Love Heals News



Love Heals Leadership Transition

Dear Love Heals Supporters,
I am writing to let you know that, after 15 rewarding years, I will be stepping down as Executive Director of Love Heals on August 22nd. It has been an honor to carry on Alison Gertz’s legacy by spreading the message that none of us are immune to HIV.

While I am leaving Love Heals, I won’t be going far. As many of you know, a few years ago I decided to turn my fascination with food into a vocation and began pursuing a Master’s Degree in Food Studies at New York University. Just after Labor Day I will step into the role of Executive Director at Just Food, which works with community leaders to make healthy, local food available, especially in underserved New York City neighborhoods.

I am deeply grateful for the support that our donors, board, staff, HIV-positive speakers, health educators and community partners have provided throughout my tenure. Together, we have grown Love Heals into the leading provider of HIV/AIDS education in the New York City public schools, directly educating more than 55,000 young people, parents, guardians, educators and community leaders each year.

I will miss Love Heals and everyone involved dearly. But, just as this transition is an opportunity for my own development, it will open up new horizons for Love Heals. Board members and staff are hard at work preparing for a smooth transition in leadership. The Support Center for Nonprofit Management is assisting in the hiring of an Interim Executive Director, who we anticipate will be in place in time for my departure. Community Resource Exchange, with whom Love Heals has a longstanding relationship, will continue to support staff and board members throughout the transition and will facilitate the search for my successor. (Keep an eye out for the job announcement in early fall.) Love Heals’ next Executive Director will inherit a strong, mission-drive staff; a deeply committed Board of Directors; and a strategic plan that articulates an institute-wide vision for the future.

As Love Heals approaches its 25th anniversary, I thank you for your support and encourage you to continue partnering with us in protecting the next generation of New Yorkers.

All the best,

Jasmine signature

Jasmine Nielsen
Executive Director

Save the Date: Let’s Misbehave to Benefit Love Heals is July 19th!

This time, Love Heals will be misbehaving ’80s style. Click here to purchase tickets.

Spotlight on Vivian Cortes

Vivian CortesVivian Cortes is on a mission: help young people get through the confusing, often painful process of growing up. She says, “Adolescence is not fun. We forget how hard it can be. But it’s a vital time in a person’s life, and not everyone survives it.” A Brooklyn native, Vivian came to Love Heals in 2007 with a decade of experience in sexual education with diverse populations, including adolescents, parents, formerly incarcerated men, women recovering from drug addiction, and Spanish-speaking immigrants. Vivian wears many hats at Love Heals; she is a health educator with the Love Heals Speakers Bureau, facilitated several cycles of LEAP for Girls, delivers parent-child communication workshops, and occasionally serves as a consultant on special projects.

Vivian is committed to combatting health disparities that exist here and abroad. Aside from her work at Love Heals, she has traveled to the Dominican Republic where she worked with The Institute for Human Sexuality and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology. She is the Deputy Director and Co-Founder of The FLY (Fierce Leadership for Youth) Academy, an organization that addresses the disparities in higher education by connecting youth of color from underserved communities to professionals of color who have come from similar backgrounds.

Currently, Vivian is pursuing her doctorate in public health at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. When asked why she continues to make time to work with Love Heals, Vivian said, “Comparing all the work I’ve done in public health, Love Heals is always the most rewarding because of our different approach. It’s unlike other health education work. You actually feel the power in the presentation. It never gets old.”

LEAP for Girls in East Harlem and East New York

LEAP for Girls at TYWLS

Love Heals’ Leadership Empowerment and Awareness Program (LEAP) for Girls graduated 25 young women of color in East Harlem and East New York during the Spring 2014 cycle.

The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem (TYWLS), our longest-running partnership, hosted LEAP for Girls for the ninth consecutive year. For their final project, young women at TYWLS remixed TLC’s “Waterfalls” with lyrics of their own about healthy relationships and peer pressure. On May 7th, they performed the song for their peers sporting handcrafted T-shirts promoting healthy values.

In February, Love Heals established a new partnership with Shirley Chisholm Non-Secure Placement (NSP) in East New York, Brooklyn. NSP, a program of Good Shepherd Service, is a residential facility for at-risk adolescent women who have been placed in care by the Family Court. Through long-term, residential services offered at NSP, young women are able to continue their education, sustain relationships with family members, and receive supportive services that assist with healthy development.

For their Community Action Project, NSP participants wrote a collection of 64 haikus describing who they are, how their perspective on HIV has changed as a result of participating in LEAP for Girls, and what the consequences of unsafe sex and teenage pregnancy are. These haikus will be compiled into a book, shared on social media platforms, and distributed at the NSP facility.

My story has shaken up almost everyone who has heard it. People are still not having safe sex and still thinking that it can't happen to them.


– Ali Gertz, 1966-1992

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