Community Health Worker and Care Management Support Program Celebrates with Completion Ceremony

The CHW and CMS Completion Event celebrated the new Programs.

On June 6, faculty, students, and their family and friends gathered together at CSI’s Green Dolphin Lounge to celebrate the accomplishments of adult learners and a growing relationship with an outstanding community partner.

The event, which was covered by Borderland Films, featured the accomplishments of Community Health Worker (CHW) and Care Management Support (CM) program graduates; their funder, the Staten Island Performing Provider System (SIPPS); and the College’s Office of Community, Educational, and Economic Engagement, which designed and implemented both programs.

Both programs afforded current healthcare-sector incumbent workers the opportunity to earn a credential pertinent to new and evolving roles in healthcare while attaining three college credits.  The CHW program was created for adults with little or no college experience, while the CM program was designed to introduce college graduates, who are working in the field of care management, to CSI’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program and equip them with a care management credential.

Community Health Workers attended Anthropology 100 with Dr. Philippe Marius to better understand the theory behind societies while accruing general education credits; Care Managers studied the opioid epidemic with Dr. Christine Flynn-Saulnier in Social Work graduate course SWK 684 Drugs and Alcohol.

The programs enrolled healthcare workers at different stages of their careers in education, yet the broad goals of the programs were the same: to provide existing healthcare workers the access to training and education to help them grow in their careers while providing the best support to their clients, who are most often Medicaid recipients. The clients whom the graduates will serve often have difficulty accessing quality healthcare due to cultural, language, and/or socioeconomic barriers. Thanks to the students’ funder, SIPPS, the learning opportunities may have been free, but student commitment was unwavering.

The CHW program ran from October to May, meeting two evenings per week. Care Management students attended class one evening a week during the Spring 2017 semester, along with one full Saturday a month. Despite full-time work, family responsibilities, and for many, a long lapse since being a student, the students flourished. Both programs were designed for the adult working student, featuring small class sizes and a combination of faculty who possess both academic and industry expertise. For CHW students, this equated to two teachers in the classroom at all times. At the start of the CHW program, lead instructor, Deeana Dobrer provided technical training, while CSI English Department faculty member Sara Paul,  helped students enhance their literacy skills, which are not only critical for the CHW role, but in Anthropology 100, which they took in Spring 2017.  Once enrolled in ANT100, Paul remained present in class with Dr. Marius.

CSI faculty and staff joined graduates, along with family members, co-workers, and friends, for an informative and celebratory evening in the Green Dolphin Lounge.

“Partnership with the Social Work Department and the Sociology and Anthropology Department truly made these programs a success,” says Chris Cruz Cullari, Executive Director of the Office of Community, Educational, and Economic Engagement. Cruz Cullari and his Office, who formed the relationships with SIPPS and academic departments, ultimately designed and implemented both programs. Appropriately named the Office of Community, Educational and Economic Engagement, the Office does just that, bridging the Staten Island community’s needs appropriately with the resources of the College to foster Staten Island’s economic growth.

“This graduation tonight–with its emphasis on community partnership, health-related concerns and solutions, education, and career development–is the very embodiment of the College’s stated commitment to ‘Borough Stewardship,’” commented Ken Iwama, JD, Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations.

The CHW and CM programs are just two examples of the work that SIPPS is committed to partnering with the College to implement. Work is already underway to offer another CHW cohort in Fall 2017 and a Recovery Peer Advocate program is currently being designed. For more information about any of the programs mentioned in this article, contact Chris Cruz Cullari at

View the video of the Ceremony, which includes interviews and background, on CSI’s YouTube page.

