COVID-19 and the current national climate on race has changed the dynamics in many households. Sheltering-in is not easy in the best of circumstances, but it can be especially difficult for parents that have their college student(s) come home unexpectedly. Our panelists explore how they as parents are coping and embracing a full house again. They will share how starting new traditions have helped them build bonds with their children. Managing the mental health and well-being of disappointed children is always hard, but what about when the situation is out of everyone’s control? How can a parent help their child, who is now technically an adult, maintain their independence while still following the rules of the house? As we know, there are two sides to every story. The Steve Fund asked the panelists to invite their children to participate and provide their perspectives. This should generate very interesting and sometimes humorous dialogue. All of our panelists have their own unique story to tell, and they will help provide insights on how to make the most of a challenging situation. Ultimately they want to come out on the other side of this pandemic with stronger and more loving relationships.
Dianne Morales is a Candidate for NYC Mayor in 2021. Dianne’s life work has been focused on building partnerships across the public and private sectors to deliver high-quality services to struggling families. She was a founding board member of Jumpstart, a 25-year-old national nonprofit that prepares preschoolers for kindergarten. She earned her undergraduate degree from Stony Brook University and graduate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia University. Most recently, Dianne served as the CEO of an anti-poverty organization, Phipps Neighborhoods in the South Bronx, providing housing for homeless families and young adults aging out of foster care, supporting the mentally ill, creating pathways to careers for those living in poverty and increasing access to higher education. When Hurricane Maria devastated her family’s home island, Dianne provided aid to some of the areas that had been hardest hit. As a result of her experiences, she helped establish the Fundación de Mujeres en Puerto Rico to continue supporting women’s leadership and representation in providing services and developing solutions that serve and protect women’s interests in the island’s rebuilding. Her leadership and advocacy in education, employment, and social justice have improved the lives of New Yorkers in our City’s most under-resourced neighborhoods and created permanent pathways out of poverty for every type of New Yorker from single moms to the formerly incarcerated and the homeless.
Dr. Kellie Walker Ishmael has been a licensed Psychologist since 1993. She began her career in the child and adolescent inpatient and outpatient units at Metropolitan Hospital in NYC. She then took this experience and began her work in school districts such as White plains and Ossining (where she is currently). She is an advocate for parents and students rights, and has been involved with many grassroots parent and community organizations. In addition to her work in the schools, she works with families and preschoolers who are identified with delays at an early age. Dr. Walker Ishmael has been in private practice for 15 years, primarily working with children, adolescents and their families to evaluate and determine next steps in their treatment plans.
Myrna Forney is an Associate with Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara, Wolf & Carone, LLP. Ms. Forney is an attorney experienced in school law/education law and has represented school districts in all facets of education law, labor law and employment law. She has prosecuted tenured employee disciplinary matters, non-instructional disciplinary matters, labor grievances, arbitrations, student disciplinary matters, special education impartial hearings and matters before the Public Employment Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Forney also has participated in the collective bargaining process including negotiations, fact finding and mediation. She has previously counseled public school districts and boards of education on a variety of issues including litigation, labor relations matters, and the development and implementation of school district policies. Ms. Forney also possesses significant experience in family law, matrimonial law and mediation. Prior to joining Abrams Fensterman, Ms. Forney was an Attorney at firms and not-for-profit organizations in Manhattan, Elmsford and Harrison, New York as well as Los Angeles, California.
Ms. Forney’s earlier practice concentrated in the fields of commercial litigation, bankruptcy and matrimonial law as well as mediation. In her school law practice, she helped school districts handle complex special education issues. Ms. Forney served as an Attorney For the Child in Family Court in Westchester, Putnam and Orange County. In addition to her Juris Doctorate and MBA, Ms. Forney has a Bachelor of Business Administration with a dual degree in Accounting and Spanish. Ms. Forney has extensive background in youth development and mediation.
Ms. Forney is fluent in Spanish and sits on the Board of Directors of the Westchester Children’s Association.
John Liu is an investment manager and former lawyer. He speaks of his son’s experience during the initial COVID-19 crisis: “Coltrane [Lui] was living off-campus, in an apartment with his sister (a senior at University of Oregon). He moved home after spring break. Fortunately, he was able to retrieve his drafting tools from the University’s architecture studio before the campus was locked. We converted the attic/family room into his studio with drafting table and monitors for CAD work. He has been taking a full course load online including architecture studio, physics, anatomy, and dance. This involves several hours a day of lectures and web conference studio collaboration, plus quite a lot of homework – it is a fairly heavy schedule. He was been physically isolated from his classmates and friends for two months, and has only recently begun meeting a couple of Portland friends in person. He’s been doing a lot of reading, playing guitar, and solo skateboarding. The university has stated that on-campus classes will resume in fall, and Coltrane is looking forward to moving into a house off-campus with roommates.”
The Steve Fund recognizes that these are challenging, unprecedented times. We are a resource for students, their families, faculty and administration, and our mental health partners. COVID-19 is no exception. Our new webinar series, Community Conversations, features members of the Steve Fund community sharing how they are navigating this “new normal.” We hope that their challenges, experiences and insights will inform and inspire you. You are not alone, and the Steve Fund is here to provide the support you need.