Celebrating the Graduates of AHRC NYC’s School-Age Programs

“Pomp and Circumstance” rang through Kings County on June 25 and June 26 as students from Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School (BBF) and AHRC Middle/High School (MHS) celebrated their graduation days. Both ceremonies were filled with emotions, music, and recognition of the great strides made by remarkable children and young adults.

Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School

On Tuesday, June 25th, Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School honored its 2019 graduates during an hour-long ceremony.  Staff occupational therapist, Le’Ann Huggins, welcomed families, friends, and administrators to the event and introduced the students. Students, Janay Adamson-Thomas, Eric Cortes, and Mohammed Farooq, led the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Gilberto DeJesus Jr., Gary Meany, and Allen Williams Jr. sang the National Anthem.

Father Michael, whose church has supported BBF for years and helped maintain a beautiful educational environment, gave an Invocation in which he recognized the accomplishments and dedicated staff, students and their families.  Former BBF parent, Lauren Ramirez, spoke on the importance of continued advocacy during the Transition from elementary school to middle school.

Following a musical performance, Vice President of Education, Christina Muccioli, honored retiring principal, Zoe Ann Deeds.  Through tears, Christina presented Zoe Ann with a feather-adorned plaque to recognize the 11 transformative years that Zoe Ann helmed BBF. Zoe Ann then presented the staff and student awards for stand-out citizens within the school.  The students then received their diplomas and celebrated with their families at a reception sponsored by the school’s generous PTO.

AHRC NYC’s Educational Services department wants to recognize the following students for their successful graduation from Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School: Janay Adamons-Thomas, Elefterios Akriotis, Eric Cortes, Dominik Cygert, Gilberto DeJesus Jr., Mohammed Farooq, Uzziah Gaffney, Jayden Graham, Mackenzie Jackson, Zoe Lawrence, Gary Meany, Ryan Ng, Kendally Rochez, Yadan Royer, and Allen Williams Jr.  And, one final time, we would like to say our deepest thank you to Principal Zoe Ann Deeds, whose legacy will not be forgotten.

AHRC Middle/High School

The following day, five graduates from MHS were presented with their diplomas. Robert Bright III, Sean Fischer, Kevin Guo, Montae Peterson, and Nicholas St. Clair were celebrated for their achievements as they prepared to enter a new phase in their lives.

The MHS Choir, accompanied by their music teacher, on piano and Michael, a student, on drums, opened the festivities with a performance of “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent. The choir later provided their renditions of the upbeat pop jams “Drag Me Down” by One Direction and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.

The graduates were all presented with special commendations from Office of the Attorney General of New York State, celebrating their community partnerships such as the one with Pace University. MHS also recognized Poly Prep Country Day School and Maimonides for their volunteering and employment initiatives, respectively. Finally, the school presented Karen Zuckerman, Director of Volunteering Services and Corporate Engagement, with a plaque honoring her commitment to developing volunteering opportunities for the school, including at Poly Prep.

Christina Muccioli thanked Madelin Rivera, Interim Principal, for her consistent passion and stewardship during a transitional year for the school. Finally, Christina congratulated the parents and graduates and encouraged them not to become strangers. “AHRC is here for you for a lifetime,” Christina said. “We want you to keep in touch with us. You are a part of the AHRC family and we want you to always remember that.”

Transition News from AHRC Middle High School

written by Estefania FloresTransition CoordinatorAHRC Middle High School

Students at AHRC Middle High School are learning new professional skills every day! Here are some examples:

CVS Pharmacy

For the past five months, every Tuesday and Thursday, Jalyn C. has been enthusiastically working at the Fort Hamilton CVS Store.  He has a number of responsibilities there. He makes sure that all the items on the shelves are faced, whereby each item is moved to the edge of the shelf, giving it a look of being fully stocked.

Jaylyn also makes sure that the shelves are free of all dirt and dust. On Thursday with the help of Jessica VanArnum, BTA Specialist, they unpack new merchandise and place them on the proper shelves. This has been an extremely valuable learning opportunity for Jalyn, giving him actual working experience.


