July 2019: Notes from NMIC

Summer is here and we’re gearing up to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Today we want to take the time to honor our courageous clients, partners, and you—without you all, NMIC couldn’t exist. From awards to graduations – we have some exciting updates we’d love to share! 

We’re turning 40! 

Forty years ago, NMIC began in a small apartment in Washington Heights as two individuals armed with nothing but a fierce passion to protect, strengthen, and organize recent immigrants to New York City. This October, we’re celebrating these forty years of building futures, changing lives, and empowering communities at our 40th Anniversary Benefit—and you’re invited.  

Join us in being a catalyst for positive change in the lives of the over 14,000 individuals we serve annually by becoming a sponsor, placing a journal ad, or purchasing a ticket

To learn more about how NMIC’s critical work translates into tangible impacts in the lives of real people read Ashley Mata’s story below. 

Like mother, like son

When our client, Ashley Mata, passed her High School Equivalency (HSE) exam, she never imagined she’d be graduating on the same day as her ten-year-old son. “I had to leave school at 16 when I had him. When I tried to go back to get my diploma, you know how many times I wanted to give up? But NMIC believed in me and called and texted and made sure I came to class. They gave me so many words of encouragement.”  

Ashley now shares that encouragement with her sister, Flor, who is currently enrolled in NMIC’s HSE program just like her brother, Yorky, who provided it to her after he graduated from our program last year.  

There’s something incredibly special about the way NMIC can touch whole families and support them as they reach their goals, but we can’t do it without you.Join us in celebrating the success of our young adult candidates

On June 28th, we celebrated the 167 young adults who successfully participated in our Intern & Earn, Train & Earn, and YouthBuild Bootcamp programs this year during our 2019 Bridge Ceremony at the Isabella Geriatric Center. After undergoing rigorous programming, training, internships, and high school equivalency prep, our students secured a combined total of 253 certifications that will put them on paths towards more prosperous futures.  

We’re so proud of them and feel privileged to have walked with them as they embarked upon their journeys to self-sufficiency and will continue to support them as they transition to Alumni Services.NMIC Legal Services Director receives award

We don’t want to brag but we have the best staff around and The New York Bar Association confirmed our suspicion. The association awarded our very own Director of Legal Services, Rodrigo Sanchez-Camus, with the Legal Services Award which recognizes the efforts of lawyers who directly provide free legal services to low-income clients. Rodrigo’s passion for justice and his commitment to our community is exactly why we are so grateful to have him on our team. Felicidades, Rodrigo! 

Support Rodrigo and all our attorneys, paralegals, and advocates on the frontline fighting for equity. 

Believe in Yourself and Never Give Up

Yorky shares his journey to earning a High School Equivalency Diploma 

“At the end of the day, we’re all adults and we make our choices. Certain circumstances in life led me to self-doubt. I still pushed myself to try again.”

The traditional path for obtaining a college degree begins with graduating from high school and moving on to a four-year college or university. This path is not accessible to everyone. In 2018, Yorky enrolled in NMIC’s High School Equivalency (HSE) course. These courses help students performing at 4th -12th grade levels study and prepare for the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) formerly known as the G.E.D.  

It really has to be something you want to do just like anything else in lifePut your mind to it and do it. I believe it will serve as a catalyst for bettering yourself. The most important thing is believing in yourself and never giving up. 

Yorky expresses the difficulty in returning to his education “trying to obtain my G.E.D I faced a few challenges along the way, but I never gave up” aside from being intrinsically motivated, having a strong support system makes a big difference for students completing their education. Jennifer Arguetta who is NMIC’S Adult Education Program Manager played a helpful role in Yorky’s journey, “I’ve done it a few times trying to get my GED and I have failed, not in the sense of failing tests or anything like that, I’ve failed to follow through on going to take the actual test and Jennifer spoke to me about it she was trying to figure out what was going on to formulate a solution and I thank her for that, along with Bocko. Mark and Rojas for their part too, great teachers.” Jennifer and educators like Bocko, Mark, and Rojas all play a critical role in the success of their students by creating a welcoming and supportive environment. 

