The Children's Aid Blog

#SaveGoodhuePark

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More than 10 years ago, Children’s Aid agreed to a plan with New York City to sell 38 of the original 42 acres of the Goodhue estate. It would—and still will be—a win-win for the Staten Island community. The people will get parkland that would be preserved forever and a brand-new Goodhue Center.

At no time did we expect the process to take 10 years. We had hoped that the coming fiscal year would finally bring funding for purchase of the final parcel. And we still hope that’s true. That’s why we brought out more than 200 people to Goodhue Center this week.

Goodhue kids young and old, parents, neighbors, staff members, and key elected officials who have always been friends of Goodhue. With their sheer numbers, they showed how important this parkland is. They signed petitions and posted on social media, asking Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city asking Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city to fulfill its commitment to the people of Staten Island.

Borough President James Oddo has been a proponent of the project since the beginning, and said, “Children’s Aid has made a commitment to put this money into building a community center which will help kids on the North Shore, how can we wait another day?” He committed $6 million of the money he has at his disposal to help finance the sale.

His enthusiasm and energy is matched by City Council Member Debi Rose, who called Goodhue part of the “fabric of West Brighton.”

It was a great evening, and real show of what Staten Island is made of. We hope to see positive results in the coming weeks.

 

Children’s Aid and JPMorgan Chase Create Opportunities for Success

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We are deeply grateful to JPMorgan Chase for its steadfast partnership, which has supported the skill development of our young people and the revitalization of our communities for over four decades, and are pleased to present some recent highlights:

For nearly 20 years, JPMorgan Chase and Children’s Aid have collaborated to offer ProjectLIVE, a program focused on career development and corporate mentoring. The program matches Children’s Aid high school teens with JPMorgan Chase employees. Over five months, students work with two mentors and participate in engaging weekly activities and workshops that give them the inside track into what it takes to succeed in a career. Teens learn critical professional skills and financial literacy, while gaining a better understanding of the financial market, how to enter that market, and their future possibilities.

Children’s Aid has also had the incredible opportunity to participate in Force for Good, a program of JPMorgan Chase’s Technology for Social Good Initiative. Force for Good matches JPMorgan Chase employees with nonprofit organizations, like Children’s Aid, to help them develop a solution to an identified technological challenge. Given that many of the young people we serve lack access to computers at home, Children’s Aid needed to make college information and resources more readily available to our young people. As a result, Children’s Aid is developing a college awareness and preparation app that is compatible with smartphones. We’re thrilled to launch it this fall.

Bringing Children’s Aid and Phipps Neighborhoods together, two social service organizations committed to working in the South Bronx, JPMorgan Chase provided us with the essential seed funding to launch and lead South Bronx Rising Together (SBRT). The collective impact initiative engages community stakeholders to advance the healthy, successful development of children in the South Bronx from birth through adulthood.

We are proud of the progress we have made together to advance our vision for creating a greater, more equitable New York City in which children and youth are afforded every opportunity to realize their full  potential. On behalf of the young people we serve, we thank JPMorgan Chase and its committed, talented, compassionate employees for their support and service.

East Harlem Keystone Club Hosts “We the Teens”

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Last week, the East Harlem Keystone Club hosted a community forum for the youth in their community to have meaningful conversation with police officers from their local precinct. The event was part of the Boys & Girls Club of America’s National Keystone Project—Conversations with Law Enforcement.

Teens in the after-school leadership club found that one of the root causes of friction between youth and law enforcement in their community is a lack of communication. The club members organized “We the Teens,” guided by the idea that by taking the time to learn about each other, listening to each other, and having some fun together, youth and law enforcement can mend community relations.

Sixty teenagers and officers from the 23rd Precinct attended the forum. Manhattan Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla also spoke to the group about how important it was for both teens and cops to recognize each other as valuable members of the East Harlem community. In addition to the discussion, the club also screened a short video that chronicles their take on the preamble of the Constitution and facilitated an interactive t-shirt project. And like most Friday evenings at the East Harlem center, the evening ended with a friendly game of volleyball on the center’s court between teens from their schools, the Children’s Aid Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, the JAM Peers, and the police officers in attendance.

