Aaron R

Class of 2011

Aaron left Community High School in 2011 with treasured wisdom from influential teachers and fond memories of the basketball team. An outstanding student and an excellent athlete, Aaron graduated CHS and went on to higher education with a bright future ahead of him.

Aaron began his academic journey at Hofstra University. Though he went in as a Political Science major, he then developed an interest in Sociology and Psychology. Upon beginning his studies, Aaron remembers having a slight “wake-up “ call to the real world. Aaron notes, “College is different from CHS.” However, he adapted; Aaron continuously had a place on both the Dean’s List and the Hofstra Sociology Honors Society and was also the recipient of the Hofstra University Natalie Allon Award in Sociology. While earning his B.A in Sociology with a minor in Psychology, Aaron was placed in several worthwhile mental health related internships throughout New York City and even one in Paris, France. All of these experiences were valuable in Aaron’s first full-time job out of college, a Mental Health Case Manager at a Men’s Homeless Shelter in the Bronx working with individuals with Severe and Persistent Mental Illness. Aaron managed a caseload of about 14 clients and his primary role was individual supportive counseling sessions and the attainment of supportive housing. In addition, Aaron started a therapeutic group that harnessed Hip-Hop as a culturally responsive tool to engage, empower, foster well-being, and offer an outlet for catharsis and self-expression.

Aaron’s use of Hip Hop music as a therapeutic tool with the folks residing at the mental health shelter was truly well received. Aaron found that Hip Hop music, being both socially, culturally, and politically relevant to these men, was an ideal vehicle to really break through to his group and facilitate conversations about their issues at hand. Aaron notes,

“Hip Hop music is a powerful tool through which these men can express themselves, validate strengths, critically reflect, and foster well-being.”

He has since started a similar type of group with young males aged 18 to 21 who will be released within 1 year from Riker’s Island.

It makes me think about high-school basketball”, Aaron states. “Coach Janet Molino was not only teaching us about the game. She was using basketball as a tool to teach us all about teamwork, work ethic, resilience, trust, hard work, and perseverance. I learned to use these tools in aspects of life, and so can these men.

Well-received and successful, Aaron’s brand of using Hip Hop music to enable young men to thrive and rehabilitate, lead him to his next journey.

Currently, Aaron is working towards obtaining his Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work (MSW) as a full-time student at New York University (NYU)/Silver School of Social Work with his first year clinical internship at North Central Bronx Hospital in the Psychiatry Emergency Department. He also works part-time as a Research Assistant at Columbia University/NYS Psychiatric Institute on a NIMH funded research study. At NYU, he has a 4.0 GPA and was recently inducted into Phi Alpha, the Graduate Social Work Honors Society. He is motivated to work with a population of people living with severe mental illness. He recently presented at the NYU Silver Social Justice and Diversity Grant Conference and his presentation was entitled, All We Need is One Mic: Intersections of Social Justice, Diversity, and Clinical Practice Through Hip Hop.

Aaron R presenting

The presentation focused on the use of Hip-Hop as a culturally relevant therapeutic tool in clinical practice with youth and adults with mental illness and he is currently working on a peer-review publication with his mentor, Dr. Raphael Travis, on this subject. Aaron plans on pursuing his interests in clinical work and research along with his interest in using Hip Hop music to empower those coping with severe mental illnesses.

We at CHS are very proud of Aaron and his compelling methods to improve the lives of others. We wish him the best of luck and happiness in his very bright future!