The Children's Aid Blog

Dunlevy Milbank Center Hosts Community Town Hall

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Community members of all ages braved the frigid weather to attend the Town Hall Meeting at our Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. Milbank staff organized the event to promote open and honest conversation within the climate of strained relations between police members and communities of color. The meeting featured a panel of local leaders, elected officials, and current and retired members of the New York Police Department. Key figures in attendance included Harlem City Council Member Inez Dickens and NYPD Deputy Chief Rodney Harrison. Khalil Scott, a Children’s Aid parent, facilitated the discussion.

Milbank director Casper Lassiter opened up the meeting with the hope that “we can begin to better understand each other’s realities.” His comments framed the dialogue around the sharing of individual experiences. Youth in attendance—a mix of students from Milbank and the Hope Leadership Academy—detailed negative encounters with law enforcement. Officers tried to demystify community policing while also explaining some of the anxieties that come with the job.

Councilmember Dickens spoke about bridging the gap between law enforcement and community members. She encouraged the audience to vote, citing it as a way for local citizens to enact change. “We want you to survive and rise up,” she said to the youth in the audience.

While the evening did not end with a consensus on solutions, everyone seemed satisfied with the ability to air their concerns and eager to see community relations improve, and soon. Angel Jackson, a former Milbank participant and current Hope Leadership student, wanted to make sure NYPD representatives were clear on one thing: “Kids are not a threat to you.”

Three Kings Day in East Harlem

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On Tuesday, January 6, El Museo Del Barrio hosted its 37th Annual Three Kings Parade. For the past eight years, children from our East Harlem Early Head Start and Head Start programs have participated in the event. Approximately 20 children and their parent’s marched in the parade, displaying their handmade crowns and maracas that they created especially for the day. Despite the cold and snowy weather everyone had a great time! 


Fun and Philanthropy

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Here at Children’s Aid, we have a lot to be thankful for throughout the holiday season. We learned of yet another thing about which to be grateful.

For seven years, the Pig Brooch Theatre Company has been staging a word-for-word performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” mimicking to perfection every movement of the animated characters. Presented at the Brooklyn Lyceum, the event has become a well-known family tradition.

Less well known is that Pig Brooch chooses a charity every year and donates the net proceeds (after expenses). This year, the theater company chose Children’s Aid. All of us want to thank Pig Brooch for their generosity. The cast and crew include some actors but lots of people from all walks of life who do this simply because they love it. The play is probably seen by approximately 1,000 people across eight performances.

So thank you, Pig Brooch. And if you’re in search of holiday cheer next year, look for the eight season of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

An Evening with The Nutcracker

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Earlier this month, Lincoln Center launched the Family-Linc program, designed to introduce and encourage children and families from high-poverty areas to attend dance, theater, orchestral music, and opera performances on a regular basis.

On Sunday, December 14, more than 200 people and 55 families from Children’s Aid sites and programs from the South Bronx were invited to attend a performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. All attendees were treated to prime orchestra-level seating. Prior to the performance, parents and their children participated in art activities, dance lessons, and a primer on the story of The Nutcracker. To ensure all families had an enriched experience, Spanish-speaking families were paired with families that could offer assistance translating the lessons of the day.

Thank you to Lincoln Center and our Family Success Program and School Age Division for making this event possible for our kids and their families.

A Toy for Every Child

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Future Proof is Dentsu Aegis Network’s approach to corporate social responsibility.  Through this initiative, employees from Dentsu Aegis Network have been sponsoring holiday gifts for the East Harlem Center for the last seven years. This year, on December 16th, the group brought along a very jolly friend. Santa Claus and Dentsu Aegis elves visited our Head Start classrooms to spread some holiday cheer.

Each child received a wrapped gift, which brought wide smiles to all the young faces. Denstu Aegis also collected toys for participants in the early childhood programs, which will be distributed later.

Thank you again to our friends at Dentsu Aegis Network for their continued partnership with Children’s Aid and for becoming part of our family at the East Harlem Center!


MSG Classroom: Where Teamwork isn’t just a Concept

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Last week, another class of students from the Hope Leadership Academy “graduated” from MSG Classroom. Ten students spent the fall learning about the media industry and what it takes to succeed in a television career. They met twice a week, once at Madison Square Garden offices to meet with staff and learn interviewing skills, camera and production work, and much more. And the teens typically met the day before at Children’s Aid to prepare for those classes.

The end product was “Slap Shot,” a professional quality news interview program. Roberto Rivera interviewed Anthony DuClair, a 19-year-old rookie star for the New York Rangers. And Nyuma Gumaneh interviewed the legendary Al Trautwig, an award-winning sportscaster who has been a mainstay for the New York Rangers, Knicks, and Yankees in addition to being a consistent presence at the Olympics since 2000, among many other pursuits in sports journalism. He is an enthusiastic supporter of MSG Classroom and told Nyuma that her interview of him was the best one that had ever been done.

