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Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Public Service Management Program Graduate Wins Grant for Nonprofit Startup

Sandy Guillaume, graduate of the Colin Powell School's Master's Program in Public Service Management, has been awarded a $50,000 grant for her nonprofit from AIDS United and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.


It’s not hard to find students within any school or program at City College who've overcome personal struggles and setbacks before successfully making their way into a degree program. What’s less common is to hear stories about students who, applying the hard-earned wisdom from their personal battles, broaden their focus and become leaders in uprooting the barriers for those still struggling to rescue themselves from crisis and get help.

Sandy Guillaume is one of these students. After graduating with a Master’s degree in public administration from the Colin Powell School’s Public Service Management (PSM) program last spring, she and her partner, Tina Wolf, launched Community Action for Social Justice (CASJ), a Long Island-based non-profit organization that “fosters improved health and quality of life for Long Islanders impacted by drug use, incarceration, homelessness, or chronic disease.” The organization provides not only participant-centered services, but also “policy advocacy to reduce broader social and structural barriers.” Of her attraction to the PSM program, Guillaume says, “I was inspired by the fact that CCNY provides a quality education to poor New Yorkers and felt that the PSM program would provide me with an educational foundation to support my work in human services and my passion for helping others struggling with battles similar to those I have fought.” Guillaume utilized PSM’s capstone project requirement to set the foundation for the organization and prepare its launch.

In less than a year, the organization successfully secured two-year funding in the form of a $50,000 grant through AIDS United and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “[Receiving this award] is pivotal,” Guillaume said. “It allows us to address structural barriers in the criminal justice system that limit the ability of injection-drug users to utilize legal access to [clean] syringes, which reduces the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C.” 

The organization’s Long Island-focus fills an urgent need to fix broad region-wide difficulties in addressing drug addiction. These range from within the criminal justice system, as police officers make disproportionate number of drug-related arrests—often not recognizing New York state law decriminalizing syringe possession—to the limited success of health and human service organizations to promote effective harm-reduction policies and deploy the necessary resources on the streets to make the policies work, says Wolf, co-executive director of CASJ and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a City University of New York college in Manhattan.

Guillaume and Wolf add that in 2012 there were over 700 arrests for syringe possession in Long Island compared to four in the Bronx. Meanwhile, the rate of overdose deaths in Long Island is four times the rate in New York City, with most of the victims being under the age of 30.

The grant goes a long way to helping secure viability for Community Action for Social Justice, and Guillaume and Wolf are hopeful that the New York State Department of Health will approve their proposed syringe exchange program, which will enable them to hire staff and implement their risk-reduction program. In the meantime, they are producing educational materials for communities and developing training sessions targeting all levels of the criminal justice system. And to further leverage the support of the PSM program,Guillaume says CASJ will be helped out by 2014 capstone projects, where students will work on developmental and marketing strategies for CASJ’s next phase of programming.

For more information and updates about Community Action for Social Justice, visit http://www.nysocialjustice.org.