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Letters from the Womxn of DEI at Henry Street

By The Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee

Red background, pink envelope with Henry Street Settlement logo and a letter inside that reads "To: all womxn with big hopes and dreams"

In honor of Women’s History Month 2021, Henry Street Settlement’s staff Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) committee put together this collection of virtual letters from some of the womxn of Henry Street, and we’re proud to share them with the world. Read on for stories, inspiration, and words of wisdom from a selection of Henry Street’s incredible team.

Debbie Cox | Administrative Director, Workforce Development Center

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
My main achievement has been growing and working at the Henry Street Settlement for over 40 years. Who knew that at the age of 2, attending day care at the Settlement, that I would one day be employed there!? I am grateful to have had Henry Street as a cornerstone for much of my life. To continue to work here, and for the community in which I was raised and love, is a blessing.

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
Keep moving forward and listening to your inner self. Never listen to anyone that says you “can’t.”

Gabrielle Green | Youth Opportunity HUB Social Worker

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
Over the past year I have become a plant mom (like everyone else in the quarantine), but this has brought me a lot of pride. Previously, I could not keep even a cactus alive. I am now caring for more than ten thriving plants and have learned patience, resiliency, and faith through this practice.

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
If you know me, you know I love Oprah. During an interview, Oprah and Maya Angelou spoke about how they reinvented themselves over the years. They worked in one industry or job for a while, and then were inspired to move elsewhere or to venture into another field. Right when they thought they were done, they’d suddenly become moved to try something else. We often feel pressured to find one job or career path to define who we are forever. I was struggling with this concept and watching this interview taught me that instead, we should do what feels right for the moment and what we think is best for our intimate selves. We are infinitely learning and if we open ourselves up to all the possibilities, we can find new identities within us and unexpected passions. One decision does not define who we are nor who we forever will be.

Erin Haggerty | Director, Executive Office & Administration

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
I’ve spent a lot of time since last summer writing and speaking about my experiences as a Black woman in America and was featured on NPR and Iowa Public Radio. I am most proud of a presentation I did for the 5th grade of my son’s school on The Great Migration and Jim Crow. To hear the students’ outrage at our country’s history of racism, along with their beautiful hope for the future, meant so much to me. Working at Henry Street has really helped me find my voice. I always feel supported and encouraged to speak out against racism in any space, and just as important, to share all of the things I love about my culture and identity.

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
I love asking friends, “Where do your people come from?” It’s a great way to get to know someone better and share family histories with each other… How far back can you go to tell the story of how you got here?

Kristin Hertel | Vice President, Health & Wellness

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
I immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1989, feeling strongly drawn to New York City’s energy and diversity. I worked as a volunteer at a Lower East Side Jewish senior program. Henry Street was instrumental in supporting my immigration process and helping to re-establish my professional credentials in the United States. The immigration process was haunting, as well as managing a new work environment, a new language and culture. There were moments I was ready to return to Berlin, but I ultimately decided to fight for what I wanted. I am proud of not cutting corners and working through the process independently as a single woman at the time.

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
Life becomes more vibrant—and one can feel more intensely and passionately—as you get older

Kelly Lennon-Martucci, LCSW | Director, School-Based Mental Health Program

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
While I am incredibly proud of the work I get to be a part of at Henry Street every day (overseeing eight school-based mental health clinics on the LES, supervising a team of talented social workers, mental health therapists, and interns), the proudest moments of my life are becoming a mom to my two kids – Ella (3) and Connor (11 months)! I am so honored that I get to be their mama every day!

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
My husband and I like to say, “crisis brings opportunity.” I continue to share that with my team, and it really resonates this year during the pandemic. I have witnessed how crises with the work we do with kids can bring opportunities to make changes in their lives. On a more macro level, I see how systemic changes can arise from crises in our schools or world. I have reminded myself of this mantra a lot this year. When we are in the midst of a crisis, it can be challenging to see the other side, but there are always opportunities that come!

Jan Rose | Chief People Officer

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
There’s so much I’d like to share about Henry Street, but the thing I’d like to share here is how I managed my illness. I have a very serious and very rare disease (2 people in a million). In my family of four sisters, we all have it. When we learned we had it in 2009, my twin sister and I found out there was going to be a national medical conference. We wound up being selected to speak in the patient panel presentation. It was scary and overwhelming. After the presentation, the worldwide expert in our disease introduced himself and invited us to be in his patient protocol at NIH (National Institute of Health) in Bethesda, MD. We are still alive thanks to him and still in the protocol.

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
I had a mentor who I learned so much from. The thing I remember most is him teaching me how to stay calm and reflective in the face of chaos. He used to always say that I should imagine myself in a limousine. Would such a person be running around pounding on whack-a-moles? One day he gave me a present. It was a toy limousine. He died six months later. I still have the limousine.

Theresa Young | Program Director, Helen’s House and Aftercare & Rapid Rehousing Program

What’s an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
I am proud to serve as the Vice President of Membership and Professional Development with the Manhattan Chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Woman. We are a National 501c3 non-profit organization. Through advocacy we work as change agents to influence policy that promotes gender equity in health, education, and economic empowerment. We believe through our efforts we will fulfill our vision of seeing black women and girls living in a world where socio-economic inequity does not exist.

What’s some advice you’d like to share with other womxn?
I’d like to share a quote from Toni Morrison: “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”

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