Star of Brooklyn: Heather Fiorica

October 17, 2014 Heather Chin
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COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Heather Fiorica has made a career out of community service. She began eight years ago as a PTA volunteer, then president, at P.S. 177, and she is now co-president at I.S. 288’s PTA.

She also volunteers as a President’s Council member and treasurer, with her daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, and as a certified counselor for students who require an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Her most recent role is president of Community Education Council for School District 21.

“I am a full-time volunteer and am lucky enough to be able to dedicate my time to not only my child, but every child in this district,” said Fiorica. “My daughter is 13 now and I think she loves it because she’s happy to see me around and she’ll tell people to ask me for help.”

Fiorica adds that “there are a great many volunteers who have taught me and I hope I have shared with them, as well.

“It’s all about helping each other,” she said. “I don’t do it alone. I have a wonderful council and friends who also volunteer on PTA and CEC.”

MOTIVATION: “I have a child with an IEP so I do know how the DOE system can be very confusing and that’s really what started as the key, for me, to help other parents,” explained Fiorica, whose daughter was diagnosed years ago as being on the autism spectrum.

“What about the parents who don’t have the time to be as involved as I am?” she asked. “I don’t want them to be confused if I can help them. So I volunteered to go into meetings [as a certified counselor] and sit with parents and explain the procedure. I’m a neutral voice and have been through the system so many times.”

BIGGEST OBSTACLE: Time is the Bensonhurst mom’s biggest challenge to doing as much as she would like to. “My challenge is giving 100 percent to all I do because I don’t want to shortchange anybody, including my family,” she said.

Also, she said, “as parent of child with special needs, an obstacle is understanding the system and how I go about getting the education and resources she needs.”

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: “My daughter, for sure,” Fiorica said without hesitation. “Seeing a child struggling with everyday aspects of life keep going and smiling is a wonderful thing and I’m really proud of her,” she said.

PERSONAL LIFE: Fiorica has been married for over 15 years and counts her husband and mother as her biggest supporters. Originally from Queens, she graduated with a degree in security management from John Jay College and managed a gift shop before becoming a stay-at-home mom in Bensonhurst, advocate for her daughter and caregiver for her husband, who became ill with leukemia.

“My mother was my biggest advocate because I’m dyslexic and she showed me that even when you get down, you keep going,” said Fiorica. “So when my turn came, I began showing my daughter, you can go as far as you want to go. As long as you keep trying, that’s all that matters.”

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