The Children's Aid Blog

Harlem Hoopsters with an Eye on College

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There are plenty of talented ball players who might not quite get on the radar of St. John’s or Syracuse but whose skills can net them a college education. About 50 young men at that level gathered on April 29 at Milbank Center for the 7th Annual Basketball Showcase.

They spent a couple of hours attending college readiness workshops and talking with college admission advisors from 15 different schools from New York City and the metro area. Then they took their game to the court to demonstrate their ability before the coaches of men’s teams from those same colleges.

“It was an amazing night,” said Casper Lassiter, the director at Milbank. “Every one of these guys came determined to show what kind of game they had, and I think they did great.”

OASAS prevention specialist, Clyde Weems started this event simply by getting some local coaches to come to an open gym. “This event has grown to a new level,” said Clyde. “Today it’s such a team effort from top to bottom.” The Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services hosts the event and puts the focus on this being a positive alternative to drugs and a path to a healthy lifestyle. OASAS is assisted by PATH to College Success, the JAM Peer Educators, and the Sports Management Program, all of which put on great workshops.

In the weeks leading up to the event, our staff are counseling the kids and making sure they’re prepared for both the coaches and the counselors. Each young man came armed with two letters of recommendation, their high school transcript, and plenty of questions about the application process for the admissions counselors.

We were thrilled to have coaches and counselors from the following colleges:

Bronx Community College, CCNY, Concordia College, Farmingdale State College, Hostos College, Hunter College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Lehman College, Medgar Evers College, Queens College, St. Joseph College (N.J.), SUNY Old Westbury, SUNY Cobleskill, York College

“The event was a huge success,” said Gwen Taylor. “I’m so happy with how everyone pulled together to make the night run smoothly. I look forward to a bigger and better 2016 showcase.”

 

National Foster Care Month

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Today we kick off National Foster Care Month by announcing a special day for the men and women who offer their homes and themselves to children and teenagers in foster care by becoming much needed foster parents. Later in the month we will host a special day for the Children’s Aid Society foster parents and their friends who are interested in becoming a foster parent.

On May 30, current and prospective foster parents can come to our Lord Memorial Building for a special wellness event. Attendees can take advantage of workshops on relaxation, nutrition, and self-care. We will hold a yoga class, as well.

All attendees will earn four credit training hours toward their annual certification requirement. And if you're new to the program, you'll learn why so many women and men believe that becoming a foster parent is one of the greatest things they've done.

Join us on Saturday, May 30th from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please be sure to reserve your spot by emailing BecomeAFosterParent@childrensaidsociety.org or call 212.949.4905.

Keeping Track of NYC’s Children

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Every two years, the Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC) releases a report that is valued by all of us who work with children and advocate for them. It’s called Keeping Track of New York City’s Children Keeping Track for short, and it includes an abundance of information about how kids—with an emphasis on those in lower-income neighborhoods—are faring.

This year, the team at CCC wanted to change the way they present their report to the public, so they came to our East Harlem Center to communicate critical issues and host a panel discussion of field experts. Phoebe Boyer welcomed the 160 guests to one of our oldest sites, and spoke about how appropriate it was to discuss Keeping Track in East Harlem, which has been gentrifying rapidly even as 4 of 10 children who call it home live in poverty. CCC’s executive director, Jennifer March, painted a detailed picture of the children living in our city and how they fare using a vital indicators: economic conditions, housing, health and mental health, early childhood education, after-school programming, education, child welfare, and juvenile justice.

Terry Marx, Children’s Aid’s assistant medical director and a pediatrician serving the Milbank community as well as the school-based health centers in Washington Heights, brought her deep experience to the panel. She was joined by Dana Guyet, from The New York Foundling; Krystal Reyes, the Hunts Point Alliance for Children; and Raysa Rodriguez, Women in Need, Inc.

One critical aspect of Terry’s comments was the importance of strengthening the family. Eating healthy, exercising, and managing chronic conditions are only a part of ensuring the healthy of a young person. Parents have so many obstacles to overcome in their everyday lives, and those efforts can get in the way of creating a nurturing and supportive environment for their children.

Keeping Track is such an essential document in a city where 1 in 3 children live in poverty while also in the shadow of immense wealth. Children’s Aid is one of many organizations that aspire one day ending childhood poverty. Keeping Track is an invaluable tool in that effort.     

 

Join us for Once Upon A Time on Thursday, May 7

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The snow and ice have melted away, and it is finally the kind of warm weather that turns New York City into a fairy tale land. You will certainly feel the magic at our Fifth Annual Spring event, Once Upon A Time. The fundraiser, which will be hosted by The Children’s Aid Society Associates Council, will be a mystical evening of celebration, honoring New York's princes and princesses and the important work of the Children’s Aid School Age Literacy programs. 
 
The enchantment begins May 7, 2015, at 7 p.m. at the Manhattan Penthouse on Fifth Avenue. A mix of classic characters and themes from our most beloved stories, dancing, food, refreshments, and raffle prizes will be featured and are sure to delight every guest!
 