New students are beginning their vocational training at our Marshall’s Department Store. We are continuing our partnerships which now focus on students that have shown proficiency in our internal school internships and now have graduated to external opportunities.

Students Olivia and Patrick began practicing how to fold clothes at the school. They quickly got the hang of it and are now going to Marshall’s once a week to perform this task and more. Students are assisting Marshall’s staff in the stockroom unpacking their merchandise and distributing them to different locations at the store. Congratulations to Ronny, Steven, Olivia, and Patrick for their achievement and their continued success at Marshall’s.

Maimonides Medical Center

There are four different work locations at Maimonides Medical Center for MHS students. One student is working in the finance department sorting patient files and putting them into the proper folders. Aser F. is currently working in the rheumatology department alphabetizing patient files to be filed in their records, and three other students are working in the ophthalmology department sorting and stuffing envelopes that have to be sent out to the various patients of the hospital.

Every Thursday they stamp and sort the various foreign language newspapers that are then distributed to the patients in the hospital. Our students continue to build their skills across different settings.

Home Depot

High School Class 203 is thrilled to be participating in our new Home Depot workshops. Students are learning how to install light fixtures and ceiling fans. All the students are looking forward to their next visit where they are going to learn new skills. This workshop teaches our students about various home safety devices and products that Home Depot sells. This shows them how some of the products are assembled and what they are used for in one’s home. Thank you to the Home Depot Store located in Red Hook for creating this great opportunity and for raffling off fire extinguishers, non-electric light bulbs that glow by the touch of the hand, fire and smoke detectors.


Minkos students are busy at work completing jobs for AHRC training department, HASC, Brooklyn Blue Feather, and the Quality Assurance Department.

Students have completed a multitude of copies, bookbinding, shredding, proclamations, and laminating works.

Transition News from AHRC Middle/High School

Students at AHRC Middle/High School (MHS) are preparing for the next stages of their lives by taking internships, attending resume writing workshops, and working with college students at Pace University.

Five MHS students (Michael, AlfonsoRicardoNhojay, and Jasmin) have each been interviewed and accepted into the new CVS Internship Program. They all did such a fantastic job and the two interviewers at CVS were quite impressed with the students. These students have been working on their interviewing skills in school using the Links program. Their hard work has paid off as the students are very excited to begin their roles at CVS.

Kevin, Aser, Liam, and Patrick went on their first interview at Maimonides Medical Center. They were applying for a position at the volunteer center and will be doing clerical work. Students described their previous work experiences and why they wanted to work there. They then sat for a PowerPoint presentation about the rules and regulations of the hospital. They also were told about the hospital’s background and the people that they serve. Afterward, students were given a test about what they learned about the hospital and its rules and regulations. They all passed!

Resume Workshop

On March 28, 2018, Michael and Randy traveled to Manhattan by train to participate in a resume writing workshop that was put together by Karen ZuckermanDirector of Volunteering and Corporate Engagement. The workshop was conducted by corporate volunteers who independently sat with each of the student participants to help them think about and write a proper resume for when applying to use jobs in the working world.

Each volunteer explained how important it is to first think about and describe previous and current work experiences and to be able to put those thoughts to paper. They also asked them what types of jobs they would be interested in and how they would go about looking for them. They shared with the students their own experiences in looking for a job and how they went about it. The students found this session most productive and enjoyable. It gave them the ability and the experience to interface with working adults.

Fridays at Pace

The Friday Pace group commenced their semester at Pace University. Students were thrilled to return back to this program where they are paired with a Pace student. For this semester, students will work on a PowerPoint presentation about their future and interests. All students were engaged and super motivated to begin their work. Thank you to the Pace students who volunteered their time for this program and a special thanks to Dr. James Lawler for continuing to have this wonderful program for MHS students.

Special thanks to Frank Kule¸Tranistion Coordinator, for all of his hard work on our CVS and Maimonides Internships as well as Karen Zuckerman for coordinating the resume workshop.

Singing for Hope at AHRC Middle/High School

Students at AHRC Middle/High School were given the gift of music this holiday season. Sing for Hope, a non-profit seeking to expand opportunities in the arts in New York City, donated one of their famous pianos to the school in the fall and formally christened the instrument with a ceremony on Thursday, December 14th.

