The Children's Aid Blog

Dancing the Summer Away

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Last night at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx, middle school students from some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city took to the stage for AileyCamp New York’s final performance, Destiny.

Approximately 100 campers have been working hard for six weeks at The Children’s Aid Society/AileyCamp New York. Attendance is free, and children come from a number of Children’s Aid sites in its four primary service areas: Washington Heights, Harlem/East Harlem, the Bronx, and northern Staten Island. Last night’s performance showcased the campers’ skills with specially choreographed dances in ballet, jazz, modern, and West African styles. A highlight of the event was a special performance inspired by Alvin Ailey's Memoria. The event was made possible by the event sponsor Bloomberg, and the support of the New York State Education Department, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and an anonymous donor. And, of course, the talented children who worked so hard all summer long.

AAMI: Seeing and Helping the World, Part I

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After months of preparation, about a dozen members of the African American Male Initiative finally boarded a plane this past weekend to begin the Harlem to Haiti Cultural Exchange Experience, accompanied by program director Clifton Watson. Their mission is two-fold. First, they are spending time working, helping restore properties that remain damaged years after the tragic earthquake. They are working for the Ageno Foundation and the Time Square Church Medical Clinic.

The second goal is to see a world outside of New York City, outside the neighborhoods that they know so intimately. This new view is obviously having a powerful effect, as Malachi Gayle, a rising sophomore at the High School for Art & Design, demonstrates in his own words:

During the preparation for our trip, Haiti was painted as an island that lost so much. Coming here made me realize that this is all true, and that the media was not just hyping up Haiti's tragedies to make them seem like more than what they really were.  

I have been in Haiti now for three days, and as we drive and walk through the streets you see things that will absolutely break your heart. There are houses built completely out of sheet metal and rocks from the earthquake's rubble, and there are people who bath in the streets without clean water or privacy. Trash overflows on some streets leaving an odor that people don’t just have to smell but work near, live near, and sleep near. All over you see stray cats, dogs, and goats.  

Being here and seeing the struggles of the Haitian people makes me truly value what I have at home. I have a home, food to eat every night, clean water whenever I want, and a bed to sleep in at night. This cultural exchange has really helped me realize that a lot of what I have in Harlem that feels like a necessity is truly a luxury—stuff as simple as furniture. There is no way I could go through this experience and not come more thankful for all the sacrifices my mom makes to make sure I have all that I need. So, I want say: Thank you, Mom! You are a wonderful parent and provider. I am truly grateful to have you!

Knick for a Day

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Marcus Vincent loves basketball. And he loves the Knicks. So when the team and the staff at Madison Square Garden invited him to attend summer basketball camp, he had his sneakers on in the blink of an eye.

The invitation was probably enough to make Marcus’s summer. But the New York Knicks went way further. They made Marcus an honorary Knick for the day. He helped coaches set up some drills. He got to scrimmage with some of the kids attending camp, and received instruction from the same coaches who teach NBA players all year long. Perhaps most importantly, Marcus has a new mentor in Troy Bowers, a community relations specialist for the Knicks. Troy will keep in touch with Marcus, monitor his grades, and simply be a strong male influence in his life.

Like many kids his age, Marcus would love to play in the NBA one day. But through his interactions with Troy and the rest of the Madison Square Garden staff, he’s learned that there are lots of ways to make a life out of basketball. Marcus called the whole experience “amazing.”

Thanks to the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden for giving a kid a life-changing experience. 

Children’s Aid Campers Dream Big

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On Friday, July 25, summer campers from C.S. 211 had the chance to Dream Big. And they did so in front of an A-list crowd.

Thanks to our partnership with the Bronx Children’s Museum, our children attended a day-long event called Dream Big at Lehman College that featured a series of workshops that explored the museum’s STEAM-powered curriculum (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) followed by an amazing arts-inspired show. All of the participants came from programs visited over the course of the summer by the museum’s mobile residency, which focused on the study of bridges, specifically the High Bridge.

The kids from C.S. 211 had been preparing for weeks to put on their act in the afternoon show, under the guidance of some of the teaching artists working with the Bronx Children’s Museum. They knew they would be performing in front of a big crowd, but they didn’t know some of the big names that would be there. None were bigger than neighborhood hero Sonia Sotomayor, a Supreme Court Justice, and former U.S. senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Another notable for the children was Sonia Manzano, better known as Maria from Sesame Street. Also in attendance were City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Bronx Borough President Rubén Diaz Jr., and  the nominee to be the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro.

It was a day the kids will never forget.

Reading Leaders Day at Goodhue

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Yesterday in Staten Island, campers at Children’s Aid’s Goodhue Center took a break from swimming, sports, and outdoor activities to partake in the second annual Reading Leaders Day. Elected and appointed officials, government representatives, and the principal of I.S. 61 stopped by Goodhue to lead different reading groups throughout the campus, engaging our youth in literacy and helping them avoid summer learning loss.

