The Children's Aid Blog

Giving Parents the Tools they Need

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At the Children’s Aid Salome Ureña Campus in Washington Heights, adults are never too old learn English language skills and the intricacies of the American education system. The school is holding its 6th Annual Parent Summer Camp from July 7-29. According to Community School Director Migdalia Cortes-Torres, the camp serves to educate parents who are first-generation immigrants on a range of topics that will empower them to make informed decisions for their family. 

“In order for us to impact a child’s life academically and socially, we have to touch their parents,” said Migdalia. “Many parents believe that because they are uninformed about this country’s language or education system, they can’t contribute to their child’s day-to-day life. We provide workshops that teach skills like public speaking, financial literacy, college readiness, and how to negotiate resources for children in the school system.”

Migdalia expects that about 45 to 50 parents will attend the workshops. In addition to familiarizing these parents with all the services that Children’s Aid provides (including adult education and prep for GED courses), she hopes to raise what she calls their “emotional intelligence.” By this, she means improving their knowledge of the range of options available to contribute to their child’s well-being.

Parent Coordinator Lidia Aguasanta, who teaches a workshop on social justice to immigrants, mostly from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, emphasized that these workshops have the capacity to be transformative. 

“The lessons we teach here allow these parents to be a real positive force in their community,” said Lidia. “It’s all about exposing them to things they wouldn’t ordinarily be involved with [for example, trips to the United Nations and New York County District Attorney General’s Office].”

Thank you to Migdalia, Lidia, and all the educators involved with the Parent Summer Camp. You are helping to ensure that these parents are able to do right by their family.

 

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Using Summers to Design the Future

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We take summers very seriously at Children’s Aid. That’s because it is the perfect time for kids to make new friends, develop skills and passions, and most importantly, have fun. So, we’ve made sure to design our summers to capture everything necessary to support New York City children and their families in between school years.

Last week, we officially kicked off the summer with the start of our camps for more than 2,500 kids. They will learn and play on the grounds of Dunlevy Milbank, Goodhue, Wagon Road, and dance their way through Ailey camp. In addition to our arts and fitness programs, we offer literacy programming at each camp site—nine of which are Children’s Aid community schools—that will combat summer learning loss for each of our participants. We also operate camps in Washington Heights for parents that feature workshops on social emotional learning, fitness, and nutrition to supplement their children’s success.

And with play, comes work. This year we plan to employ more than 2,000 teens through our Summer Youth Employment Program within various internship opportunities that will keep them career focused and college ready.

We are looking forward to a busy and fun-filled summer for our youth. And as always, we are excited to see how they will use their time in our programs to design their futures.

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Dedication to our Mission

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Last week we saluted the hundreds of little ones who “walked the stage” as part of their collective moving up ceremonies. This week we look to a slightly older demographic.

The staff at Children’s Aid work incredibly hard. The challenges of building well-being and knocking down the barriers to learning rarely end when you go off the clock. That’s why it’s an amazing accomplishment when our staff members take on big goals, like furthering their education.

So today we honor these members of the Children’s Aid team who recently earned a college degree all while also fulfilling their responsibilities to the kids and families we serve. Congratulations to all!

Early Childhood Division
Thomas Cespedes, Jr.
Brittany Herbin
Armadine Etienne
Ismelda Cruz
Ashly Rose Cifu
Leandra Sepulveda
Jokairy Jimenez
Benjamin Thomas
Milagros Espaillat
Clarissa Martinez
Larissa Ferretti
Julissa Melendez
Monica Rossi

School Age Division
Betty Sanchez
Lorena Jimenez
Michelle Pinales
Ambar Azcona

Adolescence Division
Demetris Ioannou
Amani Gheith

Health and Wellness Division
Karina Avila

Child Welfare and Family Wellness Division
Jessica Toussaint
Janelle Thomas
Jessica Jones
Arrelis Harper

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Little Ones Taking the Next Step

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Toddlers waved and did their little dances. Mile-wide smiles brightened the stage. Parents, teachers, and staff gave a long ovation.

These are some of the sights and sounds of success in education. You will find them whenever we are marking transitions, celebrating the achievement of one academic milestone and anticipating the next—especially at our stepping-up ceremonies through the Early Childhood Division.

These celebrations are much more than an opportunity to get dressed up and eat cake. “We want our little ones to know that what they’ve done is a big deal,” said Moria Cappio, vice president of the Early Childhood Division. “We want them to understand that the strides they make in Head Start and pre-K are huge, and that they are ready to continue learning once they enter kindergarten.”

All told, about 600 children will make the leap to elementary school in September. But that doesn’t mean they leave the Children’s Aid family. We have constructed a comprehensive array of programs designed to support kids and families whenever they need it—to and through college.

But what was important in the previous weeks is that these kids were happy about what they did and excited about where they are going. 

Check our photo gallery to see more images from our "Stepping Up" ceremonies.