“I have my GED which opened up and created opportunities for bettering myself” 

Maria Lizardo, Yorky Mata, Assemblyman Al Taylor
Maria Lizardo, Yorky Mata, Assemblyman Al Taylor

In the winter of 2018, Yorky successfully passed his exam and obtained his High School Equivalency Diploma giving him the platform he needed to continue to pursue his goals for a bright future. “I want to do something in the medical field whether it be an RN or a Paramedic. I can do those things now because I have my GED which opened up and created opportunities for bettering myself. Even if I decide to do something else, I wouldn’t regret getting my GED because it can do two things for you – one keeps you moving forward and two create opportunities for you and your future. Both of which I have experienced.” 

Having multiple pathways for completing an education takes into account the varying circumstances in people’s lives. There is no longer just the standard path to education – options create the possibility for anyone to pursue their goals regardless of past circumstances.

To learn more about our High School Equivalency course, visit our office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 11 am and 12:30 pm or call 212-822-8343.

Click aquí to learn more or aquí to make a donation.

English for Speakers of Another Language

NMIC’s free course offers immigrants a safe space to learn a new language.  

Not being able to speak English creates a multitude of challenges for new immigrants such as applying to college, asking for directions, or honing-in interview skills. There are nearly 2.2 million New Yorkers who lack English language proficiency. NMIC actively seeks to ease the transition into learning a new language while creating opportunities for clients joining the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course.  

“One of the wonderful things about ESOL is seeing all of these people with different educational backgrounds coming together to support each other,” says Jason Bocko, NMIC’s Academic Coordinator. According to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) all 5-boroughs have significant documented and undocumented immigrant populations, and their backgrounds are just as diverse as their countries of origin.  

The increasing negative rhetoric and portrayal of immigrants has overshadowed the ‘American Dream’ that most of us pursue. “Two of my grandparents were born in Italy and came to the US not knowing English and had a rough go at it. Both later became teachers – and I think in some way my work honors their legacy,” says Jason. 

Winnifer Sanchez is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and is enrolled in an ESOL course here at NMIC. When asked about her motivation for increasing her English language proficiency, Winnifer explained, “I live in NYC and a basic skill if you want growth. I want to go to college and open new doors and opportunities.” Learning a new language as an adult can be a difficult process, Jason explains that the trick to teaching a new language is “not to over correct. The goal is to communicate, not to speak like Shakespeare – so unless they ask, I never correct them while they are speaking. As a teacher, the last thing you want to do is discourage participation in exchange for perfect speech.”  

Winnifer Sanchez

Like Winnifer, most immigrants recognize learning English is the gateway to being able to pursue their dream. “I want to study Marketing and to work in a creative field like fashion. I have a color (pauses) …creative brain, so I’d like to be able to use that.”  

“If I can do it you can do it too…. do it now, don’t wait – don’t think too much about it… just do it! 

To join our ESOL class, call us at 212-822-8300.  

SOURCE: Mayors Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) 

NMIC Welcomes New Board Members

Meet our extraordinary new leaders Ethan D. Miller and Nancy Wackstein.

NMIC is pleased to announce two new members, whose terms begin this month, to our 10-member board of directors. The new board members are Ethan D. Miller and Nancy Wackstein.  

Ethan Miller joins the NMIC Board with over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit and financial service sectors. Ethan’s most recent position was Vice President of Finance at the Nathan Cummings Foundation where he was a member of the senior leadership team and was responsible for the finance and accounting functions as well as having operating, information technology, and investment management responsibilities. Before NCF, Ethan was a Managing Director at GE Antares Capital, the sponsor finance group of GE Capital, where he managed private equity relationships and led middle market transactions. Ethan has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a BA from Hobart College. Over the years, Ethan has been actively involved in a variety of nonprofit organizations including the Washington Office on Latin America where he was a Board member for six years and Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee. Ethan attended middle and high school in Washington, D.C. and has been a resident of the greater New York City area since 1996. 

“We are thrilled to welcome this talented pair of leaders to our Board,” said NMIC Executive Director, Maria Lizardo. “The addition of ambassadors is intentional as we pursue groundbreaking organizational strategic planning in the coming years.” 

