CB2 Demands Response from Ardila

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

Western Queens pols and Community Board 2 members pressed Assemblyman Juan Ardila to acknowledge sweeping calls to resign at their recent Zoom meeting on May 4. 

Allegations that the Assemblyman sexually assaulted two women in 2015 first emerged in March. Initially, he issued a “no comment” response but later asserted a “commitment to accountability” and chose to hire a personal lawyer to conduct an investigation into the allegations. Since then, a slew of city and state officials have called for his resignation. Most notably, Governor Kathy Hochul and the Working Families Party that endorsed him. 

“You cannot ignore the call for resignation from the victim and then not saying anything, you have to explain why you’re refusing to resign,” said Council Member Julie Won during the meeting.

The councilwoman accused Ardila of intimidating his accusers through his personal lawyer. She also mentioned that he reached out to one of the victim’s father’s to inform him of the allegations his daughter brought forward. 

“It’s not okay for you to expose their names and intimidate them and call their father telling him that their daughter was sexually assaulted by you or are alleging that you did that,” said Won. “That is not okay.”

Won, who represents Sunnyside in Ardila’s district, also said that she has received “angry text messages” from constituents who are “incredibly upset” that he has not resigned, nor provided an explanation why. 

“This is certainly an issue that should interest our entire district,” said Council Member Kristen Gonzalez, who was one of the critical voices of city to state officials who called on Ardila to resign. 

After Ardila initially spoke at the meeting to discuss his involvement in the state budget that recently passed in Albany, Gonzalez stepped in to discredit his role in budget negotiations. Ardila was the only freshman Democrat to not receive an assigned budget committee, per the elected officials at the meeting.

“For example, All-Electric Buildings was carried by Assemblymember Gallagher who has also called for him to resign. He mentioned the Build Public Renewables Act, something that was worked on by the Democratic Socialists of America. Again, all DSA electeds overlapping have called on him to resign. He mentioned Good Cause Eviction, a bill carried by Senator Salazar, another woman and survivor who has called on him to resign,” reinforced Gonzalez. 

Despite Ardila’s continuous dismissal of the allegations as a “personal matter” during the call, CB2 Chairperson, Danielle Brecker, and other members of the board reinforced that they see it as a “community issue” instead. 

“To hear you say it’s personal, doesn’t take into account that this is societal. And that none of us deserve to experience that,” said CB2 member Sheila Lewandowski who shared that she is a survivor of multiple incidents of sexual assault, some of which fit the description of Ardila’s victims. 

Ardila stated several times that he plans to address the issue, but did not offer a specific timeline during the meeting.

“It’s disappointing because there’s things that are being said that haven’t come from me, haven’t come from my circle. And like I said, I will address it. You are going to hear from me,” Ardila replied during the meeting. “But I do not believe that our community board is the space to do so on personal issues like that.”

Ardila’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

“What you’re doing is harming our community. And that is not a private matter. You have not made it a personal matter, because now it is affecting my constituents and your constituents and Kristen Gonzalez’s constituents and our neighbors,” reinforced Won. 

Senior Job Fair Returns to Kew Gardens

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

Clad in professional attire with a surplus of printed resumes on hand, over a hundred older adults arrived at the senior job fair in Kew Gardens on May 5 in search of their next opportunity. 

After a pandemic hiatus, the yearly job fair for adults 55 and older hosted by State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. since 2011 is back in person. Close to a dozen companies, including New York Life Insurance, Council for Airport Opportunity and Personal Touch Home Care, were present looking to fill vacant roles for a range of positions that they believe seniors are especially suited for.

“Seniors are a valuable part of our population, and we need to ensure that they have the necessary tools to find the work they need in order to sustain independent and healthy lives,” said Addabbo, who represents much of central Queens.

One in four U.S. workers will be 55 or older by 2030, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trend has seen steady growth in the past two decades, due to an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in fertility rates in younger generations. 

Wilda Collado spent 34 years in a travel-heavy role managing accounts in the jewelry business before the pandemic turned the industry upside down. In 2022, she was able to secure a job as a Health and Wellness Coach at Jenny Craig, but her entire team was laid off without notice earlier this month. 

