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Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.
Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.

2021 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Daniel Orsino

At the upcoming AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event on Aug. 27, Daniel Orsino will be one of the 40 honorees.

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The second annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will serve to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region.

At the event, taking place on August 27, 2021, Daniel Orsino will be one of the 40 honorees. He is the senior counselor at Northern Living Center.

Biography

Daniel “Duke” Orsino, as a senior counselor at Northern Living Center in Philadelphia’s Poplar neighborhood works to provide a modern, assisted living environment for individuals 55 and up.

While there, he also founded the NorCi Project to connect elder LGBTQ+ individuals and create a safe space to share experiences in the facility.

The work is similar to what Orsino does as a member of the LGBT Elder Initiative Advisory Council at the William Way Center.

Here are Daniel Orsino's responses: 
1. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your professional career?

My biggest challenge has always been getting people to look past my level of education to see my potential. I was not as privileged as some people are to have the financial means to complete school beyond an associates degree. I also have an auditory processing disorder that made school extremely challenging. I struggled for years working in retail, cleaning offices, working in a kitchen, and even working in a factory, all while volunteering with political and community organizations. It can be very frustrating to be in this situation, especially for years. Eventually though, North City Congress’ Northern Living Center gave me a chance and it was one of those life-changing moments.

2. What steps can be taken to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?

There is a lot that needs to be done for seniors in general, but especially LGBTQ+ seniors of Color. First and foremost, we need to be hiring staff at senior centers that better represent the demographics of the population they serve. This makes our seniors feel more comfortable in the center environments and it also allows for a better relationship between staff and seniors. This is especially important when our centers are social service hubs.  When it comes to LGBTQ+ seniors of Color there is much work to be done to promote equity, particularly in North Philadelphia. With the exception of fantastic organizations like Bebashi and GALAEI, most LGBTQ+ social service/health and wellness organizations in the city are located in the Gayborhood and have a target service demographic of upper-middle class whites. There are also major social service accessibility issues for LGBTQ+ seniors in N. Philly that need to be addressed, especially for those living in communities where coming out is still viewed as something negative and potentially dangerous. That’s why I started Project NorCi, to bring the services directly to LGBTQ+ seniors that they desperately need. Just my organization alone can’t fix this problem however. What the city needs is a large-scale cooperation effort with many different non-profits, LGBTQ+ organizations, and social services agencies to conduct better outreach in the North Philadelphia region, particularly in Senior Black, Asian, and Latinx communities. This is so important because so many seniors are suffering in silence from preventable financial, mental, food security, and housing issues, thinking that there is nothing they can do to improve their situations.

3. What does being a leader mean to you?

Being a leader isn’t about being in charge of people. It’s not about holding authority or privileges over others, or about getting people to do what you say. To me being a leader is about doing the right thing not because its what you’re supposed to do; it’s what you want to do. Being a leader is showing people there is another path besides selfishness.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Honestly? I may eventually run for PA State Rep or the US House of Representatives. I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the city, Pennsylvania, and the US as a whole and if we keep going on the trajectory we are currently on I may be motivated to consider a run for a seat in Harrisburg or Washington.

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