Nancy Wackstein started as Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service in February 2016 following a long career in the New York City nonprofit sector. Nancy served from 2002 to 2015 as Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York, the federation of New York City’s 38 settlement houses and community centers. Prior to UNH, she was the Executive Director of Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, a Manhattan settlement house, for 11 years. Ms. Wackstein served as Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office on Homelessness and SRO Housing from l990-91 under Mayor David N. Dinkins and was Senior Policy Advisor for Human Services in Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins’ Office from l986-l989.  

“New members of this board bring with them experiences that are crucial to helping NMIC fulfill its commitment to represent the diverse population of the communities we serve,” said Maria Lizardo.

Matthew Chachère Drafts New Law Protecting Tenants with Asthma

The Asthma Free Housing Act,  drafted by NMIC Attorney Matthew Chachère, requires landlords to maintain safe conditions for tenants with asthma.  

On January 19, 2019, the Asthma Free Housing Act went into effect in New York City.  This new law, passed by the City Council in 2012, requires landlords of multiple dwellings to safely remove Indoor Allergen Hazards that can trigger asthma attacks, such as mold, rodents, and roaches. Landlords are also required to implement measures to prevent indoor health hazards, such as leaks and pathways for vermin infestation, using integrated pest management (“IPM”), a practice that relies less on toxic poisons and more on eliminating the conditions that otherwise facilitate vermin problems.   

To ensure compliance with the new law, landlords are also required to initiate inspections once a year to clear their properties of indoor allergen hazards and actively respond to complaints from their tenants.  The law significantly increases the severity of violations for these conditions and the penalties associated with them and enhances the City’s code enforcement responsibilities.  In addition, medical providers can now contact the City to obtain housing inspections for patients with chronic asthma. 

The new law was drafted by NMIC Attorney Matthew Chachère who has been a pioneer in housing law here in NYC for quite some time. In 2003 Chachere was one of the advocates who drafted Local Law 1, a law that requires landlords to be responsible for protecting their tenants’ children from the harmful exposure to lead-based paint.   

The passage of the Asthma Free Housing Act is a step in the right direction for the city and is a great win for an estimated 84,000 children and 10% of Adults in NYC who suffer from asthma.

SOURCES: NYC Health Department, New York City Local Laws, NYC Housing Preservation & Development.  

One on One with Nancy Wackstein: Feminist & Leader in Social Work

You may already know that in March we celebrate Women’s History Month, but did you also know it is Social Work Awareness Month? For this special feature, we have interviewed Nancy Wackstein, social worker, activist, and NMIC supporter.  

I am a baby boomer who came of age protesting the status quo, whether it was against the Vietnam War or for the right of girls to wear pants to school. Activism sort of became baked into my life and my career.   

Since receiving her degree in Social Work from Columbia University in 1979, followed by her masters, Nancy Wackstein has been committed to her altruistic values and developed a long-standing career with NYC government and non-profits, focused on policy and advocacy as well as direct service in the community. Today, Nancy works as the Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. In the span of 24 years Nancy successfully led two nonprofits, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH). In fact, it was during her tenure as Executive Director of UNH that NMIC became an official member of the coalition.  

In her early days of social work Nancy worked for NYCHA at an East Harlem housing project and as a para-professional in a NYC Public School for at-risk boys on the lower east side. These experiences on the frontline of social work made the inequities in our society visible, especially including the addition of race, gender, class, and age can impact the degree of inequality. 

“Philanthropy often has to make up for holes in the social safety net, which grow larger and larger each year in our country.  There is a severe imbalance in opportunity and achievement for Americans based on race, class, gender, age. It’s important for philanthropy to try to reduce some of that imbalance”Nancy Wackstein 

One of the biggest challenges for the human services sector is adequate funding. Where government funding falls short, it is individuals, foundations, and businesses that close the gap in funding. Programs like NMIC’s Education & Career Services to our free Legal counsel and representation for housing disputes and immigration aim to bridge the gaps that exist in our society, that minorities and the economically disadvantaged often find themselves lost in. Consider donating to support these free programs and services we offer to the community.  