Thank you to all of our friends in government and education who volunteered their time to make this day possible: U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm; New York State Senator Diane Savino; Chris Bauer and Teresa Cirelli from Assemblyman Titone’s office; Patricia Salas from Assemblymember’s Malliotakis’ Office; Bill Matarazzo from Senator Lanza’s office; Paul Tarr from the District Attorney’s office; I.S. 61 Principal Susan Tronolone; and S.I. Public Administrator Gary Gotlin.

Please click here to view pictures from the event.

Science Aboard the Intrepid

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Do you know how to make a light bulb? The campers from Dunlevy Milbank Center do.

After weeks of participation in Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds (CAMM) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) based initiative; kids were excited to show off what they learned during a celebration at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. 

After a big “thank you” to the participants, the program’s organizers and supporters unveiled a huge cake of CAMM’s robot mascot. The cake depicted different activities the students were involved in this summer, including the STEM research behind golf, basketball, and NASCAR.

Participants were taken on an exclusive tour of the Intrepid and given the opportunity to present their projects. Campers from Milbank were inspired to learn more about electricity conductance from their time with the CAMM programs and demonstrated what they learned to the growing audience at their booth.

Children’s Aid in Times Square

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The Boys and Girls Club of America launched their Great Futures Campaign last week in Times Square, and invited Children’s Aid youth from partnering programs to participate in the celebration. To kick it off, Grammy-award-winning artist and former Boys & Girls Club member Ne-Yo performed in front of a crowd of cheering kids, and New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia, also a former member, made an appearance at the launch. Actor Nick Cannon served as the master of ceremonies. At 3 p.m., when many schools typically get out, a bell rang to mark the beginning of the campaign that aims to pave the way toward brighter futures by mobilizing out-of-school time for youth nationwide. 

The Great Futures Campaign’s vision is that all club members graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and leading healthy lifestyles. The campaign aims to achieve a list of measurable goals in several of these categories by 2018. 

Children’s Aid AmeriCorps Team Completes 24-Hour Service Challenge!

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Recently five members of our AmeriCorps program completed a 24-Hours of Service Challenge. The team consisted of Nicole Vanterpool, Samanatha Pena, Yatnery Almonte, and Marielle Rodriguez, all of whom serve as trainers with the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The day started at 8 a.m. at the TGIM Bronx Impact Community Giveback event, where our volunteers helped set up and then keep the booths running smoothly. The event brought together children and families of the community, featuring live musical performances, arts and crafts, and read-alouds. Participants received a free backpack, clothing, and food giveaways.

Next, our fearless team headed over to Randall's Island to lend their efforts to the 2nd annual Moonwalk hosted by Walk the Walk America, an organization that raises breast cancer awareness and supports breast cancer initiatives. After more live music and other activities, walkers tackled either a full or half marathon, many of them sporting festive, decorated pink bras.

Weary but feeling accomplished, the Children’s Aid team finally closed out their own marathon on Sunday morning, having completed 26 hours of service!!!

Equipped to Succeed

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Having access to technology is becoming increasingly important to success at school. But technology doesn’t come cheap. Many of the youth we serve are at a disadvantage because computer gear is often out of reach.

The good people at SAP wanted to make a dent in this problem. They have donated 25 laptop computers that we’ve distributed to some of the youth in our programs. The computers come loaded with Microsoft Office, ensuring that these young people can get to work immediately.

One of those young people is Kevin Martinez. He’s a rising senior on pace to graduate from high school next June. He emigrated to New York four years ago, and he’s thrilled to receive a computer:

I plan to utilize this laptop for school work and to help my little brother, who struggles with his school work. I’ll be able to type my essays and not have to go to the library anymore. [Since I came to the U.S.] I’ve been able to academically achieve and work hard to help my mom and siblings out. My goal is to go to college and one day become an architect.

Thank you so much for this gift. It means so much to me.

Yes, thank you, SAP, for giving these young people the tools to help them succeed.

Hope Students Win National Schwab Scholarship

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On July 22, three young women from the Hope Leadership Academy visited the Charles Schwab branch next to Madison Square Park to accept a prestigious award as well as checks enormous in their physical size as well as dollar amount. Nyuma Gumaneh, Ciarra Leocadio, and Chamylah General won Schwab Money Matters scholarships after successfully completing the “Money Matters: Make It Count” curriculum at Hope, and demonstrating outstanding financial literacy skills. Schwab awarded just 15 scholarships nationally in this competitive program sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of America and the Charles Schwab Foundation.

Schwab staff members presented Nyuma and Ciara each with a $2,500 check, and Chamylah with a $1,000 check. Ciarra will apply her scholarship money toward costs at Vanderbilt University, where she will enroll this fall to study biology and pre-medicine. Nyuma and Chamylah also plan on using the scholarship money toward financing their college education when they start their freshman years in the fall of 2015.

They had a chance to participate in a roundtable with the Schwab employees, and shadowed financial advisors to learn more about the banking industry and see firsthand what a typical day is like at the branch. 

Congratulations to these young women for their outstanding accomplishments, and thank you to the Charles Schwab Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of America! Click here to view pictures from the check presentation ceremony this morning.