Group celebrates $20M investment for AAPI communities

As the AAPI community continues to be targeted as a result of the pandemic, a local coalition celebrated a big win for the community last week.

In the spirit of AAPI Heritage Month, the AAPI Equity Budget Coalition, a coalition of over 50 AAPI community leaders and organizations, commended a historic $20 million investment in AAPI communities in the Fiscal Year 2022-23 state budget.

This investment is significant because the dollar amount in state funding has doubled since last year’s first-ever allocation.

The AAPI Equity Budget Coalition is jointly led by the Asian American Federation (AAF) and the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF).

“The $20 million allocated to Asian-led and Asian-serving organizations that provide essential services and are critical lifelines for our community is another step in the right direction,” Ravi Reddi, associate director of the Asian American Federation, said in a statement.

“We will rely on our state leaders to ensure that the Asian community has access to these funds and that there are further allocations made that will consider that 1-in-4 Asian Americans in New York State live in poverty and that the COVID pandemic combined with anti-Asian hate proved catastrophic for Asian Americans,” Reddi continued. “The work has only just begun, but we’re grateful to have electeds fighting for our community in Albany.”

The AAPI Equity Budget Coalition was founded with the goal of combating anti-Asian hate, the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, and the historic underfunding of AAPI communities.

The coalition also seeks to expand programs and services related to AAPI education and awareness, as well as create an AAPI State Commission, which would serve to advise the governor’s office on the needs of the AAPI community and examine critical issues like language access among state agencies, departments, and commissions.

“In the face of our communities’ growing challenges impacting the AAPI community, New York State’s commitment to AAPI New Yorkers is a crucial step towards ensuring that our diverse communities are no longer overlooked and under-resourced,” CACF’s Co-Executive Directors Anita Gundanna and Vanessa Leung said.

“Our community organizations know best what our communities need to recover and heal. We are confident that this investment, as shaped by our AAPI coalition, will prove critical in promoting the health, wellness, and safety of our communities.”

The AAPI Equity Budget Coalition also advocates for community issues including gender-based violence, healthcare, senior and youth programs, research, advocacy and legal assistance, as well as multi-service programming such as housing assistance, benefits navigation, small business support, workforce development/job training, food services, legal service, mental health support, violence intervention and prevention, aid to homeowners and tenants, and safety-related services.

104 Pct. Council says goodbyes to Len Santoro

Longtime community volunteer and 104th Precinct Community Council president, Len Santoro, led his final meeting at Maranatha Baptist Church in Ridgewood last week.

Santoro, who has lived in Queens for most of his life, served as the council’s president since 2015, and will move to Arizona next week with his wife, Barbara, who will retire.

What seemed to be a routine public meeting quickly turned into a time of expressed gratitude for Santoro from police officers, representatives of local elected officials, and fellow council members.

“Len represents everything the NYPD stands for in a community partnership,” Council Vice President Jon Kablack said. “He took over the council, which at the time of his takeover, had no funding and little participation, but he built it to where we can operate now and help support the command.”

Kablack will finish Santoro’s term as the council’s president until June, when their election will take place.

At the meeting, Deputy Inspector Louron Hall, the 104’s commanding officer, echoed Kablack’s sentiment, and said that Santoro will “always be a part of the NYPD family.”

During his time as president, Santoro spearheaded various community engagement activities, including National Night Out, Halloween trick or treating for neighborhood children, Cop of the Year fundraiser, and command appreciation day.

He also has experience working with other civic organizations, such as Juniper Park Civic Association and American Cancer Society.

To honor his commitment to the community, representatives from Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilman Robert Holden, District Attorney Melinda Katz, NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo, and Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar presented Santoro with proclamations and citations.

Additionally, the council gifted him an authentic, personalized DOT street sign that says “Len Santoro Boulevard.”
Santoro thanked everyone for their acknowledgements, and assured the group that the council is in good hands.

“John has a great leadership style and a lot of respect among the officers,” he said.

“Any good leader will tell you that they’re good because they have a strong support system. And I’ve always felt supported here by the NYPD, our partners, commanding officers, other board members, and people in the community.”

