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"Who" Cares ? - Marie Herisse

Marie Herisse


Change is rarely easy for most people, especially if it involves adapting to an entirely new lifestyle and environment. But with Marie Herisse at their side, change becomes an enriching experience for a small group of people previously employed in Arc’s sheltered workshop.

Having worked at Arc of Rockland for more than 14 years, Ms. Herisse, a Pre-Vocational Specialist, began her career assisting in Arc’s sheltered workshop. “There were nearly 200 people doing packaging for various area businesses,” she explains. “I helped them to learn their jobs and to overcome some personal challenges.”

That changed in 2017. As part of a state initiative to have people transition into community activities or employment, the workshop closed and people moved to smaller settings with the goal of increasing involvement in the community.

“At first it was hard for individuals who had spent much of their adult life in the workshop to make the transition to an entirely different kind of experience,” Ms. Herisse explains. “It meant they were no longer seeing the same faces they had seen every day at the workshop. They had to learn to interact with others out in the community and adjust their behavior accordingly.”

Yet Ms. Herisse, a native of Haiti who was previously employed at the NY Foundling Hospital, describes the transition at Arc as one of her “most exciting work experiences.” Today, she supervises five individuals whom she accompanies to various activities—volunteering at food pantries and libraries, attending self-advocacy sessions at Pace University and exploring the community-at-large.

“Being with a smaller group makes it easier for me to get to know each person. I see them learn new skills and follow their growth in all its aspects. We laugh together and talk about what we did on the weekends, about movies and friends. They’ve become like a family and are more open to new opportunities. One individual, who didn’t attend the workshop on a regular basis, is so excited about the new program that, since the change, she has never missed one day.”

Kathy Canter, Senior Director of Employment Services at Arc of Rockland attributes much of this success to Marie. “Being the longest tenured specialist in the Employment Services Department, Marie has used the relationships she’s built over the years to help ease the anxiety of the workshop closure. She has taken on her new role with enthusiasm and enjoys exploring a wide range of activities throughout the week. She is teaching people how to develop work readiness skills as they mix with others in a variety of situations.”

“The people in my group are really enthusiastic about the change, looking forward to each new experience,” says Ms. Herisse. “And so am I.”

Thank You to The Arc Rockland’s 2019 Corporate Sponsors: