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Where Unity and Diversity Meet........One Chapter at a Time

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By Nicole Alcindor

When Valley Streamer Steve Vaccaro reflects on his adolescent years, he remembers feeling sad and lonely as he was transferred in and out of four foster homes and two shelters after his father abandoned him and his mother was too sick with multiple sclerosis to care for him.

Because of the transitory nature of his childhood, said Vaccaro, now 56, he never formed lasting friendships. Despite all this, he is now using his experiences to help others through their own hardships.

Vaccaro is a psychologist with his own nonprofit, Chapters Community Support Services. He is also a host of nearly a dozen cable TV shows. In one, “Chapters Rap,” he encourages people to share their past and present struggles and journeys to help them heal by giving them the chance to talk about their trauma while an audience provides feedback.

“I always had a natural passion for helping and giving back, so I started my show ‘Chapters Rap’ to educate, empower and advocate for families going through transitions,” Vaccaro said. “I’ve had a long career of supporting and educating people, and with that knowledge, my goal is not to look at the disability, but to look at the ability of people to help guide them.”

“Chapters Rap” began eight years ago as a WGBB radio segment, and later it became an hour-long segment on Optimum Cablevision, Bronxnet, Spectrum and an NBC affiliate in Albany. The show, which airs weekly at different times, focuses on a variety of topics, including autism, foster care, suicide prevention, homelessness, veterans support, various medical ailments, relationships, adoptions, race relations, religion and advocacy, among many others. Additionally, for the show, Vaccaro often invites musicians to perform, and authors, writers and artists to share their work.

“Chapters Rap” can also be found on YouTube and has been featured on the WLIE radio station, as well as on the radio stations of York College, St. John’s University and LIU Post.

“People should learn to unite, support, love and help one another, and that’s the advocacy my show promotes, one chapter at a time, and my favorite part is seeing people develop, grow and heal by having their voices heard,” he said. “Throughout my life, I witnessed division. Just to give a few examples — people with disabilities versus those without, Black people versus white people, Jewish versus Christianity — and one of my goals through ‘Chapters Rap’ was to bridge these various gaps that shouldn’t be in order to create unity.”

Vaccaro said that he has been pleased with the results so far and hopes to continue to grow his show’s audience.

Although lacking companionship in childhood, as an adult, Vaccaro said he has made a number of long-lasting friendships, on and off screen. Many described him as a role model.

“I was adopted, and not having my biological family was difficult. I had to rely on someone else to raise me, just like Steve did many times,” said Ray Negron, who has known Vaccaro three years and, with him, co-hosts the sports and entertainment show, “Reach out with Ray and Steve.” “Our journeys are similar, and Steve inspires me.”

Donna Chirico, a former dean of arts and sciences and a psychology professor at CUNY York College in Queens, said Vaccaro recognizes the strengths in others. “Steve is an inspirational person, and he impacted me because he’s generous and sensitive to the needs of others and their unique circumstances,” said Chirico, who has known him six years and has been a guest on his show.

State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages also said Vaccaro inspires her. “Steve brings together young and elderly people, and he helps them share their stories, and he’s a nice person who is always there to help,” she said.

Mel Campos, who lives in New Rochelle and who has a daughter with severe cerebral palsy, said that Vaccaro gave his daughter a way to share her story on “Chapters Rap.” Campos said his daughter’s disability has caused her to be unable to speak since birth, and she communicates through a dino-box machine, which she can program to say certain phrases.

“Young people with disabilities rarely get a platform to share their voices, and they are remarkable and resilient people, who oftentimes want to be respected as intelligent and contributing members of society,” said Campos, who said he has known Vaccaro for about 15 years while working with him on food drives and other charities. “Steve gave my daughter the chance to express herself, while many other people have not given her that chance.”

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