Solution Series: Maximizing Organizational Intelligence: Building Capacity to Create and Strategically Use Knowledge

Solution Series: Maximizing Organizational Intelligence: Building Capacity to Create and Strategically Use Knowledge

The Fedcap Group’s 16th Solution Series, Maximizing Organizational Intelligence: Building Capacity to Create and Strategically Use Knowledge was a great success, with a full house at Mutual of America building and hundreds from across the nation participating via live stream. The topic is especially significant to The Fedcap Group during this exciting period of mission-driven growth and expanded impact.

A panel of thought leaders led a lively and insightful discussion, touching on how intelligent organizations leverage their key assets – people, knowledge, data and analytics – for competitive advantage in the marketplace. The panel included Mike Turpin, Executive Vice President and Managing Consultant, USI Insurance Services; Leila Araiche, Managing Director in Brookfield Property Partners’ Real Estate Group, and Enrique Arbelaez, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Cien+, an innovative consultancy and marketing services firm that employs big data insights and cultural intelligence to help leaders and brands turn cultural trends into opportunities.

A key challenge for companies leveraging knowledge is turning data into actionable insights. To do so they must become an intelligent organization.

“To fully leverage data and analytics, we have learned that we need to manifest all the elements that define an intelligent organization–social, emotional, business and cultural intelligence,” said Christine McMahon, President and CEO of The Fedcap Group. “This requires technological capabilities, understanding the dynamics and motivations of a multicultural workforce and being structured to manage complexity and change.”

Mr. Turpin said that high IQ organization share data and use it to assist people at all levels of the organization. Knowledge, which comprises a remarkable 83 percent of organizational asset value, is as important as capital—and moves just as fast. “If you think of knowledge as capital and manage it like capital, then you are constantly focused on –how do you facilitate it, how do you cultivate it, so you get a constant return on it,” he said.

Mr. Arbelaez highlighted the importance of cultural knowledge, defined as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. Changing workforce demographics mean that cultural knowledge is essential for companies to unlock the full spectrum of organizational knowledge. “The U.S. minority population, currently 30 percent, is expected to exceed 50 percent before 2050,” he said. “These changing demographics have significant financial implications for business. A business that is not prepared to effectively tap into these diverse population groups is simply not sustainable.”

No organization can have a high IQ or maximize actionable intelligence without building a strong culture of communication, Ms. Araiche said. “A culture of strong communication requires clear messages about goals and specific, key measurements for success. If you want information, business intelligence and data to drive decision-making, you need regular, established outlets for communication at many organizational levels,” she said.

Solution Series: Women Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Life

Solution Series: Women Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Life

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On March 27 Fedcap held its 15th Solution Series, Women Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Life. The overflow crowd included business partners, and representatives from academia, community and government organizations. Hundreds more, from across the country and overseas, joined the event via livestream. 

In opening remarks, Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon said that “through this dialogue today, we believe that we can contribute to the day when all women veterans transition successfully to civilian life, by finding the support, employment, respect and happiness they deserve.” Ms. McMahon thanked event sponsors Mutual of America and Carr/Xerox and the many business partners in the room including Allied, Ocean Janitorial, LDI Toolbox, JP Morgan Chase, TD Bank, Spectrum, and Steinway Moving and Storage. She also noted the many government agencies that were represented in the room – Department of Veterans Services, Veterans’ Mental Health Coalition, HRA, OMH, DYCD, the Mayor’s Office, the Department for the Aging.

Lorrie Lutz, Fedcap’s Chief Strategy Officer, introduced the panelists – US Navy Veteran (Second Class Petty Officer, Ret.) Kim Elvin, currently Director of Workforce Development/Vocational Services for Easterseals New York; Dr. Cameron Ritchie, Colonel, US Army (Ret.), now Chief of Community Based Outpatients Clinics for the Washington, DC VA, and Adria Horn, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Reserves, currently Director, Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services.

