Women’s History Month Reflection March 22, 2024

By: Donna Celardo, Senior Director of Day, Clinical, and Community Support Services

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate the beauty, grace, and strength of women all around the world. We should reflect upon the essential role women played and continue to play in our world. There are countless stories of resilience, hope, leadership, and strength, and we see much of the same in women in our own families and the women we work with here at ACLD. 

My introduction to this field began in High School when I worked in the summer camp at United Cerebral Palsy of New York, as a teacher aide in the Infant and Early Childhood Development program located in Pelham Bay, in the Bronx. My mother was an assistant teacher and she helped me get a job in the camp in the summers. She introduced me to this field of work. My mother was the first powerful female role model in my life. She was my inspiration, my mentor, a pioneer, and an example of how a working mother can do it all. This early influence has had a tremendous impact on my life.  The experience exposed me to a field of work in which I developed a passion and desire to make a lifelong career.

My journey with ACLD began 28 years ago as a Day Habilitation Specialist in the Hauppauge Day Program. At that time, I was a mother of three children and my son had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  It’s ironic how life has a way of preparing you for the roads ahead. The road has not been an easy one, however, when you learn from and witness trailblazing women who prove that the human capacity can overcome challenges and transform them into opportunities you are grateful and hopeful.   

Working with children, adults, and families who experience significant challenges and obstacles but demonstrate the perseverance of a warrior can truly put things into perspective. It provides insight and introspection that I embrace and reflect on every day. Over the years, I have met some of the strongest, most compassionate, and most dedicated women/mothers to whom I am grateful and honored to know. Many of these women are here at ACLD. Far too many to mention. Their influence has shaped my life.  The women who I admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because things worked out for them. They got that way because things went wrong, and they figured it out. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days…but they handled it. They are resilient!  Resilience is the ability to move through and grow from difficult times. It’s a skill developed over time from lessons and experiences we absorb as we grow up and face challenges.

I will end with some important advice to empower my fellow women:

  1. Be kind to yourself
  2. Rise to the opportunity and accept new challenges
  3. Ask for help if you need it
  4. Take control of your finances
  5. Set goals and go after them fearlessly
  6. Build an emergency fund and save for retirement
  7. Support other women
  8. Take care of your health
  9. Be joyful

And last, but certainly not least:

10. Exercise your right to VOTE!

Thank you to all the women before me and who have supported and encouraged me.

Donna Celardo

Senior Director Day and Clinical and Community Support Services

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