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Helping Others Reach Career Goals a Key to NY Counselor’s Personal Recovery

by Eric Jackson, San Juan, PR

photo of Dina, at the Club Room of the Rainbow Heights Club in Brooklyn, NY
Career counselor Dina, at the Club Room of the Rainbow Heights Club in Brooklyn, NY

Dina was born and raised in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.  With her mother and her brother, she moved to New York City in the 1960s when she was 15 years old.  Her father joined them a few years later.

Dina became interested in business as an adolescent and, true to her aspirations for the future, she soon earned a degree in Business Administration and Management.

Countering Depression with Resiliency
However, a few years after obtaining her college degree, Dina faced one of her most difficult challenges:  bouts of severe depression that seemed to challenge her goals and aspirations for her life.  In the early 1980s, at the onset of her illness, Dina lost all her friends, her apartment and her job as an executive assistant at the Mobil Oil Corporation. 

After three years of struggle with her disabling illness, and with the help of psychotherapy and medication, Dina decided to go back to work. She got a job as an advertising trainee only to experience a relapse of her symptoms that forced her to quit her job and not work for several more years.

But, as is the case of many consumers who face disabling challenges, Dina was resilient and not ready to quit her goals and aspirations for life, especially when it came to career and employment.

In the late 1990s, the Vocational and Educational Support for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) agency in New York state helped Dina secure a job as a consultant with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. She’s been working ever since.

Life & Work at the Rainbow Heights Club
Today, Dina is a proud Latina gay woman who has become very active and involved in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community of New York.  For several years, she has been the force behind some very successful networking brunches for professional gay women. She also has dabbled in work promoting parties for different groups. Since 2003, she has been working as a peer specialist and career counselor at the Rainbow Heights Club, an LGBT psychosocial agency in Brooklyn.

“My job at the Rainbow Heights Club is a dream come true,” says Dina. “Ever since I was very young I wanted to help people to find wellness and happiness. At this job, among many other things, I socialize everyday as part of my duties. I feel this job is my calling.”

Dina is the person to go to when clients come to the Rainbow Heights Club with career concerns. Dina provides one-to-one counseling, helping clients focus on what career goals they want to pursue, prepare professional resumes, and prepping jobseekers on how to perform during a job interview.

The Rainbow Heights Club is currently the only publicly funded psychosocial club for LGBT people living with serious emotional disorders.  It serves close to 300 consumers, and roughly 25 to 30 percent are Latinos. Dina has made a difference for many of the clients who’ve come to her for support and advice.

Relationship Between Career & Emotional Health
Dina believes strongly that working and having clear career goals can make a big difference in people’s emotional health. “I believe that with the right medication and therapist, everyone can overcome their difficulties and lead successful lives. And to be focused on career goals will certainly put you on the right track,” Dina affirms.

On the day of this interview Dina learns that Peter, a client at Rainbow Heights Club since 2004, has made the decision to try to go to work. Peter was born in Manhattan of Dominican parents. He wants to work as a translator and also plans to look into the field of grant writing. Peter has already taken a small step: he proudly shows Dina his copy of the book “Grant Writing for Dummies.”

“I want to work,” Peter says, his eyes glowing, “because I feel that in addition to helping people I will also be helping myself.  It’s like part of my treatment plan.  I have previously worked doing retail and customer service, and in the Dominican Republic I used to be an English tutor at a bilingual school.  I’ve discovered that work brings lots of happiness to me, and also enables me to stay motivated and gives me a sense of self-worth.”

Dina listens attentively and, after a brief conversation, she and Peter agree work together to help Peter attain his employment goals.  Dina turns to me, “I like making people’s dreams come true.”