The panelists spoke of the challenges women veterans face in transition. Dr. Ritchie said that transition is an ongoing process – there is no clean break from service to civilian life. Ms. Horn said that despite holding an MBA and being a West Point graduate, she applied for 30 jobs after her discharge without getting a single call. Ms. Elvin said that the male-dominated culture of the VA leads many women to avoid the agency and the services it provides. It took her 30 years to register and become eligible for services.

The panel addressed the high rates of sexual assault in the military, and of suicide and homelessness among female veterans. One in four women in the military is sexually assaulted, and women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the homeless veteran population. Sexual assault and other traumas associated with service contribute to homelessness, unemployment, suicide and untreated mental illness.

To combat homelessness and improve mental health care, women veterans must be made aware of the services, supports and benefits that are available to them, through the VA and elsewhere. They should be encouraged to advocate for themselves; to call on personal networks for support, and to register with the VA.

Each of the panelists offered a key takeaway. Ms. Elvin said that communities must be prepared to welcome transitioning veterans. Dr. Ritchie encouraged employers to support women veterans with child care, flexible hours and other policies, and Ms. Horn said that to effectively support women veterans, they must first identify them among job applicants and staff.

In closing remarks, Lisa Russell, a ten-year Army veteran, reminded the audience that the Solution Series is only the beginning of the conversation about female veterans. The Fedcap family of agencies will continue its multifaceted work in serving the female veteran population, and advocating for their well-being.

2017 Celebration of the Power of Possible

2017 Celebration of the Power of Possible

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On November 27th, the Fedcap family of agencies hosted its inaugural Possible of Possible Gala. Guided by the belief that we are better together, Fedcap, Single Stop USA, Easterseals, Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, ReServe and Wildcat honored distinguished supporters, and the individuals and families we are privileged to serve. Over 400 people attended the evening event at Gotham Hall in Manhattan.

Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon talked about the meaning of the Power of Possible. “These powerful words serve as the foundation for what we do every single day across our growing family of agencies. When you believe that achieving a dream is possible., and when you are inspired by those around you to aim high, dreams become reality.”

In introductory remarks, Fedcap Board Chair Mark O’Donoghue spoke about the transformation and growth of the Fedcap family of agencies, and the opportunity to impact more lives. Asking the audience to consider what the Power of Possible can accomplish, Mark introduced a Year in Review video that powerfully highlighted the agencies’ collective work in 2017. Michael Friedman, Chair of the Easterseals New York Board of Directors, offered greetings from the Easterseals community, saying Easterseals “is one of the most powerful voices in the country advocating for a world where people with disabilities have equal access to opportunities.”

Michael Weinstein, Chairman of the ReServe and Single Stop USA Boards of Directors, introduced a testimonial video to three esteemed members of the Fedcap community who passed away this year; Jack Rosenthal, ReServe co-founder and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist; Marty Silberberg, who served as Fedcap’s fifth board chair and was the first recipient of the Leo Mayer Award for Distinguished Service, and Bob Fawls, a member and past chair of the CWS Board of Director. “Marty was one of Fedcap’s most revered Board members, who always asked the hard questions. Jack Rosenthal was the ultimate optimist who believed in the ideals of equality and justice. Bob Fawls was one of the driving forces—really a life force– behind the continued growth of CWS in Boston.”

Col. David Sutherland, Chairman, Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, was introduced by Fedcap board member Larry Ach, who described him as a “man that embodies the values of the army: honor, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage.” Col. Sutherland presented Frank Gaudio, Veterans Chairman, PwC Charitable Foundation Trustee and Leader of their Veterans Program Initiative, with the Dixon Center’s Eugene & Ruth Freedman Leadership Award.

Peter Samuels, Chair of Wildcat and member of Fedcap’s Board of Directors, introduced United States District Judge Deborah Batts, who was honored for her work and recognized the work of Fedcap and Wildcat. “I have seen the profound result of your work. What you do gives people second chances, you help them create a life with options and thus change lives for generations.”

