Adelphi alumni Clarissa Thomas describes her journey to being founder and CEO of Family Development Institute (FDI).

Clarissa ThomasAs a teen, I would gather my younger cousins to play school. They were my students and I was their teacher. I remember one of my cousins being very smart, and I used his strength to help me with my other cousins. As an entrepreneur, I continue to create healthy outlets to express my longing to make an important contribution to families and communities by teaching and promoting strengths-based programs.

In 1999, I received my Family Development Credential (FDC) from Cornell University after attending an intensive class on Empowerment Skills for Family Workers. This course enriched my life and helped to bring my career journey into perspective. It moved me to start my own business to empower children and their families.

During my 17 years with the EOC of Nassau County Head Start Early Childhood Development Program, I earned credentials in Family Development, and became an FDC instructor in 2001. I was elected President of the Long Island Region (2004-2011) and Board Secretary (2006-2011) and served as an active member of the Family Development Association of New York State. I graduated from Briarcliffe College (2005) where I studied Business Administration and from Adelphi University (2012) where I studied Social Work. While interning at Roosevelt High School, I began the process of registering my business with Nassau County. I was on the path to successfully bringing my goals to fruition.

After completing an internship with the Power Brain Training Center, I decided to serve as a volunteer for their comprehensive wellness program that uses yoga as its central catalyst. I conduct adult yoga classes to enhance physical health, emotional well-being, and mental clarity where participants experience the brain/body connection. As a Brain Education Certified Instructor, I assist children with improving focus, confidence, creativity, and memory.

In 2012, I founded the Family Development Institute (FDI) to help families identify their strengths and develop a plan to achieve their own goals for healthy self-reliance. FDI is committed to building and sustaining healthy communities by promoting family support, empowerment, and building strong community partners.
Our first community partner was the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association after-school program, with weekly brain education classes for elementary school children. Our second community partner was Kennedy Park/Recreation Center in Hempstead, with weekly brain education classes with elementary and middle school children. I also had intern youth workers. Glen Cove Child Day Care/Head Start program also welcomed the FDC program into their facility to credential their front-line family workers.

Both Family Development and Brain Education are registered with Nassau BOCES, allowing Nassau County schools to request professional development training for staff and/or character building workshops for students. The Family Development Institute and the Family Support Initiative are collaborating to offer the “Family Development for Leaders” to supervisors, managers, and leaders in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

FDI offers the Family Development Credentialing Program at Molloy College’s Continuing Education Department. The Molloy College FDC class of 2013 already discussed the possible need for a support group. Currently, FDI is recruiting for our second class at Molloy College for front-line workers and planning our first FDC class for leaders in Spring of 2014.

In addition to my role as Founder and CEO, I conduct annual outreach and recruitment. I attended the Jackson Main Health Fair and the Hempstead Middle School Career Day two years in a row. Just recently, I engaged youth with a “Path to Success” take-home packet. I merged family development goal-setting techniques and brain education brain/body activities, to identify strengths, supportive people, goals and steps to achieve them. The students learned new skills through brain-challenging activities.

I have learned that in every moment I am what I am (Joy!), and even when I am not – I can choose to be, again. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer said “meditation gives you the opportunity to come to know your invisible self. It shatters the illusion of your separateness.” I intrinsically believe that all people and all families have strengths.

Adelphi University has played an important role in my career. I have fond memories of my professors, great internships and being a member of the Long Island Center for Nonprofit Leadership roundtable. This past June, Ms. Schanica Pickens, Student Affairs Coordinator for the School of Social Work at Adelphi, invited me to be a part of the Social Work Career Expo to share my experiences in creating a business. I met some really inspiring alumni and current students who were interested in FDI. We have kept in touch and I look forward to providing a family development presentation.

This piece appeared in the Career Compass Fall 2013 issue.

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
Strategic Communications Director 
p – 516.237.8634
e –

Phone Number
More Info
Levermore Hall, 205
Search Menu