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 eleven 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”.
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Meet The ICS Counseling Team!
- Diane DiSalvo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Director of Counseling for Integration Charter Schools. She joined ICS in 2015 coming from South Beach Psychiatric Center where she was the Chief of the Children and Youth Service. As a therapist and supervisor, Diane has worked with children, youth and families in a variety of settings.
- Priscilla Chen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who joined the counseling team in 2016, coming to Lavelle Prep and New Ventures Charter Schools from The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services on Staten Island where she worked with adolescents, adults and families. Priscilla is the Assistant Director of Counseling, the coordinator and supervisor of the ICS Social Work Internship Program and the McKinney Vento liaison.
- Nadine Somma is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who began her work in Lavelle Prep upper division in 2015. In September 2018, she joined our Elementary Division. She came to Lavelle Prep from Richmond University Medical Center, where she worked with adolescents and families.
- Carol Halfhide-Torres is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker who joined Lavelle Prep and New Ventures Charter Schools in 2016. She joined the Nicotra Early College Charter School in September 2018 as the founding counselor. Carol has experience working with adolescents and families at The Seamen’s Society for Children and Families and at Staten Island Mental Society.
- 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 bilingual Licensed Master Social Worker who joined the Lavelle Prep and New Ventures teams in July 2018. He has worked with adolescents and families 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 joined our Lavelle Prep middle school team in September 2018. He is currently working with our high school team. George has worked at Seamen’s Society for Children and Families and at Staten Island Mental Health Society with adolescents and families. George was part of the Mayor’s office initiative on Combating Violence in the community.
- Shannon Crisalli is a Licensed Master Social Worker who completed her social work internship in our elementary division in 2018. She joined our counseling team in 2019 working in both elementary and our middle school divisions. Shannon has previous experience at On Your Mark on Staten Island, working with students with special needs.
- Toneakqua (Toni) Cardona is a Licensed Master Social Worker who joined our counseling team in 2019. This year she also became part of the Nicotra Early College Charter School counseling team. Toni has previous experience working at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and South Beach Psychiatric Center.
- Catherine (Katie) Ratel is a School Psychologist who completed her psychology internship in Lavelle Prep high school division in 2019, She joined our elementary division in 2020. Katie has previous experience at A Friendly Face Agency, working with children on the Autism Spectrum.
- Rafia Chaudhry is a bilingual School Psychologist who did her psychology internship in Lavelle Prep’s middle school in 2019 and joined our counseling team in 2020. Rafia has previous experience working with special needs students in various special education settings.