P.O. Box 1223, Hellgate Station
New York, NY 10029
Phone: (212) 289-3900
In 1998, Susan co-founded SMART University with a group of HIV+ women in East Harlem to provide treatment, health and prevention education and support to women affected by HIV/AIDS.
Susan has been living with HIV/AIDS since 1991. Her work in the AIDS community began in 1997 at the PWA Health Group and has worked since then as an advocate and activist for women and youth living with HIV/AIDS.
She has received numerous awards for her work: Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader Award (2010); Union Square Award for Grassroots Activism (2001); “Woman of the Year” (POZ magazine 2004). She became the first Community Spokesperson for the MAC AIDS Fund in 2004 and has appeared in magazine articles (Glamour, Ebony, Vanity Fair).
In 2009, she was featured in an internationally acclaimed documentary, “Love in a Time of HIV: I Love New York” (BBC World News & Showtime). Susan also serves on the Board of Directors for the New York City AIDS Memorial project.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Susan received her B.A. in Fine Arts from Brooklyn College and used her skills later in life as a decorative artist with Alpha Workshops. She worked many years as a legal assistant in the corporate field before founding SMART. As a resident and active community member in East Harlem for over 20 years, she is a strong advocate for nutrition education and healthy food access in her community. She has three children, Samantha, Christina and Joseph, and proud grandmother of Julian and Blaze.
Sam was born and raised in The United Kingdom outside of London. After moving to the United States in 1987, she took residence in Brooklyn, New York.
She has always been passionate about serving community based organizations.
In 1995, Sam joined a team at a city-funded day care in Brooklyn that served working parents and their children. She was an Executive Assistant to the Executive Director for twelve years. Her responsibilities included: interfacing with the Department of Health and Children Services; coordinating and implementing all duties related to scheduling, training, staff development; and she also facilitated Department of Health assessments.
She has been a part of SMART since September 2007 and provided program assistance to SMART University and SMART Body. Sam works closely with SMART’s Founding Director, Susan Rodriguez in an administrative capacity.
Additionally, Sam has organized, negotiated and facilitated many special events, including the Annual Graduation Celebration. She has been an integral force in fundraising initiatives for the organization.
Her new role as Director of Nutrition and Food Services, will be leading their mobile cooking classroom. They will be able to provide health in nutrition and hands on cooking classes that are healthy for the community. She has four children, Chelsea, Amelia, Henry, and Ciara. She is a nanny to one, Jacob.
Kevin Rios, Program Assistant
Kevin Rios was born in East Harlem, where he was raised by his deaf and mute single mother. Kevin has faced a myriad of challenges. He learned to become a mentor for his younger siblings, teaching them how to communicate with sign language. When Kevin was diagnosed with HIV in 2012, he shied away from people as a result of not knowing anything about the virus. After meeting his first mentor, he became more involved with the people and organizations in the HIV community. Kevin came to SMART Youth in 2013. He is now a SMART Youth alumni. Kevin was offered the position of Program Assistant after his hard work and dedication was recognized by SMART’s Founding Director, Susan Rodriguez. He attends outreach events to help disseminate correct health and sexual information to youth in East Harlem and other Communities.
Kevin’s dream is to continue his education and one day become an NYPD Detective.
Les LaRue, Program Manager
Les LaRue is an artist and illustrator who is a transgender man. He believes in love as a guiding principle. He rides a bicycle and wants to feel adventurous. He thinks everyone is unique and interesting and hopes for a world that values individual quirkiness as well as shared humanity. He believes in SMART as a community that practices love in exactly this way.
Christina and her siblings grew up in the non-profit world when her mother started SMART University in 1998. In 2005, her and her sister saw a need for a youth centered space that could educate and create leaders within the community; thus leading to the creation of SMART Youth. Since then SMART Youth has grown tremendously as well as Christina’s skills for community organizing and outreach. Presently she is heading the event coordination and promotion team for SMART University and SMART Youth to take the organization to the next level and make sure the education and resources reach those who need it most. She will be graduating from New York City College of Technology in December 2015 with a Bachelors of Science in Hospitality Management (with a focus on event planning). Her favorite book is Cloud Atlas and believes this quote sums up her drive and mission to do well for others and the world, “Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?” We’re all in this together!
Frances Wood has worked alongside youth for the past six years and has been shaped by each youth’s understanding of gender and sexuality. She believes that conversations about diverse identities can lead to inclusion and profound connection. She is a writer and likes to ride her bike.
SMART Board of Directors
Derek Flanagan, CPA, Treasurer
Susan Rodriguez, President/Founding Director
Edna Torres, Former President(b.1965 – d.2014)
SMART Advisory Board Members
Kathryn Anastos, MD
Stephen Arpadi, MD
Jeffrey Birnbaum, MD
Rosa Donohue, MS, RD, CDN
John Falkenberg, RN (b.1954 – d.2013)
Virginia Graham, NP
Catherine Hanssens, Esq.
Ann-Gel S. Palermo, MPH, DrPH
Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD, ABPP-CN
Janice V. Scobie, MD, MS
Joseph Sonnabend, MD