Message from the Director
Marissa Rice is director of ACR Health's Youth Services Division. Ms. Rice oversees ACR’s three successful adolescent HIV/STD prevention programs of long standing: Teen AIDS Task Force, the Q Center @ ACR, and the Youth Safety Project for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) youth in the Mohawk Valley.
A native of Worcester, New York, Ms. Rice started with ACR as a Teen AIDS Task Force Coordinator in 1999. She is married to Derek Rice, Sr., with D.J. and Sebastian. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from SUNY Fredonia.
Question: What got you interested in HIV/AIDS prevention?
When I was 19 I went for my first HIV test. At that time, the only way to get an HIV test was to have blood drawn. And you had to wait 2 weeks before you could come back and get your results. Well, I was so scared of what the results might be that I waited 6 months. The day I found out I was HIV negative was a turning point in my life. I realized how lucky I was, but I knew I couldn’t count on luck to protect me anymore. I started thinking about how much I didn’t know about HIV and STDs, and I decided to get educated. I joined a peer education group on campus called Students Teaching Equals Positive Sexuality. It was an awesome experience to talk openly and honestly about sex and sexuality for the first time in my life! I began to really wish someone had talked to me about all this when I was younger, before I put myself at risk.
Question: What attracted you to ACR Health?
It was 1999, and I had just graduated from college and had recently moved to Syracuse. Discouraged in my attempts to find a “real” job, my future husband, Derek, sat me down and asked me what my dream job would be. My immediate answer was to work with youth in the field of HIV/STD prevention, teaching them all the ways to stay safe that I had never learned as a teen, but I never imagined such a job existed. I mean, who would actually pay me to talk to teens about safer sex!?! We started looking through the yellow pages (the internet was not what it is today!) and right in the beginning was AIDS Community Resources (now ACR Health). I decided what the heck; I’ll call and see what job openings they may have. Fate must have intervened because there was an opening for the Teen AIDS Task Force Coordinator position in Syracuse. I immediately sent in my resume, and the rest is history!
Question: You are very passionate about educating young people…
I’m passionate because I know what it is like to grow up without being told about these important things. I grew up in a very small town in Upstate New York and attended a K – 12 school where I graduated with a class of just 30 people. During high school, sex was not something we were educated about. Well, we heard a lot about abstinence, but not much else! We teach our children how to walk, talk, write, share, study – we teach them most of what they know. We need to share the lessons of sexuality and smart decision-making. That may well save their lives.
ACR Health is a proud recipeint of United Way funding.