About Sing for Hope’s Pianos

We get artists that come in to paint about 50 pianos that get placed in public spaces during the summer months, and then the pianos are donated to schools,” said Daniel Smiertka, a representative from Sing for Hope. “Usually the students don’t have access to instruments like this because pianos are a lot of money to buy and maintain.

You may have seen a Sing for Hope piano before without realizing it. In June 2017 they were found in all five boroughs, usually in frequented areas such as Central Park, Grand Army Plaza, and the boardwalks in Rockaway Beach and Staten Island, (several were installed at Liberty Plaza near AHRC New York City Headquarters). Each piano has a unique design reflecting an artist’s personal vision of the Sing for Hope mission.

MHS’s piano was designed by Jennifer Kakaletris Boyar and was previously located at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza near the United Nations complex. It has Keith Haring-inspired lettering and designs, with Lady Liberty and the phrase “Art for All” spread throughout.

I saw the pianos first on the street years ago, and this past year I was inspired to give a piano submission and it’s been awesome,” Jennifer said. “I’m so honored it’s here, it’s so cool. While I was working on it I thought about where its final home was going to be, and it looks great here.

We’re All in the Mood for a Melody

MHS PrincipalAndrew Winfrey said that the school applied for the piano over the summer, and it was delivered in early October. At the ceremony on December 14th, the piano was introduced to the school at large by Frank Malloy IV, Sing for Hope’s Program Manager, and Neil Davis, a New York City-based singer-songwriter.

I’ve gotten to volunteer at hospitals and schools underserved with music,” Neil said. “I love the mission and as an artist myself it’s always nice to get [the music] out of you and bring it forward for other people.

Neil first led all students in a musical scales exercise to warm up their vocal chords. He then played an original song that had plenty of collaborative singing before finishing up with a few songs in the Christmas canon, such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and Wham!’s seminal “Last Christmas.

We’ve done so many different schools and seen so many positive reactions,” Neil said. “You realize how universal music is.


From Tokyo to Brooklyn: Sharing Expertise about the Developmental Disabilities Field

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, students from a Japanese university received a hands-on look at how children with disabilities learn at AHRC Middle High School, (MHS).  The visit was arranged in part by Dr. Raymond FranzemDirector of Internships. Appropriately, most of the students were undergraduates studying either Special Education or social work at the University of Tokyo.

The students began their day in the MHS cafeteria where Principal, Andrew Winfrey, provided a broad overview of the school. With the help of a translator, he explained the school’s demographics, administrative structure, service types, and teaching techniques that are available to students as they learn about a variety of academic subjects.

Throughout the visitors’ tour of the school, they had the opportunity to meet students as they passed through the school’s hallways, on their way to classes,  The students exchanged pleasantries with the Japanese guests. Teacher, Anne Keane, made mention that during lunchtime students open up a mini-café in the cafeteria, selling healthy snacks and drinks.

The visitors toured classrooms on all four floors of the building, observing students and teachers in the learning environment. Andrew and Estefania FloresTransition Developer, pointed out many teaching techniques, such as PECS.

For their final classroom visit, several of the visitors partnered with the school students for an origami airplane art project. Students learned the basics of the ancient and dexterous paper medium, and many proudly let their creations fly once complete.

Reconvening in the cafeteria, a brief question and answer session closed out the visit. One person asked about MHS students options following their graduation from the school, providing an opportunity for school staff to inform them about AHRC NYC’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program, which provides young adults with disabilities with individualized academic, vocational, community and social experiences, preparing them to be competitively employed and to obtain higher earnings. It was explained that following graduation from MHS, some students Transition to adult programs offered by AHRC NYC and other organizations in the disability services field, while some students take a break to make decisions about their future options.

One visitor asked what the significance of the artwork lining the walls was. Estefania explained that with the help of Sarah St. John, the school’s Art Teacher, students created the art in preparation for this year’s middle school and high school proms.

To finish their day, the Japanese students went to Fordham University to hear Dr. Franzem speak about further issues relating the developmental disabilities field.