Hardworking food delivery worker fatally shot

The Forest Hills community mourns the loss of Zhiwen Yan, a food delivery worker at Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, who is remembered by locals for his warm greetings of “Hello, my friend.”

Yan, who lived in Middle Village, was fatally shot on April 30 around 9:30 p.m. while riding his scooter on his way to deliver food at the intersection of 108th St. and 67th Dr. in Forest Hills.

The husband and father of three endured a gunshot wound to the chest which caused him to fall off his scooter.

EMS responded and transported Yan to NYC Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst where he was pronounced dead.

It is uncertain why he was not brought to Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, which is only three blocks away from where he was killed.

At the time of publication, no arrests were made in this case and the investigation remains ongoing.

Zhiwen Yan and his wife on their wedding day.

Police say the current suspect is a 50-year-old customer who previously had issues with the restaurant staff because they once did not give him enough duck sauce.

He allegedly menaced Kai Yang, the restaurant’s owner, with a gun and vandalized his vehicle.

CBS New York reports that Yang gave the description of the customer’s car, a Lexus RX3 SUV, which matches the description of a car seen fleeing the murder scene.

Concerns in Forest Hills continue to rise as this is the second fatal crime to a neighbor that residents have seen in the community in recent weeks, following the murder of Orsolya Gaal.

Local elected officials and residents gathered with Yan’s family outside of their Middle Village home to mourn the community’s loss.

“This is a terrible and horrific tragedy and my heart aches for the victim’s loved ones. This delivery worker was working hard, trying to earn a living to support his family when he was senselessly shot and killed,” Congresswoman Grace Meng said in a statement.

“The incident underscores the need to combat gun violence throughout our city, and I am confident that the perpetrator will be apprehended.

The person responsible must face justice,” she continued. “My office will remain in touch with the 112th Precinct, and I will continue to be there for the family to provide any assistance they need.”

Two GoFundMe fundraisers have been widely shared in support of Yan’s wife and three children — one by a local resident named Frances

Kweller, and another by his wife, Eva Chao. To date, the two digital fundraisers raised a total of over $260,000.
No arrests have been made in this case, and the investigation remains ongoing.

McClancy honors Brother Robert Connolly

Known by many as the cornerstone of Msgr. McClancy Memorial High School, Brother Robert Connolly was honored by the school’s community with the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Family, friends, students, alumni, faculty, and sponsors gathered at Russo’s On The Bay in Howard Beach to celebrate the 18th Annual President’s Dinner and 50th anniversary reunion for the classes of ‘70, ‘71, and ‘72.

With support from The Cor Jesu Foundation, Msgr. McClancy held the event to raise funds for its Endowment Fund, which goes toward financial aid and capital improvements to the school.

In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award, ‘79 alumnus Michael DenDekker and ‘71 alumnus John Savin were presented with the 2022 Cor Jesu Awards.

Michael DenDekker and president Nicholas Melito.

After graduating from McClancy, DenDekker went on to work for the Department of Sanitation, responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11, and was elected to the NYS Assembly in 2008, representing the 34th District.

DenDekker is recognized for his contributions to McClancy, including bringing funding to the school, and getting the brand new sidewalks around it installed.

Savin has lived everywhere from Georgia to LA, and has a career focused on the music and audio/video industries.

He is also known for his immense support for McClancy, being he is the self-designated scribe for the class of ‘71, and is involved with the Alumni Development Committee and Annual Appeal Committee.

“I really have to thank McClancy so much because of the education I got, and the things that were instilled in me,” DenDekker said. “I got to learn about responsibility and what it means to be productive, loyal, and honest.”

“I don’t think there’s another school so richly blessed as McClancy,” Savin said. “We are all proud to be Crusaders.”

Brother Robert Connolly and president Nicholas Melito.

McClancy’s president Nicholas Melito presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Brother Robert Connolly, noting that no speech could ever fully cover the way the school community feels toward him.

Connolly began teaching in 1953 and was later assigned to McClancy in 1962.

He served as a teacher, confraternity moderator, and athletic director in his early years there, and eventually became assistant principal, and then principal.

He was also appointed as the schools’ first president in 1997.

A video was put together in his honor by faculty, alumni, and friends of the school, sharing his contributions both big and small.

