For two and a half decades, Alliance has empowered New Yorkers affected by HIV/AIDS, chronic health issues, and substance use to help others overcome health challenges as part of our renowned Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP).
Tuesday, May 29, marked a milestone as we graduated our 50th class of PREP program participants at a moving ceremony held at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
"Positive change is the hallmark of Alliance. It’s our mission, our mantra, our passion, our obsession and our goal. Peers are the people who truly transform challenge into positive in their own lives and in communities across New York City."
-- Sharen Duke, Founding Exec. Director/CEO of Alliance
Since its first class, more than 1,500 people have graduated from PREP, and these community ambassadors connect with over 15,000 New Yorkers every year.
Many of the graduates of this 8-week program have stories of loss and trauma, but also of hope – as they stepped up to confront their challenges, and enrolled in this program to feel better, live better and do better.
"By far, Sharen and the entire team of Alliance absolutely are the greatest advocates we can ever ask for… We know that lived experience is the most significant experience that we can share with another person who may not be in the place where we are today."
-- Johanne Morne, Director of NYS AIDS Institute
New York City Council Member Mark Levine, who chairs the Council’s Health Committee, gave a special address to the graduates.
"I am truly inspired the philosophy by the mission by the work of the Alliance, which is investing in lives and unlocking human potential… Each one of you is more inspiring than the next. This is really milestone for all of you; this is the beginning for all of you; it’s the beginning of a career. The role that you are about to play as peers is really the cutting edge of health care."
-- Council Member Mark Levine
The ceremony also featured a keynote speech by Florence Punch, Peer Alumni and graduate of the 23rd cycle of Peers, a photo presentation by Alliance Director of Photography David Nager, a testimonial by Peer Graduate Levi Stevenson, and a presentation of certificates (led by Brenda Starks-Ross, Jean Pierre-Louis, Joyce Myricks, and Stephen Williams).
Closing the event were remarks from Alliance Board Member Patrick Maher, who called the graduations “inspirational,” and then cited the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
He added, “It takes a lot strength and courage to change direction and forge a new path in life, and this graduation is another step in your journey.”
Photos: David Nager/Alliance