“It’s been really tough,” said Collado, a 55-year-old longtime Jackson Heights resident. “Every time you click on a job on Indeed, it’s like 500 people applied for this job already, or even 1000.”

Adapting to the job hunt in the digital world can be difficult for seniors who first entered the workforce when searching through the classified section of a newspaper was commonplace. Now, there are a slew of job boards online that often require digital savviness to navigate, which many seniors feel they lack. 

At Queens Community Center, which has five older adult care centers across the borough, computer literacy classes are in high demand. A weekly class is held at the Kew Gardens location where seniors have learned how to copy and paste, send emails or search for something on their cell phone, according to the staff. 

“I think it’s crucial to show older adults that we know that they still have things to contribute, and experiences from which they have crucial knowledge,” said Anne Foerg, Associate Executive Director of Older Adult Services at Queens Community House. “Someone who’s an older adult, with experience, can still offer a lot in 20 hours a week. It gives them an opportunity to stay engaged and to stay connected.”

A recruiter for New York Life Insurance Company was seeking sales agents for a hybrid commission based role that includes full-benefits and hefty training. At another table, a representative for New York State Agencies informed attendees about the Emergency Limited Placement (HELP) program which removes the civil service exam requirement for various direct care, health and safety jobs. Various roles are available at the NYS Office of Addiction, as well as a slew of Departments of Health across the city and SUNY schools. 

“We want people who are hard workers, and it’s always a positive, I think I have a wealth of experience, especially in an industry that has a lot of customer service,” said Aaron Miner, a recruiter for the Council for Airport Opportunity, who was seeking applicants for security and customer service roles at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.

Some recruiters also had nontraditional roles available for jobseekers. A recruiter for Jzanus Home Care Inc. informed attendees of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) which pays individuals to take care of an elderly family member or friend. They also offered people interested in working in the homecare industry the chance to complete paid training and get certified as a home health aide. 

“It would be nice if something comes around, and I can get into it, either at home, or go someplace else to do it, like part time or even full time, whatever it works out to be,” said Chuck, a Fresh Meadows resident, who attended the job fair curious about the options for him as a 74-year old retiree. 

Previously, he worked for Verizon as a switch technician for 46 years until he retired two years ago. Now, he spends most of his time running a cat sanctuary out of his house, while also attending various events and classes at the center.

Melinda Katz: The Outside-Insider

By Matthew Fischetti[email protected]

It was precisely what she was criticized for in her first run for Queens District Attorney, that Melinda Katz believes has been one of her strongest assets: not being a career prosecutor or in law enforcement. 

The former City councilwoman, assemblywoman and Queens borough president believes her work in politics and being a manager made her suited for the role of being the top prosecutor in Queens. 

“I was never a career prosecutor. So when I came in, the whole world changed, I knew the law. I knew I was a good lawyer. And I knew I was a good manager. And so we had to figure out how to think outside the box,” District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a recent sit-down interview with the Queens Ledger. 

Katz said that while the world shut down in her third month in office, she prepared her staff by getting hundreds of computers and prepared her staff to go all virtual.

She said that one of the biggest challenges facing the borough are guns on the street. On her first day in office, she created the Violent Crime Enterprise Bureau by combining the Narcotics Investigations and Gang Violence Bureaus in order to tackle the issue.

“We couldn’t stop. We just had no opportunity to stop. People still had their rights,” said Katz.

The issue of guns has gotten more difficult with the recent proliferation of “ghost guns” — which are untraceable firearms.

“They’re happening in every neighborhood, in every community, all across the borough of Queens County —happening in people’s basements and in their apartments,” she said.

In early April of this year, her office indicted a St. Albans man on over 600 felonies in the state’s first prosecution of an international ghost gun trafficking operation.

Katz said that the proliferation of illegal smoke shops takes time, as investigations by undercover agents have to secure over a pound in order to produce a felony charge, while the Sheriff’s office has more direct authority on the issue.

“We take it, we spend the resources and we do it,” said Katz.

Katz believes one of her strongest assets is knowing the communities she is prosecuting. She has made her Assistant District Attorneys participate in community activities so that they can know the community.

“I believe in my heart of hearts that to be a good prosecutor, you need to know the community.  And that has been priceless, to be honest about it,” Katz said.

“It was a priceless knowledge to know the neighborhoods and know the community, and be able to work in the community, and by the way, have the faith of the community,” she continued.

