Pictured: College of Osteopathic Medicine students and faculty at an orientation at The PILLARS clinic in 2018.
New York Tech’s Building Resilient Communities initiative was the recipient of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s (UPCEA) Engagement Award in the Mid-Atlantic region. Amy Bravo, senior director of career success and experiential education, who spearheaded the initiative, accepted the award at the UPCEA 2021 Regions Week, which was held virtually from October 18 through 21. UPCEA is an association for professional, continuing, and online education.
The program was recognized for its many achievements within the communities surrounding New York Tech’s campuses in Long Island and New York City.
The initiative launched in 2017, with partnerships within the Harlem neighborhood of New York City to encourage collaboration and programming, including one with Let’s Talk SAFETY, Inc., an educational environment that focuses on substance abuse prevention, which became the program’s primary collaborator. Felecia Pullen, founder and chief executive officer of Let’s Talk SAFETY, ran the organization without a brick-and-mortar presence. “I first met her when she visited New York Tech, seeking a partnership with our students to assist Harlem youth in learning app development,” says Bravo. “I was able to build her needs into a service-learning course, where students applied course content to a real-world project. In 2017, Let’s Talk SAFETY, Inc., opened The PILLARS, its brick-and-mortar facility in Harlem, which allowed us to expand our collaboration with on-site access.”
Through The PILLARS, New York Tech’s Building Resilient Communities initiative, has launched several programs within the Harlem community, including:
- Telehealth: Weekly sessions led by nursing students in the School of Health Professions and licensed practical nurses cover topics prevalent in the community, including hypertension, diabetes, COVID-19 safety precautions, medication safety, nutrition and affordable food choices, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, and stress management. In the last year, 45 New York Tech nursing students developed and delivered these informational workshops.
- Telemedicine: Free health clinics are run monthly by College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) students and licensed practitioners. Students performed synchronous remote sessions from the Long Island campus, including clinical exams, health screenings, and referrals to New York Tech nursing students for individualized support.
- Adult Literacy and Skill-Building Workshop Series: Three New York Tech faculty and staff, including Assistant Provost for Student Engagement and Development Tiffany Blake, M.Ed., Assistant Professor John Misak, M.A., and Associate Professor Kate E. O’Hara, Ph.D., developed, ran, and assessed 12 monthly workshops over four months to more than 124 community members. Topics included: financial literacy and wellbeing, building technical literacy, and workplace writing.
- Python Programming for Women: The six-week training program through the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences provides in-demand coding skills in the Python programming language along with dedicated career services and support tailored to women, single parents, and caregivers impacted by the market downturn who may be unemployed or underemployed.
- Clean Energy Academy: A $250,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) was awarded to the Willdan Group in partnership with New York Tech supports the university’s efforts to develop research and training opportunities in the area of energy efficiency. Willdan provides engineering and energy solutions for public and private utilities and public agencies of government and commercial and industrial firms. The activities at New York Tech are led by Principal Investigator Ehsan Kamel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, in collaboration with Amy Bravo. To date, 154 students received 60 hours of training free of charge. The grant will cover training for an additional 440 people.
- Computer Access and Training: New York Tech has donated eight computers to The PILLARS for its computer lab. The initiative allowed The PILLARS to provide technical skills classes to the Harlem community, engaged New York Tech students as instructors and tutors, and provided a professional environment for Harlem students and professionals to work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a majority of households may not have been able to accommodate everyone who needs access to a computer as businesses and schools pivoted to remote work and learning.
- Experiential Education: Since 2017, New York Tech classes covering many disciplines partnered with The PILLARS. More than 500 students applied what they learned in the classroom to address immediate needs within the community, including website and app development; photovoice community scans; the distribution of 3,000 door hangers with information about the effects of marijuana on pregnancy; the distribution of school supplies and food; student-led science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) after-school workshops for youth; the Harlem Legacy Project, which documents the experiences of seniors who have lived in Harlem for years; telehealth and telemedicine; workforce development courses; tutoring; voter education and registration initiatives; and robotics training.
“Building resilient communities takes time, patience, persistence, and strong collaborations with people committed to community building,” says Bravo. “This award shines a light on every single person who participated in this collaboration in small and big ways from the start. Everything is possible with passion and commitment.”