The Road to Rio Runs through Harlem

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The Summer Olympics comes once every four years. Countless athletes devote their lives to making the team and competing under their nation’s flag. Achieving that goal is quite often a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Therefore, it felt appropriate to treat what happened at our Milbank Community Center this week as another once in a lifetime opportunity. USA Basketball (USAB), which runs the men’s and women’s basketball programs that go on to compete in the Olympics, chose Milbank as the place to unveil the 2016 U.S. men’s basketball team.

About 90 of our kids came to the center on a gorgeous Monday promised a basketball clinic—and they got one from the coaches USAB. For an hour they practiced drills covering every aspect of the game. Then things got interesting.

First, Mike Krzyzewski, coach of the men’s national team as well that of Duke University, showed up. He and Jay Bilas, a former NBA player and current ESPN basketball announcer, talked to the kids about how important and exciting the upcoming Olympics would be and implored the kids to support them and be part of the team.

That’s when the retractable wall went up. Standing just beyond it were all twelve members of the U.S. men’s team, some of the finest players in the NBA. To say that the kids were excited would be like saying some of the guys on the team were kind of tall. The boys and girls went wild. It was fun. It was exciting. And it was likely a day that our kids will never forget. 

Check our photo gallery to see more images from the day.

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Fruits, Veggies, and Whole Grains: Good for Bodies and for Brains

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June is Fruit and Vegetable Month! Fruit and vegetables have a vital role in ensuring children have the proper nutrition for growth and development. Apart from being essential in our children’s health, the consumption of fruits and vegetables has been linked with improved academic performance.1 It has been shown that better academic achievement can lead to better job opportunities, housing, and access to health care. 1 Conversely, though, it might not be as well-known that a poor diet in childhood may contribute to perpetuate a cycle of poverty — mainly in areas of low socioeconomic status.1 As Children’s Aid mission is to help children in poverty to succeed and thrive, it is important to consider the relationship between good nutrition and supporting the mission that we work so diligently to achieve.

Across the nation, fruit and vegetable intake is generally quite low. In New York State, only about 1/3 of children report eating fruit less than once a day, and even fewer children (only 23%) report eating vegetables at least once a day.2 In all New York City public schools, fruits and vegetables are offered at both breakfast and lunch. However, plate studies have indicated that 55% of elementary school students and 66% of middle school students don’t select vegetables as part of their lunch, and those who do choose vegetables and fruits leave more than one-third uneaten.3

Children’s Aid works directly with youth through Community Schools and Community Centers across four targeted, high-needs areas of New York City providing comprehensive supports to children and their families. Our Children’s Aid Go!Healthy program focuses on nutrition and obesity prevention, and works to support wellness from early childhood through adolescence. Go!Healthy supports the production of hundreds of healthy meals and snacks served in early childhood and after-school programs with fruit- and vegetable-centered recipes.  To complement the healthy food being served, Go!Healthy implements cooking and nutrition classes from early childhood with Go!Kids and Go!Kids Cook, and through adolescence, with Go!Chefs, Food Justice, and Gardening. The Go!Healthy Eat Smart program offers nutrition education and culinary support for families, community members, and CAS staff wellness with classes, trainings, and healthy eating promotion tables. All discussions on food support youth and their families in making the consumption of fruits and vegetables an easy choice. Go!Healthy encourages our youth and greater community to take a hands-on approach in learning about and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables in culturally relevant recipes.

Gaining basic culinary skill and learning about the many benefits of fruits and vegetables is essential in creating and supporting healthy eating habits. There are many known barriers to fruits and vegetables being eaten regularly—one of these barriers is cost. This summer, Go!Healthy will be offering a variety of opportunities for our youth and their families to receive Health Bucks. Health Bucks are $2 vouchers that can be spent only on fresh fruit and vegetables at New York City Farmers Markets. These vouchers are offered by and distributed from the New York City Health Department. Additionally, for every $5 a family spends with their EBT/SNAP benefits at a Farmers Market in New York City, they will receive one $2 Health Bucks coupon. Go!Healthy will be hosting walking trips to farmers markets for youth and community members, and an exclusive opportunity to redeem Health Bucks in the purchase of a food box at select Children’s Aid Go!Healthy sites throughout the summer and fall.   

For seasonal fruit and vegetable recipes and information about all our healthy eating programming, including food box details, check out Go!Healthy’s Facebook group here.

For a map of all New York City Farmers markets (2015), check out the link here.

  1. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100614p64.shtml
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/downloads/state-indicator-report-fruits-vegetables-2013.pdf
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23866827
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Ease On Down the Road

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Last week, the Dunlevy Milbank Center’s art program staged a classic, “The Wiz.” Community members packed the center’s gymnasium to watch our youth put on a fun-filled performance. The center’s youth, ranging from ages 5-14, rehearsed for five weeks before they debuted their hard work.