Flying High with Wings for Autism

Children and their families from AHRC New York City’s schools were cruising at Wings for Autism for the third year in a row. Organized by The Arc in partnership with Delta Airlines, the TSA, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the event is an airport rehearsal experience that allows families to go through all of the stressors and stimuli that passengers are confronted with at the airport, including long lines, loud or confusing noises of the airport terminal, public address announcements, security checks, and airplane boarding procedures.

For young people with autism, Wings for Autism offers an invaluable opportunity to become acclimated to a daunting but necessary part of life.

Now Boarding…

Like any other trip to the airport, the day began at the check in counter, where prospective passengers checked in and received special boarding passes. Families then proceeded to the gate, along the way undergoing security measures, emptying pockets, taking off their shoes, and passing through the full body scanner.

At the gate, Delta provided snacks and drinks while everyone waited for the plane to arrive. After the deplaning process was complete, the families, many clad in the royal blue Wings for Autism shirts, were allowed on the plane to sit for several minutes and explore what it is like to be on an airplane as a family.

All the while, airline and airport staff treated the event as if it was a typical day, making the usual boarding announcements and answering questions from children and parents alike.

 Students and Staff React

 “This is my second straight year coming,” said Salvatore Shurott, a student from AHRC Middle / High School. Salvador came to LaGuardia Airport with his mom, Vicky and his brother. Salvatore said that he was getting more used to coming to the airport and has big plans in mind. “Next year we’re hoping to take a flight to Las Vegas!

Jalen Brown was accompanied by his dad, Danny. “This is my first time!” Jalen said with a big smile. “I like to go to the airport, and I’m glad this plane isn’t taking off.”

This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said John Goodson, Staff Training Director and Lead Investigator for AHRC NYC’s Educational Services, speaking to the families in attendance. “Thanks to all of you – the volunteers, the parents, the students, the friends, the airline staff. The goal is to make the airport more comfortable and we come closer and closer to that every year.”

AHRC New York City would like to thank Brian Rohlf and Michele Delgado of the Port Authority, TSA’s Veda Simmons and Guy Lainis, Jorge Chuzan, from Delta Airlines, Kerry Mauger of The Arc, and all of the Delta staff at LaGuardia Airport, for helping to coordinate Wings for Autism and once again, making it a great success. We also thank all of the AHRC NYC staff who volunteered their time to assist the families.

Wing for Autism: Saturday, April 29, 2017

DATE and TIME: Saturday, April 29, 2017, from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm

LOCATION: LaGuardia Airport, Delta Terminal

Wings for Autism® is an airport “rehearsal” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families, and airline professionals. The program is intended to reduce some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtain boarding passes, go through security, and board a plane. Wings for Autism® provides airport, airline, Transportation Security Administration professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact, and deliver their services in a structured learning environment.

Wings for Autism® was created by Charles River Center, an affiliated chapter of The Arc, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Port Authority.  For additional information about bringing Wings for Autism® to an airport near you, please email wingsforautism@thearc.org.

I Believe I Can Touch The Sky: Middle/High School Graduation

AHRC Middle/High School (MHS) held its graduation commencement ceremony on June 29, 2016. Nine students were honored for their achievements. The day featured speeches from AHRC NYC leadership, MHS staff, community leaders, and more.


The graduates were Harry Burekhovich, George Duah, Ciara McDonagh, Vanessa Silva, Nicholas Weafer,Constantino Chrysostomou, Anwar Jubran, David Cisse Parris, and Travis Thomas.


If you think back to our origin story a parent in 1948 put an ad in the New York Post that said ‘Looking for other family members that want to start services,’Gary Lind, Executive Director, said to the graduates. “Over 67 years we’ve been trying to provide supports and services for New York City and all from the spark of that parent. That’s what you represent here today. You are that hope, you are that heart of families and traditions going back generations and generations.

The Ceremony

The ceremony began with a video slideshow accompanied by the MHS Choir singing R. Kelly’s song, I Believe I Can Fly. Following another choir-led performance of the Star Spangled Banner , Rev. Monsignor Ronald T. Marino gave the benediction, followed by special awards given out on behalf of State Senator, Martin J. Golden.