Katz is currently facing primary challenges from Judge George Grasso, a former NYPD cop turned lawyer who is running on a tough-on-crime approach. Katz is also facing a challenge for Debian Daniels, a public defender.

The primary for the Queens District Attorney Race will occur on June 27 and the general election will occur on November 7.

Councilman Proposes Rich Pay More For Parking Tickets

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

What if your income determined how much you would pay for a parking ticket in NYC?

South Brooklyn City Councilman Justin Brannan (D), introduced a bill last week that would implement a sliding scale pay structure for civil infractions such as double parking. Low-income New Yorkers would not be obligated to pay the same price as their high-income neighbors under a “day fines” structure.

Currently there is over $2 billion in unpaid tickets that the city is owed, according to the Independent Budget Office (IBO). This includes parking tickets, as well as camera generated violations for speeding, driving in a bus lane and running a red light. Close to a billion of the sum is made up of penalties. 

According to the IBO, the percentage of unpaid tickets has almost tripled in the past five years. In 2017, only ten percent of fines went unpaid. But last year, 29 percent of tickets were unpaid, indicating that the accumulated balance is growing faster than fines per year since the pandemic.

“Why should the guy who double parked his 1988 Toyota pay the same as the guy with the 2024 Bentley?” Brannan told the Daily News. “Fines should be high enough to discourage people from breaking laws that endanger or inconvenience our neighbors but low enough that they don’t arbitrarily upend anyone’s life.”

Brannan’s legislation encourages the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings to develop and release a pilot program that implements the sliding scale. He did not specify what types of fines should be considered, except for his mention of double parking which currently costs violators $115 per incident. 

While flat-rates are normal in the United States, in several European countries including Germany and Switzerland, much heftier fines are handed out to the wealthy for violations such as speeding or drunk driving.

In 1991, the Bureau of Justice Assistance funded four day fine pilot projects that determined the penalty based on the offenders’ daily income in Arizona, Iowa, Oregon and Connecticut. According to their report, day fines impose fewer system costs and reduce recidivism while also achieving equity in sentencing. 

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams said that their office will review the bill. Ultimately, the Mayor’s support is needed for the pilot program to launch and generate findings for elected officials. 

“Hitchhiking” Lanternfly Makes Early Appearance This Spring

Spotted lanternfly sitting on a purple sandcherry. Photo Credit: Unsplash/ Magi Kern

By Iryna Shkurhan[email protected] 

The invasive spotted lanternfly is back for the season. 

In past years the species emerged from their egg masses in May, but this year the State’s Department of Agriculture received reports of sightings in the city in the middle of April. Officials followed up on sighting reports across all boroughs and confirmed their presence in person. 

According to iNaturalist, a website where naturalists can record their observations, there have been several sightings of lanternflies — in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Queensbridge Park — this past April.

Despite efforts to eradicate them with a public campaign that encouraged residents to kill them on sight, experts anticipate that their population will only continue to grow this year. Lanternflies have been seen at high rates across the boroughs and wider state, but most noticeably in Staten Island where they were first spotted in the state in July 2020. 

“The public in their ability to recognize spotted lanternfly, and in their willingness to report it to us, has really been crucial in our ability to keep track of where this is,” said Chris Logue, Markets Director for the Plant Industry at the New York State Department of Agriculture in a Zoom address to media on April 26. 

In a destructive nature, the species feeds on over 70 species of plants, including crops that are critical to New York’s agricultural economy, such as grapevine, apple trees and hops. New York State is ranked third place for grape production in the country and second in apple production, according to USDA Statistics.

“There’s still a lot that we don’t know about spotted lanternfly,” said Logue. “We don’t want to be caught by surprise in the future if it begins to cause issues on other crops, or natural resources that are important to us.”

Vacuuming the insects into a plastic bag has proved to be the most successful method of reducing the population size so far, according to officials. 

“That has worked really well for us,” said Logue, who mentioned that lanternflies die naturally if they do not feed on something for several hours. 

The state is encouraging homeowners to use cordless vacuums to suck up the pests if they have the desire to take action in their own backyard. At this time, they are not recommending a specific pesticide for use on private property. But officials encouraged residents to inquire with their local Cornell Cooperative to get a list of pesticides that are safe to use. 