Leslie Fields, a remarkable woman who overcame abuse, addiction and incarceration, shared her powerful story of perseverance and hope. “I didn’t give up. Believe in yourself, and never accept defeat.”

Fedcap board member Ken Raisler introduced Madison Pellegrino, a nine-year-old child who was inspired to start a business to raise funds for Easterseals, which did so much to help her little sister with Down’s Syndrome. “The most important thing I’ve learned is that just one small act of kindness can open a door to endless possibilities, and inspire other people to do the same,” Madison said.

In closing remarks, Fedcap board member Malvina Kay quoted the words of Winston Churchill – words that aptly describe what drives the work of the Fedcap family of agencies: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Solution Series: The Employment of People with Disabilities: Moving Beyond Social Responsibility to a Business Solution

Solution Series: The Employment of People with Disabilities: Moving Beyond Social Responsibility to a Business Solution

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On October 3rd Fedcap held its 14th biannual Solution Series – The Employment of People with Disabilities: Moving Beyond Social Responsibility to a Business Solution. The overflow crowd included business partners, and representatives from community and government organizations that support the Fedcap family of agencies. If you were unable to attend the event, click here to view the Solution Series in its entirety.

Attendees were treated to an insightful and thought-provoking discussion of a topic of compelling interest to businesses large and small – why hiring people with disabilities is good for business. Panelists included:

• Elaine E. Katz – Senior Vice President for Grants and Communications, Kessler Foundation

• Larry Stubblefield – Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights at the Small Business Administration

• Amanda Tierney – Regional Learning Center Manager, Workforce Initiatives, CVS Health

Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon welcomed the guests and thanks event sponsors Mutual of America and Staples. “One of the important themes that we will hear about today is that hiring people with disabilities is not just the right thing to do, it is good for business,” she said.

Martha Jackson, Assistant Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, spoke briefly, thanking Fedcap for its commitment to changing the lives of people with disabilities. Ms. Jackson talked about efforts of the Mayor’s Office to increase employment of people with disabilities, and to make NYC the most disability-friendly city in the world.

Elaine Katz said that among the benefits of employing people with disabilities are higher productivity and lower turnover. Research conducted by the Kessler Foundation shows that a culture of recruiting, hiring and retaining people with disabilities starts with a commitment by upper management. There is strong evidence that an inclusive culture increases the morale and productivity of all employees. Ms. Katz pointed out that the cost of workplace accommodations for people with disabilities is far lower than employers assume, and that tax credits and job training grants are available.

Amanda Tierney discussed CVS Health’s work with school districts in NYC. The company operates four work centers that replicate the retail environment, and serve as training centers for young adults with disabilities who are entering the workforce. A priority in these efforts is training job coaches. If the coaches are properly trained the employee is much more likely to succeed.

Larry Stubblefield discussed current legislative amendments that aim to increase the percentage of people with disabilities in the federal workforce. The US Small Business Administration undertook efforts to highlight success stories about employees with disabilities to help the agency “bust the myths, fears and stereotypes” about hiring people with disabilities that are still common in the workplace.

Mr. Stubblefield said that one in five Americans has a disability, and that many disabilities are unseen. He discussed SBA efforts on behalf of returning veterans, a number of whom have disabling injuries, and the importance of integrating them into the workforce. “As a society, we can tap into that talent pool, or pay for it in social costs,” he said.

Fedcap 2017 Graduation Inspires All

Fedcap 2017 Graduation Inspires All

Fedcap’s annual Graduations are among the most inspiring events on our calendar. They take on special meaning because of the barriers that individuals must overcome to graduate. The Fedcap Career Design School, Fedcap School and Easterseals Child Development Centers all celebrated graduations in June, in moving ceremonies that inspired all who attended. 

On Wednesday June14th over 400 people gathered at John Jay College to celebrate Fedcap’s Career Design School Graduation ceremony. The joyous event recognized the courage and achievements of a remarkable group of individuals who overcome barriers and challenges to graduate.

Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon thanked the Fedcap board for their vision, and commitment to supporting the work of Fedcap. She offered powerful words for the graduates. “This day is the heart and soul of the work we do at Fedcap. This is about jobs, a great education, a living wage and a career.”

Mark O’Donoghue, Fedcap Board Chairman, said in a taped message that “it takes a tremendous amount of courage and commitment to start something and see it all the way through. Because of your courage and commitment doors will open to you that were previously shut.”

Don Harreld, Senior VP of Fedcap’s Education Practice Area, served as emcee for the event. He introduced Fedcap Board Member Ken Raisler, who thanked the graduates’ families, friends and partners for their support. “As you look out at the audience and see your families, friends and loved ones, I hope you are feeling the overwhelming sense of pride in yourselves that they feel about you. I encourage you to continue to believe in yourselves; to be bold, continue to work hard, and to pursue your dreams.”

Ken presented Fedcap’s Excellence in Vocational Education Award to Arnie Doren, ACCES VR Regional Business Relations Coordinator. In accepting the award Arnie thanked Fedcap for a 32- year partnership characterized by successful collaboration in helping individuals with disabilities identify their skills and strengths, and get the training and support they need to succeed in the workplace.

Graduates and Alumni of the Career Design School provided powerful testimony to the impact of Fedcap on their lives. James Branch graduated from Fedcap’s Security Training Program with support from Fedcap staff, particularly instructor Gloria Henry, James moved from unemployment and government assistance to landing his dream job as a security supervisor, where he supervises over 500 security guards.

“The Security Training program got me reenergized and refocused, and gave me renewed confidence in my ability to get a job,” he said. “It put me back on the career ladder, climbing to the top.”

Board member Malvina Kay introduced Yashira Cruz – “a remarkable young woman with a powerful story.” Yashira earned a Bachelor’s Degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College before suffering from depression and falling out of the workforce. She took a chance and enrolled in Fedcap’s Home Health Aide Training Program, to support herself while she pulled her life together and worked towards her dream. Today Yashira is completing a Master’s Degree in clinical social work, while gaining valuable experience working for Fedcap.

To spirited applause, she told the crowd – “I found Fedcap at exactly the right time in my life. To the Fedcap 2017 graduates I say this – Take a chance on yourself, and do whatever you can to accomplish your goals!”

Alumni speaker Minurka Marte was introduced to the stage by Fedcap board member Larry Ach. Minurka, who is deaf, talked about her struggles to support herself and her children after emigrating to New York City from the Dominican Republic. Fedcap provided her with American Sign Language interpreters and other supports so that she could graduate from the agency’s Total Facilities Management Program. Minurka now works for Fedcap, and for the first time in her life has secure, supported employment and a living wage.

Minurka thanked Fedcap staff for helping her not just in training but also in financial literacy – how to manage money, pay bill, set up a bank account and navigate healthcare. “Because of their help I am independent, and my life is stable,” she said.

Christy Reeves, CEO of Single Stop, a new member of the Fedcap family of agencies, closed the event by thanking the graduates for their extraordinary courage and commitment, and the Fedcap community of stakeholders for their tireless working in making the Power of Possible a reality.

On June 13th, 15 students graduated from the Fedcap School, earning both a Certificate of Completion and a State of New Jersey high school diploma. It was the largest graduating class in the school’s history and the most successful in terms of transition plans. “All of our students broke through significant barriers and stuck with the program to earn high school diplomas,” Fedcap School Director Luanne Macri said” “They are planning for the future and on the road to success.”

Easterseals New York’s four Child Development Centers also celebrated graduations in June. The centers offer unique environments were children of all abilities learn together, and meet a growing need for high-quality child care for pre-school children and their parents. At the graduations, children entertained families and staff with songs, and received individual awards.