The Task of organizing human happiness needs the active cooperation of man and woman: it cannot be relegated to one half of the world.”- Lilian Wald 

We all find inspiration in the people who came before us and for Nancy, Lilian Wald is just that a trailblazer in the field of social work and social reform “I have to say that an influential woman in social work to me is Lillian Wald, who was one of the original settlement house leaders in New York and nationally. Her legacy lives on in two of the organizations she founded, Henry Street Settlement and the Visiting Nurse Service. A remarkable leader who was not afraid.” Says Nancy, “I think a big beautiful statue of Lillian Wald should be erected in New York! That money would be better spent, for example, than on a big wall on the southern border of the U.S.” 

Nancy is just as passionate today as she was at the beginning of her career to see the injustices of society eradicated, and we can all do our part to do just the same. Are you interested in joining Nancy and making a difference? Email us at info@nmic.org.   

Mobile Food Pantry: Building Bridges for Stronger Communities

NMIC and West Side Campaign Against Hunger Partner up to Make a Difference 

West Side Campaign Against Hunger has been a leader and innovator in the hunger-relief space since 1993 when it first introduced its mobile food pantry. Which gave clients the chance to choose from an assortment of healthy and fresh food options, an option still rarely offered to clients who utilize food pantries out of necessity “WSCAH prides themselves on two things. The first is choice….they also specialize in locally sourced, fresh produce. Many pantries rely on canned goods for obvious reasons, but WSCAH is trying to make sure that families receive quality calories.” says Sara Chapman, NMIC’s Education & Career Services Director. Offering clients, the opportunity to choose from locally sourced fresh produce, as opposed to canned food items, not only provides families with healthier food options but also tremendously reduces the cost of food from 88 cents to 55 cents!  

WSCAH and NMIC’s partnership is about bridging community members to the services they need 

“The mobile pantry helps us better connect people to services and programs because we are doing it in partnership.”Says Ysabel Abreu, Community Outreach Coordinator, NMIC. WSCAH and NMIC’s partnership is about bridging community members to the services they need and collectively serve clients with our resources, to truly push for stronger and healthier communities.  

NMIC utilizes its strong community roots to raise awareness and point families in need to the WSCAH food pantry, while clients from NMIC’s Train & Earn Program pursuing customer service and food handler certificates have access to internship opportunities at WSCAH and can even enroll in their Chef Training Program. 

If you would like to learn more about the mobile food pantry and register, please call 212-822-8300. For more information about enrolling in NMIC’s Train & Earn Program call 212-822-8325.  

Watch out for the Mobile Food Pantry here at NMIC on the following dates:  

Wednesday, April 10th 

Wednesday, May 15th  

Wednesday, June 12th   

Consider donating today to support our programs and be a part of the change for stronger, healthier, and happier communities. 

Women in Human Services Hall of Fame: Honoring Our Very Own

This month Strong Nonprofits New York held the Women in Human Services Hall of Fame induction, which included NMIC’s very own Chief Financial Officer, Rosaura Morales. Rosaura was honored and recognized for her years of service in the sector. This recognition is greatly deserved and NMIC is proud to have such a committed and passionate individual be a part of our mission to be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of many.  

You Too Can Contribute to the Empowerment of Women

Freshie Femcare CEO Nelly Reyes Shares How She Carved Her Own Path to Success

At 7 years old Nelly Reyes immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and moved to Pennsylvania with her mother in the 1980s. In her new neighborhood, there was a very minimal presence of other Latinos, which prompted her to quickly adapt to her new environment, like most children of immigrants learn to do. After graduating high school, Nelly moved to live with her father, who is the founder of Lemisol: the Caribbean’s best-selling feminine care brand dating back to the early 1980s. While there Nelly worked at his import and distribution business and quickly grew a passion for business as well as the acumen for running one which proved fruitful in her future pursuits.  

Nelly continued her professional growth and landed a role in Los Angeles with STARZ in a Sales and Marketing role. During this time Nelly embraced an appreciation for clean and healthy living and soon discovered an unmet need in the natural feminine care product space. Soon after, Nelly enrolled at NYU to complete a degree in Leadership & Management. With the in-depth knowledge, training, and experience she gathered over the years Nelly put her skills, passion, and vision together and successfully launched her first company Freshie Fem Care in 2014. 

“Freshie is about creating the best natural feminine care product options and at the same time educating women on why they need to go natural in feminine care. Freshie is about women being empowered with education and support, and ‘better-for-their-health’ products.” 