George Medlin, chairman of their board of directors and class of ‘70 alumnus, said that he originally did not get accepted to McClancy.

His brother’s prison sentence was a challenging time for the family, and as a result, his father arranged for a meeting with Connolly — who ultimately let him attend McClancy.

“Many times during my career, I’ve reflected back on the success that I’ve had and how I can attribute all of that to the one act of kindness from

Brother Robert,” Medlin said. “It meant so much to me.”

The entire room stood and clapped as Connolly accepted his award, and gave a lengthy, sentimental speech.

“We want to make sure that when a student leaves McClancy, they walk out of there confident, that they’ve made the right decisions, and know the way to make more right decisions,” Connolly said.

“So I coined the phrase ‘The school that makes a difference,’ and I’m happy to say that it still is. That’s why all of you are here tonight.”

80 EMTs graduate amid city and nationwide shortage

LaGuardia Community College and Global Medical Response celebrated the graduating class of 80 new Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) last week in Queens.

Graduates hailing from Queens, the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester were part of GMR’s “Earn While You Learn Program”, which pays students throughout their EMT training.

Of the 80 graduates, 30 were from LaGuardia’s EMT training program, held in Long Island City. Other graduates were trained at centers in Long Island and Westchester. Bronx Assemblymember Kenny Burgos also attended the graduation ceremony.

“LaGuardia Community College has been providing top-notch emergency medical services (EMS) training for 35 years, and we are pleased to continue that long-standing tradition through our work with Global Medical Response,” said LaGuardia Community College Vice President of Adult and Continuing Education Sunil B. Gupta. “Today’s graduates, and those of future cohorts, help reduce the shortage of vital EMTs in communities throughout New York City and beyond.”

Since its inception in Buffalo in 2018, Earn While You Learn has graduated over 1,000 EMTs. SImilar programs have also been launched across the nation, including in Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.

In addition to an hourly salary, training (a value of approximately $1,500) was provided at no cost to the students. Their textbooks, uniforms, tuition, and fees were all covered by the program. In return, participants agree to work for GMR for one year after becoming a certified EMT. The graduates are eligible to work for one of GMR’s subsidiaries: American Medical Response, Hunter Ambulance, or Crowd Rx. As EMT graduates, they will each receive a raise and a promotion.

25-year-old Queens resident Dora Meschino, who was selected for LaGuardia’s Outstanding Student Award for excellence in EMT skills and perfect attendance, says the program will continue to help her towards her ultimate goal of working in disaster management for FEMA.

“I’m excited to get to work as an EMT. I became an EMT because I’ve always loved helping people and wanted to learn about the medical field. And this program will help me get a good job as an EMT that will enable me to pay my bills while I continue pursuing my bachelor’s in Emergency Services Administration and Homeland Security at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,” Meschino said. “I’m focused on becoming the best EMT possible, so that one day I can become the best paramedic.”

Idlewood Park Nature Center opens in Southeast Queens

The ribbon was cut on a brand new $8.1 million environmental center in Southeast Queens’ Idlewood Park last week, where community members praised the ecological education that it will bring for years to come.

City Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue was joined by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson, Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Power, President of the Eastern Queens Alliance Barbara Brown, and Community Board 13 District Manager Mark McMillian to praise the completion of the project, which started construction in September 2018.

“Set along Jamaica Bay — one of New York City’s greatest ecological treasures — this brand new Environmental Center in Idlewild Park is sure to inspire kids to learn more about the natural world around them,” said Commissioner Donoghue. “We are grateful to the Eastern Queens Alliance for their partnership creating innovative programming here, and look forward to hosting our future scientists for generations to come!”

The construction of the new 5,400 square-foot single-story facility comes with new walkways from the existing parking lot, new entry fence gates, a new rain garden, a storage shed, new trees and shrubs, and native wetlands grass seeding.

The Environmental Center will be operated and programmed as a children’s science learning center by the Eastern Queens Alliance. New programming facilities include: an exhibition and display space, two classrooms for up to thirty students each (combinable into one space), an outdoor covered teaching area, and an entry foyer with reception desk and book sales kiosk. The center will also have restroom facilities for visitors; administrative space for staff, director’s office, storage, and conference room; and a new free-standing storage shed.

