For the last eight years, Stephane Derisma has made it her personal mission to improve the lives of Far Rockaway children and their families through her work with The Action Center for Education and Community Development. The Action Center works “to Educate, Feed, and Empower those we serve to move beyond the lines of poverty by investing in tomorrow, today”. At The Action Center, Stephane serves as a Program Director, infusing her programs with enriching activities such as piano, dance, and cooking, while creating and maintaining a safe space in which her kids can learn and grow.
Often working 12 hour days and several Saturdays each month to direct the Out-of-School-Time (OST) program, Stephane’s commitment to leading the program was evident this past year when she worked for eight months without pay following drastic funding cuts. Her dedication to the youth she serves and The Action Center shown even brighter when, despite her own significant personal losses, she showed up to work each and every day following Hurricane Sandy. In the wake of disaster, Stephane stepped outside of her role to begin meeting the post-emergency needs of the youth and their families. The Action Center, which won the Mayor’s Helping Hand Award for their Sandy response, credits Stephane with the development of a case management system that was highly effective in saving countless lives.
Growing up in, and as a current resident of, the Rockaways, Stephane possesses the inherent advantage of understanding the challenges that are faced by the youth and families who are served by The Action Center. This, coupled with her own experience as an afterschool participant, allows Stephane to lead a program that is successful in educating and preparing youth to overcome these obstacles now and in the future. She comes to work each day for the kids and simply wants to see the best for the kids in her program as she carries these kids on her shoulders into a brighter feature; lighting a path that could not be seen or even imagined without her.