Complete list of students of the 2017 CHW and CM Support Programs:

CHW Completers:

Aruni Aniju, Staten Island University Hospital

Jacqueline Aust Sierra, Richmond University Medical Center

Siobhan Baptiste, Staten Island University Hospital

Vistell Burton, Staten Island University Hospital

Charles Cooper, Project Hospitality

Cintia Cruz, Richmond University Medical Center

Maribel Espinosa, Project Hospitality

Donna Graziano, Community Heath Action of Staten Island

Justine Jackson, Richmond University Medical Center

Barbara Reffell, Staten Island University Hospital

Sandy Richardson, South Beach Psychiatric


CM Support Completers:

Beata Biszkowiecki, Community Health Center of Richmond

Samantha Cancilla, Project Hospitality

Stavros Delardas, Community Health Center of Richmond

Jamie Guiterrez, NYC Health+Hospitals Sea View

Cherri Hugee, The Jewish Board

Derek Louie, The Jewish Board

Melissa Riggio Graduation Ceremony Celebrates Student Achievement

Ryan Mienert, Lisa Marie Loesch, and Christopher Siani at the Melissa Riggio Graduation Ceremony

Melissa Riggio once penned that, “Love is everything, Love is all around, Love is not hopeless, Love is a passion, Love is an ocean.” Riggio’s poem, “Love is a potion,” was aptly quoted by College of Staten Island (CSI) President William J. Fritz at the AHRC New York City and CSI Continuing Education Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program Graduation Ceremony on the CSI campus.

Certainly Riggio’s sentiments seemed to have carried on as three beaming students received certificates of completion at what became a standing-room-only event at CSI’s Lorraine and Gordon Di Paolo Boardroom.

Lisa Marie Loesch, Ryan Mienert, and Christopher Siani celebrated their accomplishments with family, friends, and CSI officials as part of the graduating class of 2017, the first group of students to complete the new four-year course of study, which includes a number of additional learning activities and more closely reflects the baccalaureate experience.

“We are here tonight to celebrate you Lisa, Ryan, and Chris. You worked hard,” said Executive Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development Chris Cruz Cullari, who detailed the unique qualities of each student.

“Lisa Marie has amazing presentation and communication skills. She truly owns the room, said Cruz Cullari, adding that he is confident that Loesch will find her niche in a leadership role.

“Ryan has a tremendous work ethic. Over the years, he has helped my office at a number of events here at the College and out in the community… and finally, Chris’ enthusiasm about what he is learning and about his career goals is a very relevant model for what engaged and forward looking college students should be in 2017,” noted Cruz Cullari.

“We have been talking a lot at the College about our legacy… We are also mindful that that our history includes our important role as the place where the rights, needs, and lives of people with disabilities were brought to the forefront of local, regional, and national discussion. This year, I am focusing on our legacy of mission and our 61-year history of providing access to the highest-quality education,” Dr. Fritz said.

Chris Cruz Cullari, Ife Okoh, Program graduates, Kenichi Iwama, and Dr. Fritz gather at the Ceremony.

The CSI President also noted that, “Many people view our place, our Willowbrook campus, as the beginning of the movement for the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities,” and outlined some of the “wonderful collaborations between the College and the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program,” including a recent lecture presented by The Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies, as well as The Willowbrook Memorial Lecture: “The Willowbrook Mile Experience.”

Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Kenichi Iwama recalled the first Program’s graduation in 2013, a smaller event, which has grown over the four years since its inception. Iwama noted that this was the first graduation ceremony to take place in the Lorraine and Gordon Di Paolo Boardroom since its renaming this year, an occasion that “signifies the level of importance and value this Program brings to CSI.”

“The College celebrates its 60-year mission of changing lives, and the Melissa Riggio Program has certainly helped in that mission. The success of this Program and the students we celebrate this evening are incredibly meaningful and inspirational, and I am proud to be a small part of the Program’s success,” said Iwama, who thanked all faculty, staff, students, and family members for their efforts.

The Riggio Program also features a senior project wherein students are engaged in research about a local social challenge, work to positively affect the challenge through community service, and ultimately share their research and experience with the campus and the community, according to Cruz Cullari.

