"THE TEACHER BECOMES THE STUDENT"

Last Thursday I taught Peer University for Aurora Mental Health from 9am-1pm. There were close to 20 diverse students. I am blessed to have the opportunity to touch people’s lives that will potential help multitudes of others. My message to them was of the importance of being a peer support specialist. In this case, peer specialist refers to a person living with a severe mental illness, (SMI) helping others with SMI. I told them that we hold the candle of hope. Our lived experience cannot be replaced.

When the evaluations from the class were finished, I was elated by their responses. “This is why I do what I do”, I said to myself. I have never been happier since finding my true purpose in life. I am now able to teach, entertain, be a role model and assist people during their recovery,

To quote one of the students, “ Jeff Zinn is definitely an inspiration to me, simply because he was very honest in sharing his experience with his “Mental Illness”, while still maintaining his professionalism. Because of that, I can hold my head up without feeling ashamed of my own lived experience. Thank you Jeff for being just you. Sincerely, Paulina”.

My Thursday night groups at Aurora Strong Resiliency Center have been growing larger and more interactive. I now have individuals who have formed a group of people who are helping each other. I am so pleased and honored to be part of this worthwhile program.

Tomorrow, my sister Devra and I have been assigned to teach numerous providers the art of facilitating groups. Devra is an LCSW and Gestalt therapist. It is an honor for me to be able to co-facilitate with her. She has more experience running groups than anyone I know. I am so proud of her history of helping the providers in NYC cope with the trauma of dealing with people involved in 911 and other tragedies.

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