The new building and surrounding work was funded by the Mayor’s office, who chipped in $3.173 million, and the Queens Borough President, who accounted for $5 million, for a total of $8.173 million. The facility opened for programming last month.

The new environmental center also features several green elements and is expected to receive a “silver” rating or better from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. The roof and walls make use of energy and resource efficient technology, including structural insulated panels, creating an efficient enclosure that reduces air infiltration and heat loss. Additionally, all rainwater from the roof is collected into a cantilevered “spout”, which dramatically releases the rainwater into a rain garden close to the main entrance to the building.

The building uses recycled materials throughout — specifically, the cladding and decking are both largely made up of recycled materials. Natural light is brought into the building by a bank of translucent glass, while vision glass is included at key locations to view the surrounding landscape. The Nature Center is heated and cooled with an efficient all-electric system so no fossil fuels are burned on site, and the project restored native plantings to a site that previously had been overrun with non-native species.

“After many years in the making, we finally have a community-centered facility in Idlewild Park with state-of-the art indoor and outdoor classroom space that will better enable residents to learn about their natural surroundings,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. said. “The center will enlighten visitors about Idlewild Park and Jamaica Bay and underscore their vital role in our environment, which is under an increasing threat from climate change. Hopefully, the lessons learned in the center will prompt greater support for measures to protect our vulnerable communities from this threat.”

Perlman: Raising Funds To Salvage Trylon Theater Façade & Tower Diner Features

A fundraiser is underway to salvage and relocate the largely intact Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan synagogue façade in its entirety, consisting of the intact Art Deco stonework and the illuminated glass block projection tower and elliptical marquee.

It would also consist of the Tower Diner bank building features such as the distinctive clock tower, columns, cornice, and signage. Time is of the essence to contribute:

The cause originated after this columnist joined forces with fellow Forest Hills resident and preservationist Evan Boccardi. An estimated $80,000 would ultimately need to be raised within a short period of time, in order to spare the Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan façade from demolition.

The developer, RJ Capital Holdings/Trylon LLC, agreed to have the well-known Demolition Depot, founded by Evan Blum, serve as a subcontractor. This firm achieved recognition for salvaging other historic facades in their entirety, as well as rescuing historic architectural features and repurposing them for projects, in order to have a new lease on life.

The funds would cover protective supplies and pay crew members. Additionally, storage would be provided. In the future, these architecturally and culturally significant buildings would be resurrected. “Demolition Depot has remarkably rescued many facades, and have the expertise to save the Trylon Theater façade and Tower Diner features as well,” said Boccardi.

The Trylon Theater, which opened in 1939, is considered the last Art Deco building that significantly reflects the innovative and multicultural 1939 – 1940 World’s Fair, which was held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Since 2005, it was Ohr Natan Synagogue & Community Center, a second home for largely Orthodox Bukharian Jews, where many faced oppression in their native countries. The synagogue is in the process of relocating across Queens Boulevard.

The popular Tower Diner, which opened in 1993, adaptively reused a federal-style bank building and was highly distinguished by its clock tower along Queens Boulevard. Designed in the 1950s, it was modeled after a more traditional bank building during a mid-century modern period, but in conjunction with the Trylon Theater, it originated in 1939 as a supper club, followed by Croft Chemists, complete with a soda fountain. Its longtime tenant was Emigrant Savings Bank.

The Trylon Theater was deemed landmark-worthy in the January 1990 NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Survey but was not pursued further after staff members changed and priority was given to Manhattan.

The Art Deco style theater was named after the 1939 World’s Fair’s symbolic spire-like monument, the Trylon, which stood alongside the globular Perisphere monument. Analogous to the Fair’s theme, “The World of Tomorrow,” where exhibits featured technological innovations, the theater was known as “The Theater of Tomorrow.”

From the Trylon Theater’s streamlined stone façade with a glass block projection tower illuminating Queens Boulevard, an elliptical marquee once boasted classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, “Gone with the Wind” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, and “The Ghost Breakers” starring Bob Hope, as well as many more relatively recent memorable films including “Pretty Woman” and “Evita.” Originally, an entrance pavilion featured a Trylon-adorned mosaic ticket booth and a central 3D Trylon depiction on a terrazzo floor accompanied by colorful chevron mosaics.