Program Director Ife Okoh acted as master of ceremonies and called the evening, “a monumental milestone in the lives of these graduates.”

Cruz Cullari also pointed out that the students in the Riggio Program are “not the only ones who are learning and growing.  The College is learning and growing,” as he detailed some of the ways in which the Melissa Riggio students, the Program, and Program staff are giving back to the campus. These include teaching all CSI students, as well as its faculty and staff, what a diverse and fully inclusive environment can look like, providing valuable jobs and internships to CSI students as mentors, and contributing to disability and Universal Design initiatives and other projects on campus.

“We are not only celebrating the graduates this evening. We are thanking the graduates and the Program more broadly for all that both have done,” Cruz Cullari pointed out.

The Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at CSI is a fully inclusive college-based program designed to prepare people with intellectual disabilities for adult life through higher-education coursework, career exploration and preparation, self-awareness and personal improvement, community preparation, and socialization. Newly designed as a four-year certificate program, it provides individualized academic, vocational, community, and social experiences for young adults in a highly supportive, yet challenging, environment.



Helena Rubinstein Scholarship Recipients Pursuing Their Dreams

Scholarship winner Petronilla Tesoriero and her two children. 

Hard times had fallen on Petronilla Tesoriero, who, divorced at 39 years old with two children, felt like she had “lost everything.” One of the recipients of the Helena Rubinstein Scholarship, the College of Staten Island (CSI) student is now able to move forward in her education and her career.

“The Helena Rubinstein Scholarship has allowed me to get my self-esteem back and get into a career that I always wanted to but couldn’t afford. It also helps that when I put on my résumé that I attended CSI, companies will take me seriously,” said Tesoriero, who will graduate as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

The Helena Rubinstein Foundation provides scholarship monies to CUNY for Continuing Education students each semester. In the Spring 2017 semester, approximately one-fourth of all funding, a noteworthy portion, was awarded to College of Staten Island (CSI) students.

“CSI is truly a great school. The staff accommodated my needs as a single mother of two young kids. I had such a great experience with the College and with the people that offered me this lifetime of an opportunity to receive a degree in something that as a child I always wanted to do,” said Tesoriero, who plans to become a Registered Nurse.

“This Scholarship helps to transform the lives of students who are hard-working and may not have had the opportunity to return to school without assistance. We are grateful to the Helena Rubinstein Foundation for their continued generosity and commitment to the needs of our students,” commented Chris Cruz Cullari, Executive Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development.

Another proud Scholarship winner, Richmond Bradshaw Jr., noted that, “CSI impacted me by giving me a widespread choice of careers and fields to choose from and also providing financial and professional assistance to make these once far-fetched dreams and hopes a reality.” Bradshaw will graduate as a Phlebotomy Technician with future plans to excel in higher education even further and work in the field he loves.

Richmond Bradshaw, Jr. is also a Scholarship recipient.

Clinical Medical Assistant student Monica Pignatano​ is also grateful for the award. “This will afford me the peace of mind to completely concentrate on my studies. I will be able to give back to the Foundation with my graduation and high grades. CSI has allowed me to have a career in life that I love,” said Pignatano who plans to pursue employment at New York University Medical Center.

“The Helena Rubinstein Continuing Education Scholarship Fund for Career Advancement is open to individuals who seek to advance their careers through education and training, and who do not have access to other sources of funding that can pay for tuition and fees. Scholarship applicants may also be disadvantaged individuals who are unemployed or seeking a career change,” according the CUNY Website.

[video] CSI Brings Hope to Diamond

Diamond Mitchell is 24 years old, out of school, and out of work – criteria that render the young mother of two eligible for a CSI Restorative Educational Access and Development for Youth (READY) workforce development scholarship. Funded by the Staten Island Foundation and the Petrie Foundation, CSI READY provides workforce development opportunities for young people ages 18 to 24 who are out of school and not employed.

CSI recently awarded Mitchell a full scholarship for the Medical Assistant Program, as reported by Monica Morales on Channel 11 News at 5 (WPIX TV). 