People always ask, “why not just continue to work for your father’s already established business?” and I tell them “Because for me it was important to learn to soar with my own wings. Being Latina, and therefore having been raised in a profoundly patriarchal background, it is very important to me to thrive individually as a woman.” 

Nelly believes that to achieve greatness you must contribute to the empowerment of women who have not had the same opportunities as her. When Nelly launched Freshie, she made a commitment to dedicate proceeds from the company’s online sales to supporting organizations that educate and empower women.  

“I chose to partner with NMIC because the work they do in the community is what I consider God’s work. NMIC undoubtedly impacts the lives of many people who would otherwise not have access to the knowledge and resources necessary to improve their lives. When I learned that NMIC also has a program that specifically helps women who are victims and/or survivors of domestic violence I was more compelled to lend my support in any way I could.” 

For Nelly, domestic abuse/violence is a cause that is near to her heart, “because more women than is common knowledge have at some point been victims, myself included.”  

What inspiring words would you tell other young women who are interested in starting their businesses and entering the philanthropic world? “If you want to start a business, do it.  Do your homework, find out what must be true for you to launch, and know that you don’t have to have everything down to perfection to launch, you do however have to have the commitment to yourself and your goal(s). Surround yourself with other women who have done it and learn from them. Ask questions, get involved in women’s networking groups.”   

“As women, we should all be doing something for each other every chance we can, regardless of how small. So, if we commit to supporting one another (whether by volunteering our time or donating funds), we can all be philanthropists (perhaps even should).” 

Consider donating today to support our programs and be a part of the change for stronger, healthier, and happier communities. 

Newly Renovated Two-Bedroom Apartment Available in Washington Heights Coop

NMIC is pleased to announce the upcoming cooperative conversion of 618 W 187 Street, where we have been assisting the tenant association since 1986. Residents of this building organized against absentee landlords for years and are now able to become a cooperative and manage the building themselves, taking control of their homes and ensure the success of the building moving forward. This 20-unit building has one vacant 2-bedroom apartment, which is being marketed for sale.  It is a prewar five story walk up, recently renovated in 2018, and the purchaser who is selected will be the first to occupy this unit since the upgrades. Renovations include entirely new kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and building systems, such as the roof, boiler, plumbing, electric and heating; all enhanced to reflect modern domestic finishes and meet Enterprise Green Communities’ sustainability standards.   

The current residents and soon to be shareholders are predominantly Latino/Spanish speaking and benefit from having a strong and knowledgeable board who have lived in the building for a long time. This is a rare opportunity to become a homeowner in an HDFC limited equity cooperative, secure your living situation, develop more equity the longer you live there, and preserve the neighborhood’s long-term affordability. The location is convenient for subway transportation-less than a 10-minute walk from the 1 train and A train and there is access to multiple bus lines on Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue. 

618 W 187 Street is part of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Third Party Transfer (TPT) Program providing affordable housing for families earning between 80%-120% Area Median Income (AMI).  The vacant two-bedroom apartment is 712 square feet and the asking price is $103,700, this translates to $146/sq. ft, which is well below the $746/sq. ft for the Washington Heights neighborhood, according to Trulia.com. All applications must be printed and submitted in paper by mail to the address provided on the application. No electronic applications will be accepted for this development.

There is a 30-day application period for this apartment starting March 29th, 2019 and closing April 29th, 2019.  NMIC along with HPD will also host an Informational Session open to the public on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 at St. Elizabeth’s Church located at 268 Wadsworth Avenue New York, NY 10033 from 6 – 8pmacross the street from the building site, where we will be answering questions regarding the application process and projected timeline.

For an application, you can print one out using the link provided below or pick one up at our office 45 Wadsworth Avenue 8th Floor.  You can also have us mail you a printed application by calling 212-822-8300 ext. 408 or emailing edgarcabrera@nmic.org and providing your address or sending a self-addressed envelope to 45 Wadsworth Avenue 8th Floor, New York, NY 10033. For detailed information click Here

Download An Application:

Application (English) , Application (Spanish) , Application (Chinese) , Application (Arabic) , Application (Haitian Creole) , Application (Korean) , Application (Russian)

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