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Celebrating Staff During DSP Recognition Week!

September 13, 2011

The New York State Legislature designated the week of September 11 as Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition Week to honor individuals who are committed to supporting people with developmental disabilities of all ages. The U.S. Senate on Sept. 15, unanimously approved a resolution declaring it National DSP Recognition Week.

“Direct Support Professionals enhance the lives of people with disabilities and their families every day,” said Stephen E. Freeman, CEO of the YAI Network. “DSPs are the backbone of our service system. They are professionals who go above a beyond to ensure that people with disabilities lead dignified and productive lives in the community."
The YAI Network is a proud supporter of the American Network of Community Options and Resources' (ANCOR) National Advocacy Campaign to increase wages and professionalism of all DSPs throughout the nation.
Get to know some of the dedicated and compassionate Direct Service Professionals from throughout the YAI Network!

Meet Diane


After 30 years as a supervisor in the substance abuse field, Diane Barkley was looking for a new challenge. She found it at the Rockland County Association for Learning Disabilities Helen Court Residence, where for the last four years she has had her dream job working directly with the residents. Diane spends one-on-one time with each of the consumers, whom she considers family, and the time she spends with them is filled with quality.

“I enjoy the opportunity to build on the strengths of each consumer,” said Diane. “Every sign of growth is precious.”

Meet Carlito


“No” is not a part of Carlito Rosemond’s vocabulary - at least when it comes to helping out at the National Institute for People with Disabilities of New Jersey's Teaneck Residence. “I enjoy helping others and making a difference in people’s lives,” he says.

Kira Harder, Carlito’s Supervisor, describes him as her “go-to” person. “He is always willing to spend holidays and overnights with the consumers,” said Kira. “You get the feeling no job is too big or too small for Carlito.”

Meet Marie

Marie McAnuff, longtime Teacher's Assistant at William O'Connor Bay Ridge School

“Twenty years ago, autism was new to all of us,” recalls Marie McAnuff, a Teacher’s Assistant at New York League for Early Learning’s William O’Connor Bay Ridge School for 27 years.

Marie, 70, never expected to find a career that has been so personally rewarding. "The children are so loving," she says. "And you can see the difference you're making in their lives at the end of each school year." 

Marie thrived once she began working with children on the spectrum. “YAI provides us with ongoing training, so we have always been on top of new practices in the field," Marie says.

And even after 27 years, her passion comes across as soon as she begins to discuss her work. "It’s hard to put into words the feelings you have at the end of the day,” she says. Her husband, who retired five years ago, often asks Marie when she will retire. “Next year, I keep telling him,” she said. “But at the end of every year, I can’t do it. I just love my job.”


Meet Dean


Dean Goelz enjoyed painting murals in homes throughout Long Island.

An art major and graduate of the Maryland Institute's College of Art, he considered painting "his calling."

However, Dean was looking for more rewarding work through which he could truly make a difference.

He had heard from his cousin and her friend about YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities, an agency dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Both were working at YAI's Holbrook Residence in Long Island.

In November of 2010, Dean was hired as a Direct Service Professional (DSP) at the YAI home. Since then, he has consistently gone above and beyond to ensure the residents are well-cared for and happy.

"The guys at the home just bring a general joy to me," Dean said.

During Hurricane Irene last month, the residence lost power for two days. Dean came to work with his laptop charged so that the residents could enjoy a movie. He worked through the weekend at the home to ensure proper staff coverage.

"Dean loves what he does," said Stephanie Bell, Supervisor of YAI's Holbrook Residence. "He wanted a job where he could make a difference. We provided training and now, after almost a year, he has taken on the role of DSP as if it was tailor made for him."

Dean still paints murals. He says that his work at YAI fuels his creativity. "I love this house," he said. "The work with the guys inspires me."

Meet Anthony


34-year-old Bronx resident Anthony Dortch was always passionate about helping people with developmental disabilities, but he never dreamed it would become his career. Anthony grew up with a cousin who was diagnosed with an intellectual disability, and his parents stressed early on the importance of compassion and of not judging others -characteristics that have served him well during his 12 years of working with people with disabilities as a Direct Service Professional with the YAI Network.

Through YAI’s Project A.S.S.I.S.T. (Accessing Specialized Services through Skilled Teamwork) program, Anthony works with individuals in their homes and communities, teaching them social, budgeting and other life skills. Thanks to his guidance, these individuals have gained independence and confidence.

“The biggest reward for me is seeing the progress each person makes and watching them elevate to a higher level with lots of self-confidence,” Anthony said.

“Anthony maintains an incredibly positive attitude every day,” said John Dobrosky, Assistant Director of Clinical and Family Services for the YAI Network. “He assists each person to set individualized goals that address their needs. He has also taken the initiative to develop natural opportunities for a group of individuals to practice newly acquired skills and to achieve success.”

For Anthony, there’s no better feeling than knowing you have helped someone else believe in themselves and reach their ultimate potential. “I’ve made that part of my life and plan to do this for years to come.”


Meet Phillipa

Microwave skills

Among New York State's 75,000 Direct Service Professionals (DSPs) enhancing the lives of New Yorkers with developmental and learning disabilities throughout the community is Phillipa Groves-Cleckley, a Bronx resident and employee at the YAI Network. Phillipa, who previously worked at a teen maternity shelter in the Bronx for eight years, joined YAI's Bronx Supported Work and Training (SWAT) program following her own maternity leave. It was during this time that she decided she wanted to take a different course and re-start her career.

Helping individuals with developmental and learning disabilities learn vocational skills and find jobs enabled Phillipa to build upon her counseling and social work skills. Shortly after Phillipa began working as part of YAI's employment team, Janisa, who is a mother of 5 and who has a developmental disability, joined the program. Phillipa quickly realized that she and Janisa had a common bond. “Janisa had children at a young age and stayed home to take care of them," Phillipa recalled. "I took extended maternity leave so I could be there for my daughter."

Janisa, at age 32, had never held a job, but expressed the void in her life. Phillipa, who marveled at Janisa’s energy, worked closely with her in the program, helping Janisa work on making eye contact, practicing interview skills and putting together a resume.

At work

With support from Phillipa, in March of 2008, Janisa’s dream came true when she was hired by outsourcing firm Swiss Post Solutions. For the past 3 years, Janisa has been successfully working in hospitality at a global media agency in downtown Manhattan, where she’s responsible for catering, preparing platters of bagels and coffee on the firms 10 floors for employees every morning and arranging conference rooms.

“It’s a really good feeling when you go home at the end of the day and know you made a difference in someone’s life,” Phillipa said with a smile.