» To visit the ASCNYC website, please click here.

In 1990, ASCNYC was founded as a community-based organization working to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to HIV testing, treatment and care. Sharen I. Duke, ASCNYC's only Executive Director, grew a three-person agency into a multi-service, multi-site, multi-lingual, multi-million dollar organization. ASCNYC reaches more than 17,000 people through community education, medical care coordination, peer education, HIV testing and direct support services.

One of ASCNYC's finest programs is their Peer Education program. Peer Educators are living proof that each one of us has the power to transform our community, by translating the values of survival, hope, respect, dignity, and social responsibility into our day-to-day actions. View ASCNYC's Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP) graduation ceremony in the video above.

ASCNYC trains men and women affected by HIV/AIDS, and in recovery from drug or alcohol use, to become community leaders in the fight against AIDS. Armed with knowledge and skills, ASCNYC Peer Educators go into high-risk communities to provide outreach and prevention education, building trust and forging connections to medical, drug treatment and social service programs.

The greatest impact of ASCNYC's Peer Program is on the Peers themselves—Peers develop teaching and leadership skills that directly support their ability and motivation to maintain healthy behavioral changes over time, and to role model those healthy behaviors to the people they reach through community education. Over 25% of ASCNYC staff are former Peer graduates who have left welfare and rejoined the workforce.

» Press PLAY to watch a short video from the ASCNYC 2013 Peer Education Recovery Program Graduation Ceremony.

» Press PLAY to watch a short video featuring the June 4, 2009 Graduation Ceremony from the Peer Education Recovery Program, which is one of ASCNYC's most important programs. (Still photography in the video provided by David Nager/ASCNYC.)
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On August 4, 2016, we were honored when AIDS Service Center NYC (ASCNYC), soon to be called Alliance for Positive Change, dedicated one of its conference rooms — "The Zwickler Poetry Room" — in memory of Seymour Zwickler, Phil Zwickler and Michael Levine (Caren's late husband).                 

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The creative writing/poetry program has been available to ASC clients for 16 years.  For the last 11 years, we have been a major sponsor of the program.  As we have posted over time, the program has been an enormous success. Clients gather every Thursday morning for two hours to analyze and write poetry. I attended the class on August 4th and found myself mesmerized as the class leaders Rosa Velez and Azeem S. Khan gave out a poem with a picture and poem to view and write about.  It was magical to watch the roughly 10 participants come to life with their verbal interpretations . Then it was time to write.  I was inspired and found it medicinal.

Poetry was one of Phil's passions. In his final days he wrote "I love words and love using them.  Words are like leaves dropping off a tree, and they are all precious and dear." We will continue to fund this class which has produced eighteen periodicals which are entitled "Situations."  Please ask ASCNYC for their latest book (it's free) or I can get you one.   I assure you that will feel the magic which I have. I have included the poem, picture and Rosa's interpretation (pictured to the left), which was given out at the session I attended.

—Allen Zwickler
The Zwickler Memorial Poetry Leadership Program Final Report, January - December 2015
« Click on the image to the left to read the ASCNYC Final Report by Sharen I. Duke.
The Zwickler Memorial Poetry Leadership Program Final Report, January - December 2014
« Click on the image to the left to read the ASCNYC Final Report by Sharen I. Duke.

Press PLAY to watch a short video of the poetry reading.
Check out some of the recent ASCNYC events.

ASCNYC Poetry Reading
ASCNYC holds an annual poetry reading at Barnes & Noble in NYC, and the most recent will be held on April 22, 2015 (see info below). At the 2014 reading, we met up with an original ASCNYC poetry class member, Iris Sankey-Lewis, who wrote a poem about Phil. To read the poem, click on the photo below.

     2015 Poetry Reading
Creative writing participants read their poems and share their stories at Barnes & Noble NYC on April 22, 2015.

     Tribute to Phil Zwickler
Read a poem by Iris Sankey-Lewis (pictured to the left) in a tribute to Phil.

Poetry was one of Phil's favorite ways to communicate. While the lines did not rhyme all the time, the message was rarely ambiguous. Our foundation abides by the same principles—what you see is what you get.

Phil was not only a poet, but also a teacher. As a college professor of Shakespeare and a high school English teacher, he loved to teach and took great pride in teaching people to communicate more effectively as a way to improve their lives. Both poetry and education were close to Phil's heart, and they are therefore close to the heart of this foundation. As such, we are proud to support the Zwickler Memorial Poetry Leadership Program—a program that has enriched the lives of its participants by facilitating education, poetry, and allowing these "poets" the beauty of free expression without boundaries.

Since March 2005, AIDS Service Center NYC (ASCNYC) has received a grant from the Phil Zwickler Charitable and Memorial Foundation Trust to support the launching of a Poetry Leadership Program in conjunction with ASCNYC's ongoing Creative Writing Workshop. With in-kind support from ASCNYC, the program has been a great success.

The Zwickler Memorial Poetry Leadership Program's primary goal was to cultivate the group facilitation and leadership skills of advanced participants in ASCNYC's Creative Writing Workshop, so that these individuals would become able to lead future groups when the professional facilitator was not available to do so. This process also significantly developed the skills, confidence, and self-esteem of the Poetry Leaders themselves, reinforcing their recovery and advancing their personal development goals.

» To learn more about Phil's poetry, please click here.

» To learn more about the ASCNYC poets and ASCNYC, please click here.

The ASCNYC Creative Writing Workshop is one of the many innovative programs ASCNYC provides for people affected by HIV/AIDS. In this workshop, participants explore a rich array of poems, share their perceptions about these poems, and translate their thoughts and experiences into written form. In many ways, the Creative Writing Workshop is a microcosm of the agency as a whole: a safe space where people affected by HIV/AIDS can achieve serenity in the midst of chaos, challenges, and change.

ASCNYC has provided advanced training for workshop participants who exhibit leadership skills. In these trainings, ASCNYC's "Poetry Leaders" have gained skills on planning and facilitating poetry workshops, increased their computer literacy, developed online research skills, and learned about publishing, book design, and editing. For me, reading the poems and watching the growth of the Poetry Leaders and other workshop participants is a humbling experience. Their wit, intelligence, compassion, and determination inspire me to sustain my advocacy for much-needed programs, services and resources. This grant from the Phil Zwickler Memorial Foundation is an example of the very best that public-private partnerships have to offer—bringing hope, changing lives, and expanding our sense of what is possible. Thank you, Zwickler family!

    Sharen I. Duke has been the Executive Director of ASCNYC since its inception. Her work in program planning and evaluation, fundraising, budget management, policy development, training, and service delivery reflect her deep commitment to individuals and families living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. She has represented the needs of people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS at the city, state and federal levels. As part of our 20 year Anniversary Tribute to Phil, we interviewed Sharen. Please click here to watch the interview.

The four ASCNYC Poetry Leaders described below have been active participants in the ASCNYC Creative Writing Workshop for more than three years. Their poems have appeared in numerous past editions of ASCNYC's literary magazine, Situations, which is available at www.ascnyc.org/publications/situations.htm. All four are graduates of the Zwickler Memorial Poetry Leadership Program at ASCNYC, and now guest-teach poetry workshops at the agency. (For more information about this ASCNYC program, visit www.ascnyc.org)

Please click on the photos below to read more about the participants.