Solution Series: Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education: Building a Workforce Pipeline for the 21st Century Business

Solution Series: Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education: Building a Workforce Pipeline for the 21st Century Business

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Fedcap held its 13th Solution Series – Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education: Building a Workforce Pipeline for the 21st Century Business – on March 29 at Mutual of America. An overflow crowd of Fedcap business partners, academia, government, community nonprofit partners donors and staff attended the event.

A panel of noted experts engaged in a thought-provoking discussion about the role of business in supporting early childhood child hood development. The panel included –

• Caitlin A. Codella, Senior Director of Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce

• Katharine B. Stevens, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who leads AEI’s early childhood program

• Michael Weinstein, Economist, and Executive Director of Impact Matters, a nonprofit agency focused on raising the quality of work in the nonprofit sector

The topic is of great interest to the Fedcap family of agencies—we both provide early childhood development services and we are very interested in helping business meet their workforce needs for the future.

Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon welcomed guests and thanked host Mutual of America for their generosity in providing the amazing venue and our new sponsor Staples. Christine introduced Fedcap Chief Strategy Officer Lorrie Lutz, who facilitated the panel discussion.

Caitlin Codella opened the dialogue by stating that concerns about the workforce pipeline underpin much of the Chamber’s work, including its research on early childhood development. The work is based on research that shows that investing in children in their first years of development is both more effective and less costly than interventions later in life and has a tremendous return on investment.

Most public policies that address social issues are focused on fixing problems that have already happened, Ms. Stevens told the gathering. The beauty of this topic is we have the opportunity to do it right…first . Quality early childhood development programs are firmly grounded in the science of brain development, which shows that healthy brain architecture depends in large part on the neural connections that are formed in the first five years of life.

Michael Weinstein pointed out the challenges of measuring the impact of most educational interventions including early childhood— which can’t be known with any degree of certainty until much later in life. Research exists that provides examples of interventions that work, but it is not clear which aspects of the interventions drove the impact.

We know less about the impact of early childhood interventions than anything in the social sciences,” Mr. Weinstein said. “There is a lot we don’t know but also a lot of reasons to be optimistic.”

Katharine Stevens agreed that research is unclear as to the effectiveness and impact of specific programs, but that the science of early brain development makes a convincing case for business investment in early childhood development.

Investing in programs that won’t show a return for several decades is hard to justify for businesses, but it’s important to remember that early childhood development is about the workforce of today as well as tomorrow, said Ms. Codella. Two-thirds of children under six have both parents in the workforce, and quality childcare programs make for more productive employees, and reduce turnover and absenteeism.

After the highly engaging panel discussion Fedcap CFO Karen Wegmann thanks the participants, sponsors and guests, and summed up one of the key takeaways: “As a society we must find ways to invest in our children and our future workforce.”

Fedcap 2016 Celebration of Work Gala

Fedcap 2016 Celebration of Work Gala

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The love of my children is why I am standing here tonight, and not on the street or dead.” Niki Semnack

Fedcap’s Annual Celebration of Work Gala was one of the most powerful events in our agency’s long history. The theme of the Gala, held on November 28 at Gotham Hall in Manhattan, was the Power of Stories – stories about perseverance and triumph in the face of gut wrenching hardship. Over 500 people – friends, partners and supporters of Fedcap, as well as board, staff and leadership from the Fedcap family of agencies – heard three remarkable individuals share their stories of overcoming not only survive, but to thrive and flourish.

“In this place things hide, treasures I don’t even know I own, strength that I carry around all day…this is the place from which I pull out these three words: I promise you.” Miriam Adler

Miriam Adler shared her extraordinary story about survival in Auschwitz after losing her entire family to Nazi terror. As a young girl she found herself hopeless and alone, with only a promise she had made to her father the last time she saw him alive – never to take her own life. Miriam kept that promise and rebuilt her life after the war. Over the years Miriam told her story to her granddaughter, Yael Mermelstein, who recorded it in her remarkable book I Promise You, a copy of which was given to all Gala attendees.

