Spotlight on ICS Counselors

 

The ICS counseling division is a hallmark feature that makes ICS a dynamic network of charter schools. Mental health and wellness have always been a primary focus of our mission, and we continue to provide the most qualified assistance to all of our students.  

ICS counselors have created a safe space for students to express their needs, struggles, frustrations, and successes within all our schools. They have a proactive finger on the pulse of the schools and keep an open door policy.

Left to right: Kara Cruz, Vickie Fossella, Diane Disalvo, Carol Halfhide Torres, Nadine Somme, and Lori Faicco.

Diane DiSalvo, LCSW, Director of Counseling Services at ICS, has been directly involved in the blossoming of the department as it continues to grow and thrive.  

 Our original school, Lavelle Prep, began with one counselor and today, ICS has eight full-time licensed mental health professionals, as well as a part-time psychologist. 

“In keeping with the mission of ICS to welcome students with emotional challenges, we substantially increased our mental health resources and hired mental health professionals with previous experience working with youth and families. All counselors were hired from mental health agencies on Staten Island, so they not only have advanced clinical skills, but also know the various resources available to students and families in the metropolitan area”, DiSalvo said.  “Additionally, our team is diverse, including counselors from various ethnic backgrounds, genders, Spanish speaking and one who has expertise working with LGBTQ youth,” DiSalvo continued.   

The ICS Counseling Department also has Social Work, Psychology and Mental Health Counseling internship programs which host college interns throughout the academic year and summer months, further expanding our student support capabilities. We have internship agreements with The College of Staten Island, Columbia, NYU, Fordham, Brooklyn College, and Rutgers.  

An exciting development has been the introduction of DBT to our schools. For the past two years, our counseling team and wellness teachers have collaborated with James and Elizabeth Dexter-Mazza, the authors of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills in Schools. “This is an adolescent skill teaching curriculum and not to be confused with formal therapy. These are skills anyone can use to manage emotions and stressful situations, self-regulate, problem solve and build positive relationships,” DiSalvo said.  This work has been supported by a generous grant from the van Ameringen Foundation.

These skills, which include mindfulness exercises, are important for students to develop as they negotiate the increasing stressors facing all youth today and as they prepare for the rigors of college. “We hear stories of intolerance and discrimination, cyberbullying, aggression and street violence, depression and suicide, anxiety and substance use; our counseling team attempts to identify potential problems early, make comprehensive assessments and intervene quickly to solve the problem or link students and families to community agencies that can help. We encourage and welcome parents to take advantage of our support services, so we can partner together in helping their children overcome obstacles and reach their academic, social and emotional goals” DiSalvo said. “I would like students and parents to know that asking for support when it’s needed is a strength and not a weakness. It’s important to remember we all need support at different points in our lives and getting it early on can make the difference in setting the stage for future success and fulfillment”.

When asked what she likes best about working at ICS, DiSalvo said,   “We have talented, compassionate and dedicated counselors who work closely with all our staff in keeping the student’s welfare and growth in mind. If I had to pick one thing, I’d say the best part of the job is watching our resilient students overcome obstacles and walk down the aisle for graduation. It’s actually very moving. I think I speak for all the counselors when I say it’s one of the highlights of our experience here”.

 

 The Director of Counseling can be reached at ddisalvo@intergrationcharterschools.org 

Meet The ICS Counseling Team!

  • Diane DiSalvo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Director of Counseling for Integration Charter Schools. She joined ICS in 2015. Diane was previously the Chief of the Children and Youth Service at South Beach Psychiatric Center.

 

  • Jeanette Baldassano, Ph.D, School Psychologist, is one of the original staff hired for Lavelle Prep, starting in 2009. She began working 4 hours a week and increased over the years to her current 9 hours a week schedule.  She previously worked at South Beach Psychiatric Center and currently is in private practice on Staten Island.

 

  • Nadine Somma is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who began her work in Lavelle Prep upper division in 2015. In September 2018, she will join our Elementary Academy. She came to Lavelle from Richmond University Medical Center where she worked with adolescents and families.

 

  • Carol Halfhide-Torres is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker hired in 2016 for both Lavelle Prep and New Ventures Charter Schools. She will become the founding counselor for the Nicotra Early College Charter School in September 2018. She came to us from the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services on Staten Island. 

 

  • Priscilla Chen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker hired in 2016 from the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services on Staten Island, joining the Lavelle Prep and New Ventures teams. She is currently the Counseling Internship Program Coordinator for Integration Charter Schools.

 

  • Kara Cruz is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker hired in 2016 as one of the original staff for the Lavelle Prep Elementary Academy. She came to us from Staten Island Mental Health Society Day Treatment Program where she worked with elementary and middle school students and their families.

 

  • Vickie Fossella is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker hired in 2017 for both Lavelle Prep and New Ventures Charter Schools. Her previous work took place at the Staten Island Pride Center, working with the LGBTQ population and she is currently in private practice on Staten Island. 

 

  • Lori Fiacco is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor hired in 2017 joining both our Lavelle Prep and New Ventures Teams. She previously worked at the Staten Island Mental Health Society Day Treatment Program where she worked with high school students and their families. 

 

  • Max Moran is a Licensed Master Social Worker who will join our Lavelle Prep and New Ventures teams in July 2018. He has worked at Staten Mental Health Society and the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. He is a founding member of the organization “Voices of Youth”, committed to the advancement of Youth Voice in the Child Welfare System.

 

  • George Torres is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who will join our Lavelle Prep upper division team in September 2018. He previously worked at Staten Island Mental Health Society and is currently in private practice on Staten Island.