Since 2008, about 120 students from Hope Leadership Academy have participated in MSG Classroom, which has won a 2013 Beacon Award* for its educational impact. The program is hugely important to these young people, regardless of whether they ever decide to make broadcast journalism or television their career.

One of the most important things they learn is teamwork. “Everyone has a significant contribution,” said Danny Morris, an assistant director in the Adolescence Division who has overseen the running of the program since 2008, but began directly managing it 2 years ago. “Teamwork isn’t just a concept after MSG Classroom. They see that everyone is a critical part of a big project.”

Danny also talked about how the kids get a better sense of their own value. They can see themselves as being a part of something great. “The people at Madison Square Garden treat these guys like they’re rock stars,” said Danny. “And it sinks in for the students that, yes, ‘I deserve this.’”

Among other things, participants also learn to dress for success by visiting workplaces twice a week. They also get to be thankful. For example, they will be over-the-top thankful for the courtside Knicks tickets they received from Al Trautwig at the end of last week’s ceremony.

More importantly, though, they will certainly be thankful for a once in a lifetime experience that should pay dividends in their college careers and far beyond.


*=MSG won a 2013 Beacon Award in the Education category for the 2012 Fall Semester of their “MSG Classroom” program. The Beacon Awards are presented annually by The Association of Cable Communicators (ACC) and recognize programming networks, cable systems, and cable associations for excellence in communications and public affairs.

A Night of Music and Community in the South Bronx

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Dozens of children and their families gathered at PS 55 in the Bronx on Thursday for an evening of music with an international twist. Hosted by South Bronx Rising Together, this live musical performance was headlined by internationally renowned Canadian Brass. They were joined by two local Bronx groups, multi-Grammy nominee Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché, and Circa 95, a local hip hop duo.

This eclectic group of musicians was brought together in partnerships with the Bronx Music Heritage Center and PS 55. The event was designed to help foster a stronger sense of community for the families, the school, and the community partners, as they work together to create a cradle-to-college and career pathway.

Playing the Garden

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Alex and Ivan Kalashnikov came to the attention of the Staten Island team of Children’s Aid in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Both boys were traumatized by how the storm affected their home. Their father knew they needed a diversion, so he helped teach them to play classical guitar.

They have come a long way. Thanks to Garden of Dreams, the brothers played the Garden on Monday night before the puck dropped at a New York Rangers game. They put on quite a show.

The Holidays Mean Hogs

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Under the bright sun, about 100 patrons of the Hogs & Heifers Saloon sliced through the brisk wind on the Harley Davidson motorcycles to bring some good cheer to approximately 300 children and their families from The Children’s Aid Society’s Preventive Services Program. This is the third year for the event and it’s become a wonderful tradition that these families really appreciate. The good cheer took the form of brand-new wrapped toys, gift cards, and a holiday meal. Santa arrived on his own hog to take care of the distribution and make a lot of kids happy.

Many thanks to Michelle Dell, the owner of Hogs & Heifers, manager Kelly Marshall, and all of their generous customers for making this such a great day for so many young people.


Watch the video below:

Thank you for making Roman Holiday a success!

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Grazie Amici!

Last month, the Associates Council hosted our 18th annual fall fundraiser, “Roman Holiday.” The event was held at Bread & Tulips, a cozy and rustic-chic restaurant in New York’s Gramercy area and gathered 130 guests to raise funds and awareness for The Children’s Aid Society’s (CAS) foster care program.

Through ticket and raffle sales, we raised over $5,000 to support foster care programs.

To kick-off the event, Director of Permanency for foster care programs at CAS, Michael Wagner, explained how event proceeds would support some of the non-traditional and unexpected expenses that arise during the year.

“I’m extremely moved and encouraged by the junior board’s efforts to raise awareness and funds for our foster care program,” said Michael Wagner. “Through their fundraiser, we have funds that enable us to provide the extra things that government funding doesn’t necessarily provide when a child has to be removed from the home.”

In addition to raising awareness and funds for a great cause, the event also gathered Associates Council members and their guests who sampled delicious handmade pizzas fresh from the oven and antipasti while socializing.

Associates Council members and event co-chairs Zandra Pernica and Kate Ruque secured sponsorship from a range of vendors including Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Tiziano, Weihenstephan beer and Southampton Breweries. The duo also worked to coordinate several raffle prizes including the “Porto Rotondo” Audrey bag donated by The Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund and a signed New York Rangers hockey stick signed by NHL all-star Rick Nash.

Under Zandra and Kate’s leadership, young professionals were inspired to donate their time and talents to make this event a success. Dennis Han patiently designed the event graphics and Nick Wingfield of Lass Photography photographed and captured video of the event. Follow us on Facebook to view event photos and click here to view the video!

As 2014 winds down, the Associates Council would like to thank all of its members and supporters for making this event and this year a meaningful success. Planning for more great events and programming are already in the works, so follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date on our news!

Interested in joining the Associates Council? Reach out to Malia Poai at