“I just wanted to fit in…then I got locked up…then I got locked in.” Steve Hickman

Steve Hickman served 19 years in prison for selling drugs. Bolstered by the love and support of his family, he persevered. Steve believed in himself – he would not let his life be defined by one terrible mistake, and knew that if given another chance, he would never go back to prison. He was given that chance when Fedcap hired him to manage Wildcat work crews. Now a proud homeowner who is saving to send his grandchildren to college, Steve recently began a new job with NYC Department of Homeless Services.

Niki Semnack had a hard time growing up in Boston. As a child she was physically and sexually abused. At the age of 16 she became pregnant, and lost custody of her child. Racked with pain Niki began a downward spiral that would last 15 years. She became an alcoholic and a drug addict, living on the streets and willing to ingest any substance to numb the pain. Today Niki is strong, sober and gainfully employed, a proud mother and mentor, and an inspiring figure to all who know her.

The overflow crowd rose to their feet to applaud each storyteller. Many were moved to tears.

In addition to many longtime business and government partners, fourteen companies that were new to the Fedcap family of agencies attended the Gala which included nearly 100 new friends.

Board members Mark O’Donoghue, Larry Ach, Peter Samuels, Ken Raisler and Anoop Dhakad delivered powerful remarks about the power of stories, and Fedcap CEO Christine McMahon described the hope and belief in what is possible that underpins the work of Fedcap. Lorrie Lutz, Chief Strategy Officer, described our launch of The Power of Possible Stories, requesting that attendees sponsor the thousands of Fedcap stories of perseverance— and attendees responded with over $27,000 in sponsorships. An amazing feat for our newly launched initiative.

Powerful stories of tragedy and redemption have deep resonance for the entire Fedcap community. They fuel us, inspire us, lift us up and they connect us to one another in a way that nothing else quite does. They demonstrate the impact of our work. Fedcap is grateful for the generosity and sponsorship of our supporters, and humbled by the courage of the individuals who it is our privilege to serve.

Solution Series: Leading as Women: How Women are Increasing Productivity and Changing Business

Solution Series: Leading as Women: How Women are Increasing Productivity and Changing Business

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Fedcap recently held its 12th Solution Series – Leading as Women: How Women Are Increasing Productivity and Changing Business.  The event took place on October 11th at Mutual of America and drew an overflow crowd of Fedcap supporters, and business and political leaders from the community.  Hundreds of people in multiple states watched the event via live stream.

A distinguished panel of leaders led a fascinating discussion about the impact of women in the nation’s boardrooms and C-suites. The panel included – 

  • Ana Oliveria, President and CEO NY Women’s Foundation
  • Denise Barges, Board Member Blue Cross/Blue Shield & Financial Portfolio Manager RI Commerce Corporation
  • Gina Berndt, Board Member and Managing Director, Perkins + Will, a leading architecture and design firm
  • Sarah Carson, founder and CEO of Leota, a fast-growing fashion design and merchandising firm.

Fedcap CEO Christine McMahon said the topic was one that was near to her heart. “Having served as a leader in the nonprofit sector for over 30 years, I understand the challenges women face as they aspire to leadership positions that have historically been held by men,” she said.

The panelists offered insightful comments about women’s contribution to leadership and the barriers they face in getting there. Ms. Berndt noted that the growing number of women entrepreneurs is related to historical barriers to leadership positions in the corporate world. If you’re talented as a woman, your leadership skills are much easier to leverage when you’re on your own. Speaking to surveys that show businesses with more women leaders are more philanthropic, Ms. Berndt said that women understand how philanthropy strengthens communities, and that from a business perspective it makes sense to connect with and understand the communities your business serves. 

Ms. Barges talked about the importance of having diverse viewpoints in leadership as women and men take different approaches to management, networking and collaboration. A co-founder of the Emerging Women in Business Conference, Ms. Barges decried the inequity in funding for entrepreneurial women; women receive approximately five present of bank loans and federal contract awards, and about seven percent of venture capital funding. As a result, women have learned how to do more with less. Despite not being taken as seriously by lenders, women must have confidence in themselves and learn to take risks.