“Through this transformative program, generously funded by the Petrie Foundation and the Staten Island Foundation, Diamond will participate in coursework, career readiness training, and an internship.  She will receive robust student support, including help with finding a job in her new field once she completes the program,” commented Christopher Cruz Cullari, Executive Director, Continuing Studies and Workforce Development.

Mitchell and her two children are currently living at Good Counsel Homes (GHC), a supportive residential care and community-based service organization for homeless, expectant, and new mothers.

“The College of Staten Island is consistently ranked in the top 20 colleges nationally for empowering students to reach new levels of academic and socioeconomic success. We are proud to support Diamond in her quest to overcome her past and create a new future in service to our community by studying at the College of Staten Island, and thank Good Counsel for sharing a vision that embraces academic success and career empowerment for new and expectant mothers,” said Ken Bach, Director of Communications at CSI.

Warmly greeting and congratulating Mitchell on the scholarship award, Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Ken Iwama recalled the triumphs of CSI’s 2016 Valedictorian RinZhi Go Larocque, who began in the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP).

Growing up in foster care, Mitchell eventually stayed with family in Alabama and then New York. After illness and homelessness on the streets of New York with one child and pregnant with her second child, Mitchell finally found shelter with Good Counsel Homes, where she lives with her two children and takes parenting classes.

People 18 to 24 years old, out of school, and unemployed, may be eligible for the CSI READY workforce development scholarship, funded by the Staten Island Foundation and the Petrie Foundation. Call 718.982.2182 or visit the Continuing Studies Web site and apply.

Community Health Worker Training: Preparing Staten Island’s Healthcare Workforce to Support Medicaid Patients

Students participating in the CHW Training Program.

Community Health Worker (CHW) training, the first product of the partnership between Staten Island Performing Provider System (SIPPS) and the College of Staten Island (CSI), officially commenced on October 24. The training equips existing healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills required to transition into Community Health Worker roles while they earn CHW certification and three college credits from the City University of New York (CUNY).

“The Office of Continuing Studies at CSI offers many training programs that enable adults to enter and advance in the workforce, especially in the healthcare industry. However, this program is something unprecedented at the College and perhaps throughout the City, and SIPPS has been instrumental in making that possible,” states Chris Cruz Cullari, Executive Director of the College’s Office of Continuing Studies.

The CHW role is growing as a result of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program, a mechanism of New York State to reform Medicaid. Under DSRIP, New York State will fundamentally restructure the healthcare delivery system by reinvesting in the Medicaid program, with the primary goal of reducing avoidable hospital use by 25% over five years.

CHWs will work directly with Medicaid recipients who may have difficulty accessing healthcare providers, systems, or medicine due to cultural, language, and/or socioeconomic barriers. CHWs extend the reach of providers into underserved communities, reducing health disparities, enhancing communication, and improving health outcomes and overall quality measures. Working in conjunction with healthcare providers, human services, and the communities they support, CHWs bridge gaps in patient care. This coordinated care model ultimately addresses patients’ medical and social needs in a more holistic and meaningful way.

SIPPS, like other PPS entities throughout the State of New York, is implementing DSRIP into the Staten Island healthcare community and SIPPS Senior Director of Human Resources and Workforce Development William Myhre is ensuring that Staten Island healthcare professionals receive the training and preparation needed to support DRSIP.

“There is more to DSRIP than just reducing avoidable hospital use.  DSRIP will provide the funding to offer critical training to healthcare professionals on Staten Island, which will ultimately elevate the quality of healthcare on Staten Island. It seemed intrinsic to develop a partnership with CSI to make this happen,” Myhre said.

CHW training is just one example that demonstrates SIPPS’s commitment to the Staten Island healthcare workforce, but for the 11 healthcare incumbents who began training in October, the opportunity is an immeasurable one.