“We all remember our favorite childhood fairy tales and the world of imagination they helped us create,” said Erika Maurice, fundraiser planning committee co-chair. “After months of planning, the Once Upon A Time fundraiser is sure to be a spectacular event, but it’s important to remember that this is more than just a party. All of our guests and sponsors are helping ensure that The Children’s Aid Society can continue to support school age literacy so that these children realize their own happily ever afters,” said Stephanie Danzi, co-chair.
 
Thank you to our sponsors who are helping make this a can’t-miss event!
 
The Danzi Family
 
Edelman
 
Jonathan Rose Companies
 
The Lord Family
 
Baked by Melissa
 
Robicelli’s Bakery
 
Wat Chu Wan Wonton
 
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
 
The Bronx Brewery
 
 
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Hope Leadership Hosts Annual “The Pen, Pad, and Poet” Workshop Series

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On Friday, April 17, the lights were low at Hope Leadership Academy save for a single spotlight in front of a wall of posters that helped transform the center into a poetry den. In celebration of National Poetry Month, six talented teen poets from the center were paired with mentors to work on editing, stage presence, and voice projection. The teens shared their hard work and talent in front of a vibrant audience of center participants, community members, and Children’s Aid staff at a fundraiser hosted by the Keystone Club.

The poets— teens and mentors alike—performed pieces that mixed languages, music genres, and life experiences. Their cadence and eloquence wrapped around the room and brought to life the words of the posters behind them: “Keep Calm and Write Poetry” and “Read It, Write it, Share it”.

In addition to showcasing the impact of mentorship, the evening offered an open mic for more teen and staff performers to share their creative art. It was clear at the end of the evening that the event, spearheaded by staff member Karina Guardiola-Lopez, empowered our teens with a creative mode of self-expression and affirmed that they could command a room effortlessly with their words.

What will your fairytale ending be?

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That was the question asked of students in The Children’s Aid Society’s School Age programs in February. In order to highlight activities that the Associates Council’s annual Spring Fundraiser would support, the AC hosted a creative writing contest for students in multiple after-school programs.

The contest—"Once Upon A Time: A Modern Fairytale"—aligns with this year’s event, “Once Upon A Time,” and builds on our 2015 beneficiary, childhood literacy.

The writing contest asked students to create a modern fairytale that incorporated a societal or cultural value such as respect, justice, perseverance, kindness, the importance of education, love, compassion, or community. The contest also required students to use elements of a fairytale and develop a concise plot with fully developed characters. Students were given a task sheet, a detailed grading rubric, and a list of suggestions to aid their writing.

While the contest was meant to be fun, it also reinforced the elements of good writing and storytelling students learn at school and in Children’s Aid programming.

More than a dozen entries were submitted to the contest, and members of the Associates Council had a great time reading through their fairytales and experiencing the range of the student’s creativity. The winning story, “Let It Glow,” was written by Dallis Dillard, a student at the Dunlevy Milbank Campus. We will share his story at “Once Upon A Time” on Thursday, May 7, at the Manhattan Penthouse.

Don’t miss out on Dallis’s story! Click here to purchase tickets.

For updates on upcoming volunteer activities and events, follow the Associates Council on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Taking it to the Bank

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April is National Financial Literacy month. To celebrate, students from C.S. 211 and the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School (CACPCS) participated in a CAS College Savers Bank Day at their local Citibank branch in the Bronx. CAS College Savers helps families plan and save for college by providing students with a college savings account in their name along with matched dollars incentives. Over the last two years, CAS College Savers has opened 337 college savings accounts for students across six Children’s Aid sites. Bank Day teaches kids about how banks work and how to make deposits in their college savings accounts.

During the morning, CAS College Savers students participated in an interactive presentation on the importance of savings led by representatives from Citi Community Development. Students also learned about how a bank works and the different ways they can save money to build their college savings accounts. Students had the opportunity to tour the bank facility and even visited the vault! Bank Day concluded with each student visiting the bank teller and making a contribution into their CAS College Savers accounts.

As an added bonus, each student took home a Citi backpack filled with goodies, including a financial literacy activity book and colorful pencils. The students, feeling confident that they are one step closer to achieving their college dreams, beamed with pride as they left the bank with their deposit receipts.

Associates Council join 50 students in Fitness Jamboree

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On March 28, Associates Council (AC) members volunteered at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem for the Sixth Annual Fitness Jamboree, a signature AC event where students (grades K-5) spend an entire Saturday participating in physical fitness activities. This year activities included soccer, dance, basketball, and martial arts.

Healthy and active living is an important component of Children’s Aid programming and is reinforced in Milbank’s Study Now, Play Later program.