The night was a true testament to Children’s Aid’s commitment to providing our youth with an opportunity to express themselves in a safe, engaging, and creative environment. The center’s staff said the night was also an opportunity for students to come out of their shell.

“The arts are important mostly for those kids who need an outlet,” said Casper Lassiter, Milbank’s longtime director, mentioning two kids who surprised the staff. “On normal days, the kids are usually quiet and to themselves, but on this day, they shocked all of us. It was a really special moment.”

The performance was directed by Omari Wiles and Craig Washington, the center’s art specialists, who put everything together. 

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Partnering with the Fresh Air Fund

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Fundraising is absolutely critical for the survival of nonprofits like Children’s Aid. Every dollar counts. But some donations come with an outsized impact.

The Fresh Air Fund's Young Women's Giving Circle is a youth-led organization made up of teenage girls from the ages of 14-21 from across New York City. Each year the teens research different topics that affect teenagers in the community and then choose one for advocacy and fundraising. For the past year, about 20 young women convened every Tuesday for this purpose and ultimately decided on Teen Health Awareness and how to manage physical, mental, and self-care well-being. After a series of workshops and volunteer opportunities, the group identified our Bronx Health Clinic because of our provision of health information and services to teens—and the impact that work has—and chose Children’s Aid as the recipient of their fundraising dollars. The total of $3,000 included a generous match from the Fresh Air Fund.  

Thank you for the financial support as well as your dedication to important health issues. 

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The Stern Family Paves the Path to College

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The arrival of warm weather brings many things with it—school graduations, outdoor activities, and much more. It also brings an annual demonstration of generosity and selflessness when the Stern family awards college scholarships and brings all the winners together for a special luncheon.

Over antipasti, pizza, and gelato at OTTO Enoteca, the soon-to-be graduates told Rob and Yuka Stern about where they were headed in the fall to start the next step of their academic careers. And they did so knowing that the financial barriers had been lowered because of scholarships they won.

The Jean L. Stern Memorial Scholarship is a tribute to her service to The Children’s Aid Society as a longtime trustee. Providing financial assistance for college-bound young people was a passionate commitment for her. And she was the one to establish the Wick Stern Memorial Scholarship, to honor the memory of her son by celebrating eight students who have demonstrated courage and perseverance, and overcome obstacles in pursuit of their higher education.

This year’s winners, who came from AAMI, Opportunity Charter School, Hope Leadership Academy, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom H.S., and OASAS, are:

Student Name College Attending Scholarship
Nasiah Brown Binghamton University Jean Stern Scholarship
Allim Kamara SUNY Herkimer Jean Stern Scholarship
Tryphena Quaicoe SUNY Plattsburgh Jean Stern Scholarship
Teresa Pantoja SUNY Dutchess
Community College
Jean Stern Scholarship
Topanga Padilla Daemen College Wick Stern Scholarship
Q'Shaa Pollock Manhattanville College Wick Stern Scholarship
Beatriz Rosa SUNY Oswego Wick Stern Scholarship
Dalyia Dias CUNY Hostos
Community College
Wick Stern Scholarship
Ousmane Kamate Tyler Junior College Wick Stern Scholarship

 

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Iron Go!Chefs Competition Heats Up in Harlem

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Children’s Aid held its seventh annual Iron Go!Chefs competition on June 9, in Harlem. The Frederick Douglas Center gymnasium was transformed into  something of a kitchen stadium, where our young iron chefs went head to head for the glory of victory. Guest judges included our very own president and CEO, Phoebe Boyer; Anthony Paris, the executive/head Chef at Crosby Street Hotel; Patti Lubin, senior counsel and senior advisor to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; and Barbara Turk, the mayor’s director of food policy. Special guest Cory Nieves, owner of Mr. Cory’s cookies hosted the event’s nutrition bee.

Elementary, middle, and high schoolers from across Children’s Aid centers and community schools faced off in the competition to prepare mouthwatering—and nutritious— recipes. The winner this year in the elementary school competition was the Plat-O-Food team from C.S. 61 with their amazing whole wheat farfalle with roasted chickpeas and kale recipe. In the middle and high school ages competition, and the Ultimate Chefs from M.S. 301: Paul L. Dunbar School took the prize with their tasty and very creative plantain boats with black beans and eggplant recipe.     

The Go!Chefs program is a nutrition education and cooking curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school youth who attend programs with Children’s Aid throughout the city of New York. Since 2005, Go!Chefs has educated  youth on growing, preparing, and enjoying whole foods in efforts to educate youth on food literacy and build lifelong skills. Childhood obesity is a serious health condition affecting over one-third of American children across the country. Our Go!Chefs food service programs provide healthy meals to approximately 1,500 children each day in our Early Childhood, School Age and Adolescence programs.

Congratulations to all of the aspiring chefs for their professional high-quality performance.

Click here, to view our Iron Go!Chefs photo gallery.

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