A statement from Amanda Cage, president and CEO of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions:
It is with a very heavy heart that I share the news that our beloved board member, Denise Cherenfant, passed away on May 31, 2023.
An original member of the National Fund’s board of directors, Denise served the organization faithfully since 2015. She was both wise and inquisitive, strong and supportive, and had a smile that could light up a room. We shared a union bond, having both worked for the Service Employees International Union and often talked about the power of the labor movement. I would send her a note on Labor Day. She would send me a note on International Women’s Day. Her commitment to workers was unwavering and helped to drive the National Fund’s efforts to center workers.
When I was applying for my job and researching board members, I came across a Congressional Hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions entitled, “Building the Ladder of Opportunity: What’s Working to Make the American Dream a Reality for Middle-Class Families.” It included this passage about Denise:
“Some of our graduates had a longer road to travel to reach their goals. Some did not have a high school diploma or were working in a very low paid, entry level job. One such graduate, who I now see every day, is Denise Cherenfant. Denise began her journey as a home health aide and then became a Certified Nurse Aide and 1199 member at Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home in the Bronx, NY. Denise was a single mother at the time and determined to increase her standard of living so that she could offer her son a better future. She tried to pass college entrance exams on her own several times but was unsuccessful. When she learned about the Training and Upgrading Fund, Denise enrolled in free college preparation courses which gave her the ability to pass the college entrance exam and succeed in college level work. Denise received her associate degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant from New York University, a very demanding program.
A few years later, Denise decided to return to school to become a Bachelor’s- prepared Registered Nurse. Through support from the Fund, she attended Lehman College, with no out-of-pocket cost and also received a stipend so that she could take time off to attend classes and study. Without this financial support, Denise could not have reached her career goal — she became the first member of her family to graduate college and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2009. After working as a Registered Nurse at her former employer, Denise is now working at the Training Fund and is planning to pursue a master’s degree in nursing education.
At the beginning of her journey, Denise earned minimum wage, with no benefits. She now earns a middle-class salary with excellent health, pension and other benefits and she is able to pay for her son’s college tuition. He just started this fall.”
I included the entirety of this passage because Denise’s journey truly illustrates the heart and soul of the National Fund’s mission. She was the embodiment of everything we believe in and strive for. She was a force for good and we are lucky to have known her.
The National Fund board and staff send our deepest condolences to Denise’s husband, Edenton Cherenfant and son, Devon Knights along with her extended family. May her memory be a blessing to all.