Sarah Carson left a promising career on Wall Street, where the male-dominated culture wore on her, to start her own business. She spent years envisioning the type of culture she wanted – one of autonomy, empowerment, and personal and social responsibility. Her company’s success is driven in large part by Ms. Carson’s commitment to “hiring from her weaknesses;” she readily admits when she is wrong, and surrounds herself with people who know more than she does. This ensures that while she makes mistakes, she never makes the same mistake twice.   

Ms. Oliveria emphasized the importance of mentoring, and building a pipeline of future women leaders. But mentorship is not enough; women entrepreneurs and leaders need sponsorship as well, sponsors who will invest in them and take risks on their behalf. To that end the NY Women’s Foundation views women as assets, and is committed to giving grant support to women entrepreneurs who work in their own communities.

Fedcap board member Lynn Morgen closed the session by thanking the panelists, members of the business community who were in attendance – Clifton Hotels, Restaurant Associates, Eataly, and Mutual of America for hosting the event.

Fedcap 2016 Graduation

Fedcap 2016 Graduation

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” 

Henry David Thoreau

Graduation is a special time in the lives of people young and old. It is a time of joy and celebration of the attainment of an important life goal. It is a time to look to the future, to contemplate the next chapter of life with a renewed sense of accomplishment and hope.  

At Fedcap, graduation takes on special meaning because our graduates have overcome so many barriers and challenges to achieve so much. Those who graduated from our Easter Seals New York child development centers, Fedcap School, and Career Design School celebrated this special day with a joy and spirit that was an inspiration to all.  


On June 15, over 160 people received graduation certificates from Fedcap’s Career Design School in a rousing ceremony at John Jay College. Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon delivered a powerful message to graduates of Fedcap’s Security; Facilities Management, Home Care, Culinary Arts, Youth & Young Adults and Document Imaging programs – “This is a day that embodies inspiration, aspiration, courage and commitment.” Fedcap Board Chair Mark O’Donoghue added – “We see today the fruits of what everybody worked so hard to achieve.” 

Fedcap graduates Joyell Gilliard and Chastity Salas, and graduate alumna Anita Peterson, gave powerful speeches in which they recounted the significant barriers each had overcome to graduate from a Fedcap program. These remarkable individuals inspired the crowd with their stories of hardship, courage and perseverance – by the end of their speeches, audience members rose for a prolonged standing ovation.  

Fedcap presented its Excellence in Vocational Rehabilitation award to ACCES-VR counselor Brian Alvarado. In his gracious remarks, Mr. Alvarado thanked Fedcap for its vision in helping to create ACCES-VR’s first-ever paid internship program, providing hundreds of youth with invaluable experience in building sustainable career paths.


Four preschools operated by Easter Seals New York participated in the joyous spring ritual of graduation. At the Bronx Child Development Center, 65 children with special needs graduated into kindergarten. Close to 200 people attended the ceremony. Parents showed up in their Sunday best, and the kids feasted on goodies at the ceremony’s end.  

At Port Jervis 60 children participated in a moving up ceremony, and entertained their parents with songs. At Valhalla, 125 children graduated from preschool to kindergarten, ending the day’s events with a carnival. Aris Pavlides, Senior VP, Easter Seals New York, said that the carnival helped to spread joy throughout the community and also raised funds for the school’s capital campaign.

At Monticello, each child was presented with an award – funniest, most helpful, best smile, etc. – after marching in to Pomp and Circumstance. Without Easter Seals New York, these children would be less prepared to transition to a fully integrated educational environment, said Craig Stenning, Fedcap Senior Vice President, Occupational Health. After the ceremony, a child’s grandmother said to him, with tears in her eyes, “I never dreamed that she could do this well.” 


