which will focus on education advocacy and information about resources available from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, Medicaid/Medicare, SSI, Legislation, etc.

There will be two trainings offered: one to English speaking families in January 2011, and another one for Spanish speaking families next year at a time yet to be determined. Training sessions will take place over a three week-end period. For more information please contact Godfrey Rivera at 212-643-2840.