In addition to Mr. Lind, MHS Principal Andrew Winfrey and Christina Muccioli, Director of Educational Services, gave speeches praising the graduates and staff for their accomplishments over their long tenures. Several staffers received flowers as a thank-you for their hard work and dedication.


The ceremony closed with a group performance of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song and a farewell message from student, Harry Burekhovich. Many of the graduates will move on to AHRC NYC’s adult programs. Others will take some time off before deciding their next step.

AHRC New York City congratulates all of the graduates and their families, and the entire staff at the Middle/High School for another successful and enriching year of support students with disabilities.

Teens Take the Met

During a gorgeous spring evening on Friday, May 20th, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors for an event titled Teens Take the Met, which invited teenagers across New York City to visit the museum during evening hours, to enjoy art making, performances, gallery activities, music, dancing, and more. Students were allowed into the museum for free in an effort to increase art awareness and to participate in various activities developed by outside organizations on behalf of the museum. Over 40 cultural and community organizations helped make the evening special by providing teen-only activities such as creating music and art pieces, jewelry design, dancing, poetry and song writing, film, fashion, pattern making, stop motion animation, arts and crafts, and other art-inspired collaborative activities.

Collaboration and Collage

AHRC New York City added to the festivities by providing attendees the opportunity to create a collaborative pattern collage as well as advocating for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. AHRC NYC’s booth, located in the Arms and Armor Exhibit, was safely nestled among dozens of medieval knights resplendent in full sparkling armor. The activity, developed by AHRC Middle High School and Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School Art Teacher, Priscilla Palmieri, encouraged visitors to create patterns for use in a collaborative collage, with each person adding their own unique perspective to the project. Students of all ages visited the booth to participate in the fun.

As one of the only Art Educators collaborating with over 40 different organizations from the Greater New York City area, I felt honored to work together with everyone to have teens engaged in the art making process,” said Priscilla.  “I had the pleasure of working with several Met staff who were extremely helpful and considerate in helping to meet the needs of my students.” 

Art Teacher, Priscilla Palmieri, with AHRC Middle High School student, Ricardo Montanez, at Teens Take the Met

The diverse range of activities held by other organizations allowed for the teens to explore various art mediums and interests, as well as practice positive social interactions.

Future Collaborations

“I … plan to maintain a relationship between AHRC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” added Priscilla. “They have plenty of resources to offer our students, and I love how they have made it possible for us to interact with other organizations within the community.

AHRC New York City is proud to celebrate events such as this, which allow our students to share their creativity while engaging in social activities with their peers. Thanks also to AHRC NYC’s Christopher Chin, Education Training Director, and John Goodson, Staff Training Director, of Educational Services, who helped to coordinate this event.

Stay the Course: Traversing the Special Spartan Race at Citi Field

On Saturday, April 16, 2016, people receiving services through AHRC NYC programs, families, and staff from all across the five boroughs took to the stands, concourse, and even the outfield in the 2016 Special Needs Spartan Race. The multi-faceted obstacle course took place at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, in Flushing Meadows, Queens.

Among the AHRC NYC services represented at the Spartan Race were Educational Services, Adult Day ServicesEmployment and Business Services, and Camping and Recreation.

The Spartan Course

The Special Needs Spartan Race is an obstacle course race designed to test resilience, strength, stamina, and ability to overcome adversity. Overseeing the safe and structured athletic event, the organizers of the Spartan Race provided students and families with an opportunity to challenge themselves, to spend time with friends, and to get some exercise.

Racers began the event in the left field concourse area, snaking their way through the seats, then turning up to the stadium hallways. They encountered climbing and ducking obstacles as they moved up and down stairways.  Eventually, the athletes progressed through the left-field warning track, where each person faced a brief balancing test in foul territory. Finally, the racers climbed their way back up into the stands and hurried toward the finish line.

Throughout the course the students were cheered on by Spartan staff, who were dressed as superheroes such as Spider-Man, Captain America, and Robin. All participants received a medal for completing the race. To re-hydrate and replenish, the racers also received water, a banana and a protein bar once they crossed the finish line.

AHRC New York City thanks all of the families and staff members who came out for support and to race themselves, as well as Spartan Race, Inc. for making the day a fun-filled success.