Let’s start off by having you tell us more about your background and what led you to this line of work?
Where should I begin? I was born and raised in Queens so I love the fact that I do work here in Queens, and I’m just a Queens girl at heart. Being able to give back to my community and being able to see some of the changes that can happen within the community is just a really awesome experience. More about my background, though, I went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and I have my Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology. I really thought that I wanted to be a forensic psychologist like I saw on TV and in movies so that’s what drew me into the forensic world. But then I was working within the social service field and working with toddlers to middle school to high school students, and I was just really finding out more about Social Work and how I could combine my passion for forensic and criminal justice and still be able to work with adolescents. Once I learned about Social Work, I decided to go for my MSW at Adelphi University.
Was there anything in particular that drew you to Esperanza when you were applying to jobs?
I would say the fieldwork and being able to be out in the homes of our clients. And also, just knowing that we are able to help our clients in a different way. Here at Esperanza, we use all different modalities. We don’t stick to one type of therapy, and I’m really able to find my own style of therapy. It gives me some freedom within the work.
You’ve been here now for six years. What would you say keeps you at Esperanza?
I would say the heart of Esperanza. What I mean by that is really the work that we get to do with clients. I am also so honored and blessed to have colleagues that all share in the same mission in what we want to do in this work. Being able to know that I have the support of my supervisor, of our directors, of the Education Specialist. We are all hands-on. I know that’s similar to what a lot of people have said, but I think it is what makes Esperanza a very special place.
We’ve talked about the good. But what would you say are some of the greatest challenges of this work?
I think it goes back to my response of what is so special about Esperanza. It’s awesome that we are able to be out there with our clients and meet them where they are. At the same time, the travel becomes challenging. There’s also just a lot of things going on in New York City, and there’s a lot of things that our clients have to face. But just knowing what this program means to our clients, keeps pushing those challenges to the side.
Amidst these challenges of the work, how do you nourish and sustain yourself?
Our families are dealing with real life, and real life is hard. It definitely takes a toll on us to experience that alongside them. It is being able to find that time to rest or to watch a movie or to do nothing. My favorite thing to do is to do absolutely nothing. Not have an agenda and not have anything planned… I would also say that in between sessions, I like to take those small breaks of listening to music. That is my go-to.
Do you have any go-to music?
I listen to absolutely everything. I go from Bad Bunny to Taylor Swift.
Now we want to get to know more about Denise. How would you describe your ideal day?
I would say to start the day without an alarm and making sure that I have enough rest. I would want it to be a nice fall day. I would go walk the Brooklyn Bridge, and then, go hang out at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I love the waterfront views. I can just be there all day, reading and listening to music. And then I’d probably end the day watching a horror movie. I like scaring myself, and I love any of the Michael Myers movies.
And if you were to grab some food on your ideal day, what restaurants would you recommend in Queens?
I would say that they’re not really restaurants. They’re the street vendors. Right on Roosevelt and Junction Blvd in Corona, Queens, they have all of the street vendors with food from Ecuador and food from Mexico. There’s other countries too, but I usually go for the Ecuadorian food or Mexican food, and it’s just delicious.
We’re all going to have to take a staff trip to Corona, Queens then. Alright so this is the last question. In my life, I hope to…
I hope to travel the world. I want to have my own Eat, Pray, Love experience. Go live in another country or countries for a year and really immerse myself in another culture.