Lanternflies tend to follow both commerce and recreational trade routes. In an effort to slow the spread, the state is inspecting shipments of goods for both egg masses and later stage flies.  

“They tend to be very good hitchhikers,” said Logue. “And they can move around in really all of their life stages, which is a challenge.”

If you see a spotted lantern fly, you can report it via an online reporting tool found at NYS Department of Environmental Conservation or email the location and images of the insect, egg masses or infestation signs to [email protected]

The state is encouraging reporting of any sighting, even if you are unsure that it is a spotted lanternfly. They also recommend featuring an object for scale, such as a coin or ruler, in submitted images. 

Artists Use NYCHA Scaffolding as Canvas

Tipu Alam, The Astoria Project, located at 4-03 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria Houses, Queens. Photo by Paul Katcher.

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected] 

A city-wide art program that gave artists the opportunity to transform scaffolding at public housing sites into community-specific murals came to an end last week.

ArtBridge’s City Artists Corps: Bridging the Divide program was started ten months ago in partnership with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) as the city recovered from the height of the pandemic. Selected artists had a paid opportunity to create an outdoor public facing installation while also engaging and cultivating inspiration from community members in the process. 

Since 2009, the ArtBridge program has given artists across the five boroughs an opportunity to install large street-level art installations in unutilized construction fencing. According to their website, artists have installed 60,000 square feet of street art since.  

The completion of the Bridging the Divide program was celebrated on April 19 at Manhattan’s Taft Houses. The event honored the artistic contribution of 59 artists to NYCHA sites across the city, as well as the stories and of the public housing residents that were represented in the art. 

“Bridging the Divide shows what’s possible when our artists and residents are empowered to collaborate and create toward a shared vision,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner, Laurie Cumbo, who attended the celebration. “It also shows how innovative use of our public spaces can turn something like a drab green construction shed into a canvas for artist-led collective creation, and a platform to engage and inspire New Yorkers.”

Prior to designing their murals, artists led workshops on site where they engaged with the community to include them in the process. For two Queens artists, the art created by children who attended their workshops was incorporated directly in their murals. Each mural was unique to the site, with the community it represents in mind. 

“Each NYCHA site is like a little neighborhood. It’s so different so everyone’s artwork came out differently,” said Kiki Bencosme, an artist who transformed scaffolding at the Pomonok Houses in Flushing. “But at the same time, there was a strong sense of joy and community in all of the artwork.” 

During the pandemic, Bencosme was searching online for an outlet for her art when she came across the program and applied for the residency. She chose the Pomonok Houses, just blocks from where she grew up in Briarwood, as the site of her nature-inspired mural. 

Over the course of several months, she attended workshops that discussed the art of mural making — a first time artistic endeavor for Bencosme. Eventually she led her own workshops at the site where she gave children the space and opportunity to create their own artwork. 

“My goal as an artist is to use my art as a form of social justice and community engagement,” said Bencosme in an interview with the Queens Ledger. “I just wanted the artwork to exist there. And if it could change one person’s day, then I did my job.”

Kiki Bencosme, Dimelo Cantando, previously located at 70-30 Parsons Boulevard & 154-05 71st Avenue, Pomonok Houses, Queens. Photo by Paul Katcher.

The title of her piece, Dimelo Cantando, which translates to “tell it to me singing” was inspired by her Dominican roots. It is a common greeting phrase of endearment that Bencosme would often hear elders use while growing up.

“It was important for me to have that title in Spanish to kind of be like, this is representing us, you know, we are not living with everybody else,” said Bencosme. “We are here every single day fighting adversity.”

Close to 90 percent of NYCHA’s 400,000 residents are Black or Hispanic, according to city data. And communities of color in NYC were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 

Bencosme’s mural, printed and laid over scaffolding, contains an array of florals against a blue background which she designed on Adobe Illustrator. Several of the flowers were lifted from art that children who attended her workshop created.

The mural was taken down this past March, after being up in the Pomonok Houses since July, 2022. She said that installation was a pivotal moment for her as she recounted childhood memories just blocks away from her installation. And although she never resided in NYCHA housing, she would often visit close friends and family who did. 