This isn’t the first time the East Harlem Keystone Club has facilitated a project of this size. Also under the supervision of the center’s arts and leadership coordinator, Midge Caparosa, the group of teens organized a #KnowYourRightsNYC forum in 2015 to educate peers in their community about their civic rights. The project secured a Boys & Girls Club $24,000 Million Members Million Hours grant to extend their community service efforts in their East Harlem community. And they have continued on that trajectory, showing how powerful it can be to have teens lead the way.

Watch their video “We the Teens.” 

Teens Educate Peers on Sex Health

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Our adolescent health services take into account that sometimes teens have a lot of questions that they don’t always feel comfortable asking adults. To close the knowledge and comfort gap, we develop and deploy an entire team of teenaged health experts. Our Just Ask Me (JAM) Peer Educators, based at the Children’s Aid Bronx Health services, have taken it upon themselves to tackle some important conversations for youth their ages: defining healthy relationships, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections, and preventing teenage pregnancy.

Last week, the JAM Peers teamed up with the Keystone Club at the Children’s Aid East Harlem Center to host their annual teen pregnancy prevention event. Together the groups facilitated meaningful discussions around teen pregnancy and educated over seventy of their peers on safe sex practices and the importance of abstinence. We applaud the JAM Peers and the Keystone Club for organizing such a successful event and, most importantly, for helping other teens feel comfortable asking questions that keep them informed and healthy.

Spring Awakens in the Bronx

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Last week a few young gardeners in our Early Childhood programs at C.S. 61 celebrated the arrival of spring by getting their hands dirty. Each toddler planted some nutritious greens in their school garden as part of the Go!Healthy program’s health and nutrition education that fosters a love of healthy eating in children as early as preschool.

In addition to planting in the garden, the day of programming also included a reading of Anna McQuinn’s “Lola Plants a Garden,” garden yoga exercises, and face painting fun. Each student also created their own garden crowns, adorned with colorful fruits and vegetables. Parents also enjoyed a healthy snack prepared by a Go!Healthy nutritionist, and attended an Eat Smart New York cooking class. Thanks to our Go!Healthy and C.S. 61 teams for providing our families with great seasonal fun.

 

Making Foster Care Human

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When a young person goes into foster care, a flood of paperwork ensues because everything has to be documented. There’s too much at stake. And it all goes into a case, handled by a caseworker.

A dozen young people visited City Hall on May 10 to send a message that behind every case file is a human being, a young person whose aspirations and goals in the broadest scope aren’t that different from most anyone else. They want to feel safe. They want to believe in their future, that they’ll have a fair shot at improving their lives. They want to be acknowledged as individuals, for who they are.

The second Fostering Youth Success Alliance Shadow Day proved an excellent opportunity to do just that. The young adults spent the better part of the day shadowing council members, experiencing meetings that affect city life, and watching first hand the business of government.

Once again, Council Member Stephen Levin, as chair of the General Welfare committee, took a lead role in making this a day to remember. We were honored to have Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito deliver a powerful message on City Hall’s steps, where she was joined by Council Members Vanessa Gibson, David Greenfield, Ben Kallos, Donovan Richards, and Mark Treyger.

The day took on added importance because City Council introduced a bill that will address inequities in the way the city determines homelessness. If it passes, youth aging out of foster care will be credited as homeless during their time in foster care so they qualify for the city’s rental voucher program. Housing is always a critical issue for young people aging out of foster care, so this would be a good step forward for New York City. 

Preschool Every Day

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Our community school teams are paying close attention to strong school attendance at each stage of school because it is such an important factor in student achievement. As early as preschool, chronic absence can present challenges for long-term academic success. Students with lower preschool attendance tend to have lower kindergarten readiness scores, and students who continue to be chronically absent in grades K-1, are much less likely to read proficiently in third grade.