“This amazing opportunity will help me gain new skills in order to help others reach their health goals. Career-wise, I will be able to move forward in my organization.  It will help me connect to other people of different backgrounds in my community and help me adapt in different situations,” states Cintia Cruz, Medical Assistant at Richmond University Medical Center.

SIPPS has gone beyond coordinating the training; in fact, it is funding more than 75% of the tuition for students to attend training as well, and in cases like Justine Jackson’s, SIPPS is funding 100% of her tuition. When Jackson learned that she wasn’t eligible for any additional tuition benefits through her union or employer, SIPPS stepped in.

“I was ready to withdraw from the program. As a new CHW at Richmond University Medical Center, I knew that I, and ultimately my patients, would benefit from my training, but there wasn’t any way that I could afford to pay the tuition on my own,” stated Jackson. “I am so thankful for SIPPS and specifically for Bill Myhre for making this happen for me.”

Designed for the adult working student, the program boasts an exceptionally small class size and a combination of faculty who possess both academic and industry expertise.

“This program was designed very intentionally,” continues Cruz Cullari. “Adult students have a wealth of knowledge to share with their classmates based on their work and life experiences and we knew it was critical to take that into account when designing this training. Every activity has been designed to promote student sharing, to actively engage students in the learning process and to practice the skills they will need for job success.”

The cohort of 11 will initially attend CHW technical training two evenings per week with Deeana Dobrer, Project Coordinator for SI CARES at Coordinated Behavioral Care, and CSI English Department faculty member Sara Paul. As students receive technical CHW training, they also enhance their literacy skills, which are critical for the CHW role. “As Literacy Instructor, my goal is two-fold,” stated Paul. “I want our students to possess the literacy skills needed to excel in the CHW role. This includes writing comprehensive case notes, easily interpreting complex reading material, communicating effectively with patients and other healthcare professionals, and presenting well in the community. I also want to prepare them to excel in in the college portion of the program.”

In February 2017, CHW students will transition into Anthropology 100 while they continue to receive CHW technical instruction. The pairing of the courses was deliberate. Anthropology, which studies the various aspects of humans within past and present societies, will expose students to the history and theories that drive the work they do as CHWs. The class will be open only to CHW program participants and the cohort’s Literacy Instructor will attend these classes with students to help them with the reading and writing assignments they will receive as well as to make connections between the theory they learn in the course to the application in CHW training.

Attending classes two evenings per week over six-months is an immense commitment for a working adult, but students are up for the challenge.

“I recognize that you have to invest time to reap the reward. In this case, my biggest reward will be my ability to help my clients and I know that this program will prepare me for it,” states CHASI employee Donna Graziano. Other students have multiple goals, like Maribel Espinosa. “This opportunity is perfect for me.  Not only am I gaining skills that I need to perform in my case manager role at Project Hospitality, but I am also gaining credits toward my degree.” Espinosa is currently a pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Business Management. Like all CUNY students attaining bachelor’s degrees, she must take Anthropology 100.

Community Health Worker training will run until May 2017, but it isn’t the only training that will be implemented to support DSRIP. Myhre noted that, “I was thoroughly excited to launch Community Health Worker training, but DSRIP is a fast-paced initiative that will require more than just CHW training. I’ve already begun working on my next collaboration with the College to offer learning and development opportunities coming in 2017 to our many other healthcare professionals.”

[video] A Win-Win for CSI and Staten Island

[youtube][/youtube]The College of Staten Island (CSI) ipartnering with nine other local groups, including community-based organizations and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, on a new initiative called the Youth Workforce Initiative Network of Staten Island, also known as “Youth WINS.”

As approximately one in five young adults on Staten Island between the ages of 18 and 24 are out of school and out of work, this program aims to address this large-scale problem in the Borough. The out-of-school, out-of-work statistic rises to an acutely critical one in four on the North Shore, second in the City only to the Bronx. By working with potential employers, Youth WINS partners plan to recruit and educate hundreds of young adults over the next three years with the goal of connecting them to high-demand jobs. It will also provide dynamic programming, including mentorships and internships, for participants.