Eight students graduated from our Fedcap School in a moving Commencement Ceremony in Orange New Jersey on June 14, 2016.  The Fedcap School is a private school for students ages 14 through 21 who are eligible for Special Education and/or Related Services. For the second year in a row, four students have successfully applied to and been accepted to local and out of state community colleges. Additionally, two students have been accepted into technical programs for Culinary Arts and Emergency Medical Technician training, and two students will continue receiving resources from the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities as they work towards self-sufficiency and economic independence.

The ceremony included an original student music video and a poetry reading by the graduates. Keynote speaker Principal Baruti Kefele, a renowned educational speaker and author, spoke of student empowerment and the will to achieve excellence.


On Friday, June 24 the Kessler Center presented certificates of completion to two individuals who are graduating from the program. The Kessler Center provides comprehensive services to children and young adults ages 5-21 who have disabilities and complex challenges, many who have been unsuccessful in other programs. 

The ceremony began with comments by Craig Stenning, Executive Director of Easter Seals New York and Sr. VP for Occupational Health for Fedcap, followed by Kessler Center Director of Education Jason Lustig, who recounted heartwarming stories about the two graduates and described their growth and development. Staff and student awards were presented by Andreas Rau, Executive Staff Assistant to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, members of The Rochester Sheriff and Police Departments, as well as staff members.

Special thanks are due to Easter Seals New York Western Region board member Kyle Bollinger for providing refreshments and games for the event, and to Wegmans, a family-owned Rochester-based grocery store chain that is a supporter of Easter Seals New York. 

Solution Series: Addressing Employee Mental Health and Addiction: Improving Your Business Bottom Line

Solution Series: Addressing Employee Mental Health and Addiction: Improving Your Business Bottom Line

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Addiction is based on fear, which goes hand in hand with stigma, it is a disease of progression, for which recovery is “the last house on the block” — that is why it’s so important that the workplace to be a safe, supportive environment where employees can ask for help.”  

Fedcap’s 11th Solution Series, Addressing Employee Mental Health and Addiction: Improving Your Business Bottom Line, was one of its most powerful to date. The event, on March 30 at the Mutual of America building in Manhattan, drew an overflow crowd of more than 140, including almost 50 businesses, and attracted many more who participated via webcast.

A distinguished panel of business leaders explored the ways in which employees struggle with substance abuse disorders and untreated mental illnesses, and how employers are designing and offering programs and services to help these individuals.

Brooke Wilson, head of Worklife Services for Resources for Living, Aetna’s employee assistance program, talked about presenteeism – the impact on productivity when one or a number of employees suffer from untreated mental illness or substance abuse disorder.  For employers, the challenge is to encourage these individuals to utilize available services, and ensure that the services are effective.  To measure the impact of its services, Ms. Wilson said that Aetna monitors multiple components of well-being as reported by employees, and uses other metrics.

Jim Salzano, head of Easy Spirit Shoes, said that he feels a responsibility to serve everyone in his company – too often, society in general is conditioned to reject people at their moment of greatest need, when suffering from addiction or mental illness. In creating a healthy, non-stigmatizing work environment, Mr. Salzano said that as a chief executive, he strives to treat his employees the way he would want to be treated were he in that situation. 

Matthew R. Sisk, Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, spoke eloquently about his own struggles with alcoholism. He said that substance abuse is based on fear, which goes hand in hand with stigma, and that it is a disease of progression, for which recovery is “the last house on the block;” no one else wants you when you are at that place in your life. That’s why it’s so important that the workplace to be a safe, supportive environment in which employees can address their issues.   

This recent Solution Series compliments Fedcap’s innovative work in integrating education, treatment, recovery and employment to change people’s lives—every day.  Fedcap operates an outpatient behavioral health clinic in the Bronx, a day treatment program in New Jersey and a peer driven clubhouse in Manhattan. Fedcap recently combined with Granite Pathways in New Hampshire, and our first recovery center will open in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the end of April.