A Passion for Providing
Head of Rescue Mission knows support can lift lives.
Jessica Stanis, MSW ’15, MPA ’15, is a child of immigrants and a first-generation college student with a deep-rooted passion for helping others. These life experiences helped her land her dream job as director of the Binghamton Rescue Mission — just two years out of graduate school.
It’s a challenging job, but for Stanis, it comes down to her desire to help those in need; it’s why she’s there. “If your ‘why’ is strong enough, it makes the work you do easier and far more rewarding,” she says.
Stanis’ “why” evolved at a young age. She saw her parents, who are from Trinidad, experience adversity and then achieve success, in part because of the help of friends.
“My parents had a strong support system that helped them thrive. Because of this, my siblings and I were able to go to college and get our master’s degrees,” Stanis says. “I want to return the favor. Without the support others extended to my parents, who knows where I’d be today.”
Stanis was working as an academic advisor for the College of Community and Public Affairs when she came across an opportunity that she couldn’t ignore at the Binghamton Rescue Mission, which provides beds and meals for homeless men.
“The position of director was one that I saw myself having in 10 years, not two! I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I was looking for all of the reasons not to apply for this job,” Stanis recalls. “But the thought of not going for this job was far worse than my fear of applying, and I couldn’t let myself be controlled by those thoughts. Now I’m seven years ahead of the game and working in my dream job at an established company for a great cause.”
With dual degrees in public administration and social work, Stanis is using the skills she learned at Binghamton.
“We’re providing a safe and positive environment for men 18 and older, where they can rebuild their lives,” she says. “We currently provide housing for up to 34 men facing homelessness. We deliver three meals a day, transportation, and assistance for getting and maintaining a job.”
Nadia Rubaii, professor and chair of the Public Administration Department, recalls Stanis’ capstone project, which examined Binghamton graduate students’ experience and levels of knowledge about interpersonal violence, then presented concrete recommendations for changes to administrative policies and practices.
“Her passion for increasing awareness and ensuring a safe educational environment for all was evident at every step of the process,” Rubaii says, Stanis was recognized in spring 2015 with the Alpha Award as the student demonstrating excellence and engagement in all aspects of her studies.
“The faculty are proud that she has chosen to stay in the Binghamton area and contribute her energy, passion and expertise to the Binghamton Rescue Mission. We have every confidence that she will excel as director, and that the community and clients will benefit from her leadership,” Rubaii says.
Stanis hopes to someday extend services to women. In the meantime, the Binghamton Rescue Mission provides a community meal once a month at the United Presbyterian Church, where anyone is welcome.
“We are providing assistance for children and families in poverty. There are times when we see 120 people. This program allows us to serve the community and those in need,” she says.
Beyond her work at the Rescue Mission, Stanis is using her experience in academic advising to mentor middle and elementary school students who are referred by teachers and administrators.
“The program provides one-on-one time with students who need a little extra support because they’ve been exposed to various life challenges,” she says. “Children who succeed, despite the obstacles they face, do so because of a caring adult they have in their lives. When children see they have someone who believes in them, they realize their self-worth. It’s amazing knowing that you can make a child’s day by just showing up.”
For Stanis, all of her experiences are coming together — her degrees, her mentoring and her role at the Rescue Mission — and she can already feel the impact: “I’m not only able to grow my skills, but I’m able to have an influence in my community.”