Fiat Solace and Courage

Please let us keep in mind the large number of students and alumni who live, work, and/or attend (virtually, these days) classes in New York City, the current epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, there are approximately 450 students enrolled in our AU-NYC programs. They are non-traditional students, many with families and full-time jobs, studying school counseling, advanced mental health counseling, and public administration. These students include teachers, school counselors, mental health counselors, school psychologists, and paraprofessionals working in New York City schools or in districts in neighboring Westchester, Rockland, Suffolk, and Nassau counties. Others are employed in area hospitals and health care agencies.

They work in the areas hardest hit these days by COVID-19: on the front lines administering health care, or teaching and providing students services via alternative delivery methods. All around them is the fear and uncertainty that we hear about regularly in the news.

In addition to our current AU-NYC students, we have over 1,500 AU-NYC alumni. Our AU-NYC programs also employ more than 60 instructors, themselves school counselors, school psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, licensed psychologists, and administrators working in schools, agencies, and hospitals throughout the New York City metropolitan area.

Recently, the COVID-19 outbreak hit home for many of the students enrolled in our AU-NYC program. On Monday, March 23, Dez-Ann Romain, principal at the Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a 200-student high school in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, passed away, becoming the first New York City public school employee to die of COVID-19.

The Brooklyn Democracy Academy is innovative for its small class size, and its teachers and staff are a close-knit community. Among those who knew Dez-Ann was one of our AU-NYC students, who was completing part of his counseling internship at the school. Her death deeply impacted the student, which in turn affected his fellow AU-NYC students. “The students (in the AU-NYC program) tend to get close, since the sections stay intact as they progress through the program. So, when one student experiences something like this, it affects everyone in the section,” said Jay Cerio, dean of graduate and continuing studies for our AU-NYC programs.

Please join me in sharing the grief that our AU-NYC students, staff, and faculty are experiencing in the wake of Dez-Ann’s passing. Please also join me in commending all of our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends, especially those on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak, for their ongoing courage and service. As president Franklin Delano Roosevelt once observed, “courage is not the absence of fear but rather the assessment that something is more important than fear.”

Fiat solace and courage!