“My inner child was just radiating,” said Bencosme when she first saw her work installed in person. “And I was able to connect with kids growing up in the area who grew up like me. So it was just a full circle moment.”

Kiki Bencosme leading an art workshop with children living in the Pomonok Houses. Photo by Destiny Mata.

She says that it was bittersweet when the piece came down. 

Tipu Alam, another resident artist, installed an layered mural at the Astoria Houses last July. His work, which is still standing, features children photographed during his community workshop holding up letters that spell out Astoria with neighborhood spots collaged in the background.

Another side of the scaffolding shows the children photographed wearing various masks, and standing alongside themselves with their mask in hand. He says that the inspiration for the masks came during the Halloween season, when he led the workshop, as well as cultures around the world that hold masks to a high regard. 

“It was amazing actually,” said Alam about the reaction that the children had when they saw themselves in his mural. “They were very happy.”

Tipu Alam, The Astoria Project, located at 4-03 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria Houses, Queens. Photo by Paul Katcher.

Alam, an immigrant from Bangladesh, chose Astoria as his site after living in the neighborhood for four years and having his work displayed in a local art gallery for two years. He is no stranger to the art of mural painting and has dotted various restaurants across Queens and The Bronx with their own extensive murals. 

Both artists say that the program was also a big financial help during the pandemic, and believe that they were fairly compensated for their work. They pointed out that fair compensation is rare in their line of work. 

“Everybody walked away, just feeling appreciated as an artist,” said Bencosme. “But also fulfilled that they were able to give back to their own communities.”

A Free Tree on Earth Day

A family in attendance picked out a tree to plant at home. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

By Iryna Shkurhan[email protected] 

For Earth Day on April 22, Queens locals lined up at the Queens Botanical Garden parking lot in Flushing to secure a small tree to take home. 

The Tree Giveaway event was sponsored by the New York Restoration Program, a nonprofit  organization working to promote urban agriculture, restore parks and renovate gardens. It was one of dozens of tree giveaways spread across all five boroughs from April to May annually. 

All eight tree species up for grabs are native to the New York region and include Sycamore, Willow Oak, and Honey Locust trees. The Eastern Redbud variety was first to go, with attendees expressing a strong desire for its delicate pink blossoms in the spring season. Plum trees and Black Cherry trees, which produce harvestable fruits, were also in high demand. 

A volunteer at the event warned takers that planting one of the trees outside of the region could be disruptive to the ecosystem and become invasive. With each tree volunteers handed off, they made sure to ask when and where it would be planted to ensure the tree would thrive in its new home.

“It’s nice because it brings people together,” said Kimberly Guaman while holding a Flowering Dogwood tree in a two-gallon container. “Especially on Earth Day.”

Kimberly Guaman plans to plant the tree she reserved at the Sunnyside church she volunteers at. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

Guaman says that she will plant the tree she picked up outside of the Queen of Angels Church on Skillman Ave. in Sunnyside where she volunteers in her spare time.

Many of the attendees reserved one of 200 available trees online weeks before the event. Others who were unable to secure the reservation expressed disappointment at how fast the reservations filled up. But they still showed up in hopes of securing an unclaimed tree.

According to volunteers, the remaining trees were first-come first-serve until all were distributed. The second hour of the event was reserved for those who missed the chance to register in advance. 

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who represents eastern Queens, co-sponsored the event with the Queens Botanical Garden. She could not attend the giveaway due to observance of Shabbat, according a representative from her office. 

Two professors from Queensborough Community College, Joan Petersen and Mercedes Franco, signed up to volunteer at the event in an effort to get more involved in environmental initiatives in the community. Peterson also recruited students in her biology research program to volunteer at the event. 

Eight tree species were up for grabs. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

Maha Almaflehi, a first year Queensborough student said this is her first time ever volunteering. She plans to plant the Dogwood tree she reserved in the backyard of her Flushing home. 

“If we don’t do something to help the environment, nothing else is going to matter,” said Petersen, who teaches Environmental Science and Ecology. “If we don’t have a good healthy environment to live in, nobody’s gonna survive.”

Mental Health Center Revamped in Woodside

 

The center was renamed following the five million dollar donation from the Cohen Foundation.

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

The Child Center of NY in Woodside was renamed the Cohen Family Wellness Center after a philanthropic couple donated five million dollars to fund holistic mental health services for youth. 

As a family-focused nonprofit, the center serves approximately 700 families in Queens every year through a range of programs that target a spectrum of mental health needs present in youth from birth to 24 years of age. Their cultural competency is reflected in clinicians that speak almost a dozen different languages to adequately serve all communities in Queens. 

“The Cohen Family Wellness Center is a place that promotes hope, growth, and empowerment for its residents—and our city’s children need a place exactly like it right now,” said Traci Donnelly, CEO of the Child Center, in a statement.The pandemic only exacerbated the struggles of young New Yorkers dealing with the most severe mental health challenges, and the Center is designed to fill that need.”

The Child Center of New York was founded in 1953 as a mental health counseling center in  Queens. Today, it serves nearly 43,000 children and their families across the city and on Long Island. The Woodside location is one of the center’s 70 community and school sites that provide services ranging from early childhood education, an intensive outpatient program and substance abuse treatment.

“The uniqueness about the center is that we have all these programs in one location,” said Abraham Santana, a therapist at Woodside location who previously worked as a school social worker prior to 2020. “I believe the most impact I’ve made was more with individual work with the families.”

One of the center’s success stories is Jonathan Molina, a 17-year-old and life-long Woodside resident who began treatment at the center in 2020 following a psychiatric hospitalization. He experienced anxiety that manifested in overly frequent trips to the bathroom that he says began to affect his quality of life. 

“I thought therapy was for people who are severe, and they needed it. But I came to realize that therapy is for people who just need a support system,” said Molina in a zoom interview with the Queens Ledger. 

Santana, Jonathan’s therapist for the past two years, recounted his experience with working with Molina to reframe anxious thoughts, develop coping strategies and ultimately reduce his anxiety-induced trips to the restroom. They went from meeting twice a week, to only once a month as Molina’s symptoms improved from receiving talk therapy and medication. 

“Whenever these big changes happen, I kind of tend to fall back to my original self ,just like freaking out or having second doubts about everything,” said Molina. “But I’ve always managed to come back. So each time it happens, I come back stronger, in a way because I’m more prepared and prepared to tackle these issues. So I feel like the hardest parts are just going away.”

Santana has a caseload of young clients that are working through symptoms of PTSD, ADHD, anxiety and depression. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, he also has a slew of clients that are experiencing bereavement following the loss of a family member. 

A family checks in to receive mental health services.

One in 200 children in the city lost a parent or caregiver to COVID, according to a statistical analysis conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. That is nearly double the rate across the country. The data also showed that Black, Hispanic and Asian children are three times more likely to lose a caregiver than their white peers. 

Molina says that one of the greatest benefits of the center is that they accept Medicaid, which makes mental health treatment accessible for him and his family. The center’s main source of funding is through the federal government, but donations like the one from the Cohen family and grants are also common. 

One of their main initiatives is Alternatives to Residential Treatment (ART) which approaches mental health treatment with a holistic approach. Family involvement, particularly with parents, is central to the center’s approach to treat youth in a comprehensive way. 

“Seventy years ago, The Child Center of NY started in the basement of a 99 cent store at the Big Six Towers, and thanks to this generous donation from the Cohen Family and the Amazin’ Mets Foundation, they will now be able to expand their reach and better serve our neighbors in their new facility,” said Council Member Julie Won, who represents Woodside, following the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 11. 

Currently there is no waitlist for any services that the center offers in a hybrid model. Clinicians at the center also speak ten different languages including Mandarin, Farsi, Spanish and Bengali.

“Two years, three years ago, I was very lost. And I wasn’t very focused on my life,” said Molina. “And right now I feel like I have a sense of what I want to do with my life.”

He will graduate from Civic Leadership Academy in Elmhurst this spring as the school’s valedictorian. Next fall, he will study psychology at Queens College where he was accepted into the Honor Program. Molina says his experience at the center inspired him to pursue a career in the psychology field.

“We’re trying to solve a lot of traumas from previous generations. We kind of want to have a clean slate. They don’t want to reflect a parent’s behaviors,” said Molina. “So a lot of people tend to go to therapy or go to places that will provide help for them, so that they can be better parents or be better people in general.”

 

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