Deemed a novelty, the Trylon Theater was designed by New York architect Joseph Unger (1896 – 1996), a Cooper Union alumnus. Neighboring mom and pop shops were Mildred’s Luncheonette, Trylon Soda & Ice Cream, Trylon Realty, Trylon Tailors, and Trylon Liquors, which remains in operation, but relocated last year across Queens Boulevard. With multiplexes on the rise, The Trylon shuttered after its 60th-anniversary celebration in 1999 and was one of the last single-screen theaters citywide.

The Trylon Theater epitomizes the Art Deco style, featuring sleek and sophisticated lines and accents, and smooth curves to create images of “triumph with elegance.” Architects were more experimental, as they celebrated the victory of the machine age. Patrons recognized a vertical glass block projection tower through a streamlined stone facade, with an elliptical marquee. This illuminated Queens Boulevard at night, symbolic to the Trylon and Perisphere monuments’ efficient use of light. Two reverse channel neon signs atop the marquee read “TRYLON.”

Let’s save a great Art Deco masterpiece, and save our world from architectural banality,” said Boccardi.

Five Boro Bike Tour returns

The yearly bike tour throughout the city has returned after COVID-19 cancellations.

By Tara Michel

Cyclists explore NYC in Five Boro Bike Tour

More than 32,000 cyclists filled streets for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour across all boroughs in NYC in a 40-mile trip on Sunday, May 1st. Following its cancellation in 2020, and the limited capacity rule for social distancing in 2021, the tour was at full capacity for the first year since the pandemic began.

Bikers kicked off their 40-mile trek at 7:30 a.m. on Franklin Street in Downtown Manhattan, crossed over the Queensborough Bridge near the 15th mile and concluded in Staten Island. The Five Boro Bike Tour, in conjunction with TD Bank and the City, funds free bike education programs reaching thousands of New Yorkers.

“First of all, we have people from every state in the country, 32 countries around the world,” Ken Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York, said in an interview with NY1. “What’s so great about it is not that it’s the largest bike event in the country. It’s the most diverse and inclusive ride in the world. Look around. This is what makes it great. It’s a microcosm of the world. This is New York City. “

Oral John, 52, came from Maryland to participate for the first time. After biking for more than 20 miles, he took a break and still felt energetic and calm. Due to the warm sunny weather and the maximum number of cyclists, he enjoyed himself, and racing was never on his mind.

“I signed up two years ago, COVID-19 canceled it the first year, and I deferred the second year, so I feel good, this is something to challenge yourself and to see the city,” John said.

While many participated, some watched from the sidelines and cheered for their loved ones.

Lauren Teng, 30, has lived in Brooklyn for eight years, but this was her first time watching the event. For her, it was wonderful to spend her morning coffee outside observing the bike tour. Teng had never considered participating before, but after seeing all the participants she is considering grabbing a helmet next year.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing that the streets are open to the people that live here and the people that visit,” Teng said. “We all spend so much time underground getting around and it seems like a wonderful opportunity to be out in the sunshine and just be with all our neighbors, we really haven’t been able to come together in so long.”

VBGC kids read along with Mary Argento

Author Mary Argento visited the Variety Boys and Girls Club last week to read aloud her first book, “Goodness on Deposit — The Ginormous Tiny Idea,” a relatable work highlighting a teachable lesson to kids. Each child in attendance also received their own copy of the book.

“It’s all about doing good deeds,” Argento said, shortly after taking a tour of the VBGC facility in Astoria. “I can see there are so many good deeds being done here.”

Reading aloud to over two dozen after school students, Argento shared the story that focuses around identifying acts of kindness with a main character the same age as many of the kids in the room.

Students also received face masks with designs of the book’s illustrations.

Goodness On Deposit” was officially published earlier this year, but Argento says she originally wrote it about a decade ago. The book is published by Florida-based Atlantic Publishing Group.

Students got the opportunity to ask questions about the book after Argento’s read aloud.

“How old do you have to be to write a book?” one student asked. “How do you write a book?” another student asked.