Fifteen AC volunteers split up among four groups of students and rotated through stations dedicated to each of the fitness activities. Students were taught the discipline of martial arts and the proper fundamentals in soccer and basketball, then let loose to show off their moves by choreographing and dancing to some great music. The key themed throughout the Jamboree were for students to be open to trying new things, interacting in group settings, and learning healthy behaviors and good sportsmanship.

“The Fitness Jamboree is an important day for our students,” said Eddie Britt, the Saturday program director. “It teaches them how fun fitness and healthy living can be and it shows them how they can easily start to incorporate it in their lives, whether it’s through a formal program, here at Dunlevy Milbank, or on their own.” 

After the activities, students and volunteers also shared a nutritious lunch before ending the day with an exciting game of dodge ball! This was the second time this year that many AC members had visited Milbank—and they shared in the delight of seeing the impact of this program for the students.

Pete Capomacchio, a current AC member said, “This was my second volunteering event at Milbank since joining the AC last spring. It’s an invaluable experience not only to spend time with the children on a particular Saturday, but also watching them grow and learn because of the great program design and implementation from Children’s Aid and Milbank staff.”

On May 7, the Associates Council will continue supporting Children’s Aid literacy programs at their Fifth Annual Spring Event. The theme, “Once Upon a Time,” will bring together original stories written by some of our children and great people for a good cause. Donations from raffle and ticket sales will support Children's Aid literacy programs. Buy your tickets today: www.events.org/onceuponatime

Raising Awareness of HIV/AIDS

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April is Get Yourself Tested month, an initiative backed by a number of national organizations central to battling HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI). Next week Children’s Aid will show its support with a GYT event put on by our CAS JAM Peers at the Next Generation Center.

But that isn’t the only way we’re supporting this crucial area of awareness. Last week, we joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., youth-focused coalition Bronx Serving Realness (the CAS JAM Peers are members of this coalition), and many other community partners at Betances Community Center to celebrate National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The After Dark event brought testing, support, and care to those who are most at-risk for HIV in the Bronx by "meeting people where they are," outside of regular business hours. Youth went into the community with food and hygiene kits, and encouraged people to return to the center for HIV testing, showers, and information on additional community resources.

Borough President Diaz signed a proclamation declaring April 10 as National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and urged all the youth present to continue having a big impact as they made the Bronx stronger.  

Inspiring Teens

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Joined on the court by Knicks legend Walt “Clyde Frazier,” the first recipients of the Garden of Dreams Inspire Scholarships received a warm ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd during the Knicks game Wednesday night. (Dave Saffran/MSG Photos)

We feel fortunate to have a long-standing partnership with the Garden of Dreams Foundation and Madison Square Garden. For many years, our teens have benefited from programs they’ve sponsored, such as MSG Classroom, and the many experiences and opportunities those organizations have offered.

This year, Garden of Dreams Foundation took their generosity to an entirely new level with the Inspire Scholarships. The program offers renewable college scholarships of $10,000 annually to high-achieving teens coming from lower-income areas throughout the New York City area. Each scholarship has a total potential value of $40,000. Teens involved with one of the Garden of Dreams Foundation’s 25 partners are eligible.

Our kids seized this incredible opportunity and secured four of the scholarships. We’re so proud of these young men and women as they prepare to begin their own college journeys:

Alana Cowan has been a Just Ask Me (JAM) Peer Educator for three years, helping to spread health and wellness information that is critical to teens. She has conducted workshops on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV prevention, and self-esteem. She is a school theater production actor who also serves as the president of the student government. In the fall, she will take her many talents to the Pennsylvania State University, where she will major in journalism with a concentration in fashion. 

Toddara Galimore (pictured left of Walt Frazier) has been a stand-out leader at the UA Institute (UAI) in Brooklyn as well as an active CAS-Carrera participant for the past seven years. She has participated in UAI’s Summer Work Study Program, the Summer Youth Employment Program, and she has taken overnight and day trips to visit colleges. Toddara plans to become a pharmacist and will be making her final college decision in the next week or two.       

Nyuma Gumaneh (pictured second from the left of Walt Frazier) has been an active member of Hope Leadership Academy since her freshman year, when she dove into the many opportunities offered there. In the Peer Education program, she led workshops on violence prevention, cultural diversity, and financial literacy, ultimately earning the highest level as Peer Fellow. She honed her public speaking skills through JPMorgan Live and Street Law. And she recently completed MSG Classroom, learning some of the intracacies of journalism, video production, and broadcasting.  This is just a sample of what she’s accomplished at Children’s Aid, all of which will prepare her when she attends TKTKTK this fall.

Brian Polanco has been a member of our Hope Leadership Academy and is a standout student at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, currently ranked second in his class. He’s a great peer educator and has participated in a number of programs including JPMorgan LIVE, which introduced him to the finance industry; Street Law, a collaborative initiatve between Children’s Aid and New York Law School; and Corporate Workplace, where he worked at the prestigious law firm Pavia & Harcourt. He’s attending SUNY-Albany in the fall with an eye on a career in the law.

Congratulations to these young men and women!