Group celebrates five years of helping learning disabled

Juan Miguel “Manny” Cervantes and his wife Catherine Cervantes founded Learning Disabilities Support Center of New York five years ago. Photo courtesy of LDSCNY

The Learning Disabilities Support Center of New York, which holds educational programming in Westchester Square’s Owen Dolen Recreational Center, is celebrating five years of helping special needs people lead fuller lives.

LDSCNY was founded by Juan Cervantes, a Mexican immigrant, and his Bronx-born wife Catherine. The couple resides with their son, Victor, in Zerega.

The support center offers a V.I.P. night where guest speakers share their ‘keys to success’; healthy living classes that teach people how to cook nutritious food that can help regulate moods; and computer classes — all in the upper floor of Owen Dolen. It has become a tax-deductable charity and is in the process of expanding its board of directors.

Cervantes, LDSCNY’s president, said the group’s long-range goal is to find a permanent home for their own center, complete with an office that could house all of their programs. He also wishes to expand the programs currently offered so they are available during the day.

“We are now getting ready to celebrate our fifth anniversary of serving people in the Bronx,” Cervantes said. “Our biggest achievement is seeing this deserving population take advantage of the talks, computer classes, and healthy living cooking. Some have been inspired to go back to school, while others feel more confident in their job.”

Cervantes said that his biggest challenge as a teacher of computer classes to the disabled, which he does around his own busy schedule as a UPSP letter carrier, is getting those he mentors to believe in their worth.

“When people first come to class they often think very little of themselves,” Cervantes stated. “A lot of people succeed once they are given one-on-one attention. Now we are working with students from Lehman High School, and look forward to getting our own center so we can hold our workshops during the day.”

LDSCNY board member and attorney Osvaldo Caban Jr. said that he got involved after getting to know Juan and his wife Catherine Cervantes, who has a learning disability.

“I found the group to be so useful,” Caban said. “There are so many people who have debilitating disabilities like ADD that can thrive. I think the group is a humble, grass-roots organization serving the community well.”

Caban feels that having a learning difference is especially debilitating for working class youth, many of whom have to deal with issues that were not as prevalent when he was growing up, like obesity.

“The programs that the LDSCNY sponsor offer a unique way to address disabilities that we have not seen before,” said board member and attorney Ken Padilla. “It is very inspirational to see them making a dent in disabilities that affect people’s lives.”

More from Around NYC