Argento said that she initially shelved the book after writing it 10 years ago, but after receiving some inspiration from her husband, she finally went the publishing route with the children’s book.

The book comes with an interactive cut-out bankbook for recording good deeds, which students can trade in for a free “Goodness Superstar” wristband at

The VBGC serves over 4,000 kids in Western Queens per year, providing a safe space for the community and good deeds abound.

“I also learned that a lot of you come back,” Argento said. “Maybe you’re seven now, but when you’re 20, you’ll be here teaching. I heard that’s what people do here, they come back and give back. That’s amazing.”

Ruhling: The Woman Who Took a Deep Breath

The Woman Who Took a Deep Breath

The lights are low, the music is soft, and the sweet scent of flickering candles is oh so soothing.

Erika Ferrentino, who has luminous blue eyes and the poise of a ballet dancer, is eager to welcome everyone to the first downward-facing dogs of the day at YUG Wellness.

She’s still pretty new at being a business owner – she started the studio in October 2021.

It wasn’t as simple and as straightforward as it sounds.

Erika had to make a lot of changes and choices to create YUG Wellness, whose Sanskrit name refers to the process of uniting mind, body and consciousness.

Erika, who at one time was passionate about CrossFit, didn’t discover the healing power of yoga until recently.

Born and raised in Rockaway Beach, she aspired to be a writer.

But after graduating from SUNY Albany with a degree in English, she became a residential real estate broker specializing in rentals.

To supplement her commission-only income, she waited on tables.

“I didn’t have any money,” she says. “I was living in my parents’ basement in Rockaway Beach and doing the long commute to Manhattan. When my mom asked me to pay rent, I started saving as much as I could so I could move out.”

She ended up on the Upper East Side.

For a while, she was the manager of a small Wall Street firm.

“I was so broke that I ate cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she says. “And I walked to work to save the subway fare – it was five to six miles each way.”

Then she got a big break: an entry-level job at Morgan Stanley, where several of her cousins were employed.

She worked her way up, becoming an executive in wealth management.

That career took her to Miami, where she lived for a year, then back to New York City, which is where she was when the pandemic locked the world in a vise grip.

By that time, she was the mother of two daughters, Francesca and Gigi, who are, respectively, 8 and 5.

“I was working from home part of the time and commuting to Manhattan a couple of days a week,” she says. “And I was home-schooling the girls. The stress got to be too much.”

Indeed, her anxiety became so severe that she began having panic attacks.

“I would get on the train and have to get off because I couldn’t breathe,” she says, adding that she also lost her vision twice. “It was so bad that my doctor put me on medication.”

Although her symptoms declined, Erika, who rarely takes a Tylenol, didn’t want to be dependent on prescription drugs.

At her doctor’s suggestion, she reluctantly tried yoga, which she thought would be boring.

The poses were easy; it was calming her mind that proved difficult.

“Yoga changed my life,” she says. “The first thing I learned was that I wasn’t breathing – I was holding my breath. Yoga reconnected me to my breath.”

The results were so dramatic and positive that Erika wanted to learn as much as she could about yoga, a quest that led her to binge-read books and ultimately take a 200-hour teacher training course.

Last year, Erika, who lives in Astoria, quit her job of 17 years at Morgan Stanley to establish YUG Wellness, which offers not only yoga classes in Italian and Spanish as well as English but also a variety of holistic wellness experiences that range from facials and body contouring to meditation and IV vitamin therapy.

“For the second half of my life, I want to do something that helps people walk out feeling better than when they came in,” she says. “And I want to create a community space where people can connect in person.”

Erika, who was used to making overseas phone calls at 4:30 in the morning when she was with Morgan Stanley, is at YUG Wellness six days a week.

“I don’t teach the classes, but I take at least one a day,” she says, adding that she does fill in sometimes as a substitute.

She usually arrives at the studio after she drops her daughters off at school.

When they come home, she takes a break to be with them.

On weekends, they sometimes visit the studio and help her at the front desk.

Like the students who are arriving for class, Erika’s taking things one downward-facing dog at a time.

“If I can help one person like me change their life, that’s important to me,” she says. “I want to be present and let go of the past and move forward and feel grateful.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at;  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram,,

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