Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10.
Assistant Director, Young Adult Population, ACMH, Inc.“My work gives me a respect for people and humanity. Being able to share that with students at Adelphi feels really good.”
In high school, Deseree Wiltshire ’04, M.A. ’05 was on an engineering track until she took one psychology class that changed everything. “I was in a magnet high school for engineering. My senior year I had the chance to take an elective and chose a psychology course. That was it for me. I felt like psychology was my calling, it was the field I was supposed to be in,” she said.
When it came time to apply to college, Wiltshire, who was also a talented dancer, wanted to go to a school that was well-known for psychology and dance. Adelphi was the perfect fit.
At the University she majored in both disciplines. Even with a full academic schedule, she made sure to get involved in campus life. She was active in C.A.L.I.B.E.R., worked as a Peer Counselor, was part of the front desk staff in Waldo Hall, and became a Resident Assistant. “I loved the sense of community and guiding the residents.” Among the highlights of her years at Adelphi were being asked to choreograph two pieces for the dance program and perform a solo for her senior year performance.
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Wiltshire remained at Adelphi to complete her master’s degree in psychology, before starting her career at ACMH. “ACMH is a not-for-profit that works with people who have severe mental illnesses,” said Wiltshire. “It is an agency that provides services to reintegrate people with mentally illness back into the community. We want to help them acquire the kinds of skills we often take for granted.”
She joined the organization as a clinical case manager and, soon after, rose to senior clinical case manager on a residence on the grounds of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. “The patients came from locked units to be a part of the community at Creedmor” she explained.
After gaining experience in outpatient services, she transitioned to intake/transition specialist, gaining exposure to the hospital setting. “I would go into most of the psychiatric hospitals in Queens and assess each client individually. Then I would discuss each case with a psychiatrist and clinical staff. Together we made assessments to determine whether or not patients would be able to make it in the community with the supports that our agency provides.” While doing intake and assessment, she was also asked to serve as interim director of a 51 bed residence on the grounds of Creedmor.
At the same time, she continued to pursue her passion for dance, dancing with Notes in Motion, Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre for three years. “I was working full time, teaching dance in West Hempstead, and commuting into Manhattan to dance. I was doing it all but never felt the weight of it because it never felt like work. It was everything I loved doing,” she said. “I’m very much grateful to have had the opportunity to have done those things.”
Today she is assistant director for ACMH’s young adult population. This is the first time in ACMH history that the agency is focusing in on this specific age group. “It’s groundbreaking,” she said.
The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) is finding a lot of young adults are aging out of foster care and ending up homeless. The push right now by the OMH is to get young adults the services they need.” ACMH has taken up this cause, offering young adults services that will prepare them to be more independent, help them acquire new skills and open up education and employment opportunities for them in the future.
Watching her clients move on and reintegrate into their communities is both rewarding and motivating. “That’s why I’m in it,” she said.
She shares the knowledge, experience, and perspective she has gained in her field with students at her alma mater. Since 2008, she has been teaching psychology at Adelphi in the University’s General Studies Program. “There is a joy in practicing psychology and teaching it. Sometimes we are closed off, we don’t recognize there are so many things going on in the world and that psychology has a major role in all of that,” she said.
Wiltshire, whose classroom theme is “Minimize differences, seek common ground for interactions, and accept others as you want to be accepted,” loves being on the faculty of the General Studies Program. “My work gives me a respect for people and humanity. Being able to share that with students at Adelphi feels really good,” she said.