A Special Place to Call Home
Rising above your circumstances is a testament of the human resolve. Denise Zayas has demonstrated courage, resilience, and perseverance through a tumultuous childhood, and her journey to self-worth started over three decades ago at our Marian Hall residence for girls.
Denise, an honor student in high school who endured years of abuse by several family members, reached her breaking point at the age of 15 after an incident at home. On that day, she made the courageous decision to never spend another night in the place that was the source of so much pain for her.
“At Marian Hall, it was the first time that I felt a sense of value
and a sense of belonging and felt loved. It just became the family
I never had,” said Denise as she fought back tears.
For four years, Marian Hall was her sanctuary and she relishes the wonderful memories of harmless pranks with her surrogate sisters and family rituals like Saturday morning chores. “I didn’t have that growing up. It’s so important to have those rituals and routines because it makes children feel loved,” she said.
At 19 years old, Denise got married and held her wedding reception at Marian Hall.
“One of the counselors’ sons, because they were my family, gave me away. The cook made my cake. The reception was in the lobby. Looking back, I have good memories,” she said.
Denise is thriving and currently works in the corporate responsibility division at NY Life Insurance where she connects staff and partner organizations, like Good Shepherd, with opportunities to give back.
She will begin mentoring at Good Shepherd next year because she wants participants to know that, “you’re not alone, you have value, and you are loved”.