An all-day event, which took place at both the St. George Library and the CSI Technology Incubator nearby, showcased Youth WINS leadership including Chris Cruz Cullari, Executive Director of the Office of Continuing Education and Professional Development at CSI, as well as Linda Baran, President and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.

“Connecting young adults on Staten Island with support, education, and a career ladder will be just the beginning for students,” commented Cruz Cullari.  “The young adults we serve through Youth WINS will become a part of the economic fabric of New York City, connecting them to a lifetime of opportunities.”

Watch the NY1 video for the event highlights.


Office of Continuing Education and Professional Development’s Jasmine Cardona Honored

Jasmine Cardona with CSI President William Fritz

It has been announced that Jasmine Cardona, Director of Workforce Development and Administration in the College of Staten Island’s (CSI) Office of Continuing Education and Professional Development (CEPD), is one of Staten Island’s most influential businesswomen. The honorees were acknowledged at Star Network’s “Staten Island Power Women in Business” event at the Hilton Garden Inn in September.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the College, as well as the Staten Island community, for the contributions and achievements made by Continuing Education’s Workforce Development division. It is gratifying to know that the efforts of my team and I are having lasting impacts in our business community and contributing to the Borough’s economic development,” said Cardona, a Willowbrook resident and Brooklyn native, who has been at CSI for 12 years.

In her current role in CEPD, she and her staff offer comprehensive workforce development training programs that equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to attain sustainable employment in growing workforce sectors. This role requires Cardona to remain acutely aware of the changing needs of the local labor market and regional employers by actively engaging with employers and industry. Continuing Education has developed strong partnerships in both the healthcare and technology sectors.

“The work we do has tremendous impact in the lives of our students and is valued by employers. We equip our students with in-demand skills that enable them to be marketable and remain competitive in today’s workforce,” commented Cardona.

CSI staff gather at the Star Network award ceremony

CEPD Executive Director Chris Cruz Cullari was both proud of Cardona and gratified at the success of CEPD staff, programs, and students. “It’s a pleasure working with Jasmine, as she is so dedicated and so professional in all that she does. I congratulate her, and I am very pleased that she is receiving the praise she deserves,” commented Cruz Cullari.

“It’s wonderful to see that an intelligent and hard-working individual has been recognized for all that she contributes to the College as well as to the community at large. Jasmine is certainly an asset to the College,” lauded CSI Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government RelationsKen Iwama.

Prior to Cardona’s role at the College, she coordinated a $2.3 million NYSTAR grant, under the leadership of Professors Nan-Loh Yang, Ralf Peetz, Alan Lyons, Chwen Yang Shew, and Bhanu Chauhan. This grant promoted economic development in New York State through industry engagement with the various research and development initiatives of CSI faculty.

“Working with talented and passionate leaders, Continuing Education as a whole has undoubtedly flourished. Under Christopher Cruz Cullari’s guidance, Workforce Development has made numerous strides within the Staten Island business community and because of Ken Iwama’s exemplary leadership, we have experienced countless successes,” noted Cardona.

CEPD’s Workforce Development has grown four-fold, serving more than 5,000 students over the last two years. During that time, CEPD staff members have significantly strengthened sector partnerships, providing students with solid career pathways and resources.

Continuing Education and Professional Development’s Jasmine Cardona Honored

Jasmine Cardona, Director of Workforce Development & Administration for Continuing Education and Professional Development at the College of Staten Island (CSI), has been selected as one of Staten Island’s most influential businesswomen. The honorees were acknowledged on September 15 at Star Network’s “Staten Island Power Women in Business” event at the Hilton Garden Inn. The event was reported on in an article titled “Staten Island Power Women honored at Star Network event” in the Brooklyn Reporter online.

Read the full article on the Brooklyn Reporter web site.