Staff at the Fairmont-Samara campus in the Bronx are helping families develop healthy school attendance practices early on. They invited pre-k families to spend the morning in their children’s classrooms, and help each student build their own book from scratch, showing both children and their families that showing up to school is both fun and critical to a student’s learning. Together, parents and staff can continue to make sure our youngest learners are getting the most out of their early childhood classroom education by attending preschool every day.

Celebrate Mom and Children’s Aid with Rite Aid’s KidCents Program

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Mother’s Day is Sunday. Have you picked up a card for Mom yet? Or maybe some sweets to go along with it?

If not, Children’s Aid suggests that you head over to your local Rite Aid to get Mom something special this year, and while you’re there you can sign up for Rite Aid’s KidCents program. Children’s Aid is a proud participating charity and member of the KidCents community.

What is KidCents, you ask? It’s an opportunity for wellness+ with Plenti card holders to round up every Rite Aid purchase to the nearest dollar and designate a charity to receive that change. That’s right, you can support Children’s Aid mission to help children in NYC living in poverty succeed and thrive with a simple trip to the drugstore! If you aren’t already a wellness+ with Plenti card holder, you can sign up at the store or online. When you sign up, or if you already have a wellness + with Plenti card, please make sure to designate Children’s Aid as your charity of choice on the website! It’s that simple and you’ll be making a difference in the lives of the children we are so privileged to serve.

Children’s Aid’s KidCents program supports our Health and Wellness Division through which our agency provides children and youth with a holistic array of supportive services, from medical check-ups to programs that support young people’s mental health, all in an effort to ensure they have the ability to live healthy, fulfilling lives and can realize their boundless potential. Children’s Aid thanks the Rite Aid Foundation for selecting our agency as one of more than 360 charities who benefit from KidCents. So don’t forget about Mom this weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for the KidCents program and/or designate Children’s Aid as the beneficiary of your generosity!

Making College a Reality

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Meet Christa Hill. Last year, she was in high school getting ready to take the next step in her education. This year, thanks in part to a scholarship from the Children’s Aid Golf Classic, she’s a freshman at Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the CUNY system. She’s majoring in community health with a long-term goal of becoming a physical therapist with a focus on sports medicine.

She became eligible for the scholarship because of her participation with our Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem. Christa is also a poet and Youth Advocate engaged with My Brother’s Keeper Leadership Council. “This scholarship was such a blessing to me in my college life,” said Christa. “I don't come from great financial means, although my mother tries her very best. I was able to purchase so many essential tools such as a laptop, which has really helped this year. And I was able to focus even more on my academics.”

She’s just one of many young people who have benefitted from the scholarship program. On May 15, our dedicated golfers will once again enjoy a day on the links while changing the lives of young people with college dreams. 

Viacommunity Day: Promoting Good Health at Goodhue

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As a premier company that represents brands like MTV and Nickelodeon, Viacom is no stranger to entertainment. And that familiarity suited its employee volunteers well last Friday when they spent the afternoon at our Goodhue Center on Staten Island entertaining 60 third and fourth graders with activities that ran the gamut from hula hooping to face painting. Yet, the message Viacom’s employees had to impart that day—Viacommunity Day 2017, the company’s worldwide day of service—was even more important than the great time had by all: an active lifestyle is a key component to growing up strong. As Children’s Aid would say, physical well-being is critical to helping youth realize their utmost potential.

Viacom’s Health Fair at Goodhue was much more than your run-of-the-mill event that implores kids to “brush your teeth” or “play for 60 minutes a day.” Not only did the members of the Viacommunity man different relay race stations and participate in jump roping, they also took time out to speak to the kids about their work at Viacom, helping inspire our youth about possibilities for their own futures. What’s more, our kids did not leave the Health Fair empty handed. Thanks to the generosity of Viacom, each young person went home with a goody bag filled with hygiene products and a health-conscious snack. Children’s Aid is delighted to be a beneficiary of Viacommunity Day 2017. And we thank Viacom executive vice president and CFO, Wade Davis, who we honored at our annual gala this past November, for his service and support in the realm of education reform and his dedication to improving outcomes for disengaged youth, for its investment in the well-being of the young people we serve.