The Children's Aid Blog

A Holiday Home Run

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Major League Baseball has had a longstanding relationship with the Boys & Girls Club, which means they’ve been a great source of support for the four clubs connected with Children’s Aid. The latest measure of that support came last week. MLB asked for letters to Santa from 50 of our kids at East Harlem Center. Then they sent a bus uptown to get the kids along with some of our staff and bring them to their midtown headquarters for food and fun.

The waffle fries were nearly as plentiful as the smiles. Our kids, drew pictures, saw a magic show, met McGruff the Crime Dog, and posed with the World Series trophy. Thanks so much to our friends at MLB for their generosity and the energy they brought to this special night.      

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Stellar Service Recognized

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The members of the Keystone Club at East Harlem Center have a history of thinking big. Last year, they created an initiative called #KnowYourRights that helped educate teens about their legal rights while encouraging them to improve their relationship with local police. The project drew a lot of praise.

Recently, the club traveled to Connecticut for the Northeast Regional Keystone Conference. They spent the weekend attending various workshops with leadership topics ranging from self-esteem and healthy relationships to public speaking, staying on track in school, and fundraising for service projects. They joined several hundred club members from around the region, and the conference ended in an awards brunch on Sunday morning. The East Harlem team won an Excellence Award, coming in first place in the area of Community Service. This was in recognition for #KnowYourRights project.

And the success of that project led to a new grant award of $24,000. Current club members will design and implement service projects involving 1,600 youth—and they’ve already made sizable progress on that goal.

Congratulations to all the youth in the Keystone Club.

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Finding Success in Community

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Another fall semester of MSG classroom came to an end this past week. The latest group of students from Hope Leadership Academy and Fannie Lou Freedom High School closed out the nine-week program with MSG Networks and the Garden of Dreams Foundation, during which they learned behind the scenes work of television production and sports coverage. 

Students were taught camera work, script writing, and interviewing techniques by professionals at MSG Networks to produce their own sports news segment “And One.” Named after the basketball term when a player earns a free throw in the act of making a basket, the show’s theme aptly explored how one can achieve success, despite facing adversity.  

Many of the participants shared that through the program they developed their public speaking skills and learned that there is no such thing as asking a dumb question, as there is always an opportunity to learn. Danny Morris, assistant director in the Adolescence Division, lauded the group of students for their great teamwork and cooperation, and for the growth they showed in such a short time. He reiterated an on-going theme, shared by both MSG Classroom, and Children’s Aid: there is no success without community.

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The Knicks and MSG Transform the Holidays

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There’s no question—the holidays can be an expensive time of year. The stress and trauma of living in poverty is present year round but they can be especially acute at this time of year because all parents want to do the very same thing: make the holidays a joyful time. And children get some of that joy when they receive toys and other treats at this time of year.

The incredible people at the Garden of Dreams Foundation, representing the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, decided to transform the holidays for 12 Children’s Aid families. On Tuesday, they sent two buses to Dunlevy Milbank Center, collected the twelve families, and sent them north to Mount Kisco, not far from where the Knicks have their practice facilities. When our families got there, they found nearly the entire Knicks team in the back of the store ready to take them on a shopping spree.

Their collective generosity was almost boundless. Families were able to buy bicycles, computers, tablets, sports equipment. They stocked up on clothes, bed linens, and household goods. Someone brought home a not-quite life size storm trooper in preparation for the new Star Wars movie.

Most importantly, the parents and children left the store with mile-wide smiles. They got to meet Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez, trade bounce passes with Lance Thomas and Langston Galloway, and get monster truck advice from Kyle O’Quinn.

It was an incredibly special day for our families, and we thank everyone at the Garden of Dreams, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Knicks for making it happen.


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Youth Empowerment Summit

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Last month, our Go!Healthy Food Justice program partnered with a coalition of youth food justice organizations, including Added Value, Bushwick Campus Youth Food Policy Council, Community Food Advocates, East New York Farms!, EcoStation:NY, Friends of the High Line, New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College, and Teenergetic, to organize a Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S.!) for food justice advocacy.

The summit was held at St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan and brought together more than 100 young people from youth-led organizations from across New York City and the northeast region. The goal of the summit was to promote collaboration and discussion among these organizations in order to refine their ability to advocate for food justice issues, such as promoting equal access to healthy food and a food system that is environmentally sustainable and that treats workers fairly.

The summit created a shared-learning space for youth organizations involved in the food movement through food, environmental, and social justice work. It allowed them to connect with other youth to build strong solidarity bonds towards building a just, equitable, and fair food system for all. Through youth-led workshops, participants learned how fellow youth around the northeast region address food justice issues and create systematic change in their communities. They also learned how these individual efforts play a part in the larger movement. This in turn helps to build a stronger network of youth food leaders dedicated to establishing a just food system. Participants left inspired and motivated to create change in their communities. Children’s Aid was proud to be a part of this effort and looks forward to future partnerships.  

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A Tradition Endures

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This summer, we heard some bad news. The Hogs & Heifers Saloon in lower Manhattan closed.

For three years, this biker bar had rallied its clientele to pool together money and buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts for kids in our Preventive Services program. They would rumble up the West Side Highway and make a grand entrance at our Milbank Center and help brighten the holidays for 300 of our children.

This fall, Alirio Guerrero picked up the phone and got to work. The Hogs owner committed to supporting the event, and bikers who have participated in this ride started working their network of friends to get the funds and the support. This year, Harley-Davidson stepped in to support the event. The results, as you can see from the photo gallery, were memorable. And ran this great story on the event.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who made the fourth annual Hogs & Heifers toy event such an amazing success.  

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Jane Quinn, Lifetime Achiever

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We are long overdue in delivering congratulations to Jane Quinn, our director of the National Center for Community Schools, on an amazing recent honor. Her alma mater, the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, one of the nation’s top programs, bestowed its Edith Abbott Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Many of you know Jane is one of the leading national thinkers and advocates on community schools and has played an integral role in the expansion of community schools throughout New York City as well as nationally and internationally. She first became involved with community schools as a program director at DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund during the 1990s, where she focused on education and career development of young people. She joined Children’s Aid in 2000. Since then, we have become one of the city’s most prominent operators of community schools and a resource for both the city and the many community-based organizations that are now running community schools.

“This award is a testament to the impact Jane has had on the future of hundreds of thousands of young people, here in New York City as well as in the dozens of cities and school districts for which she and her team at the National Center for Community Schools have provided technical assistance,” said Phoebe Boyer.

Many congratulations, Jane, on this distinguished award. 

A Family Makes it Official

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Back in June, we told you about the making of a very special family. Herbert Godoy and David Hatcher became foster parents through Children’s Aid after David, an executive producer at WNBC News in New York, learned about a young boy named Jaylen through a program on the station called “Wednesday’s Child.”

Jaylen recently appeared on “Wednesday’s Child” again last week, but this time as Herbert and David’s son. They completed the adoption process in November, just in time for the holidays. Take a second to watch their story. It’s fantastic. 

The Joy of Adoption

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As a child, Margarita Merced always wanted to make a difference in the world. Today, she’s doing that as a foster mother.

Margarita learned about becoming a foster parent from other tenants in her building who fostered children. She admired what they were doing to provide children with a safe and secure home. She wasn’t sure if this was something that she could do, knowing that many of these children come from families that have truly struggled, but she really wanted to help.

Margarita met with her family to gauge their support, and they approved. She then contacted Children’s Aid and started on the path to becoming a licensed foster mother with the Medical Foster Care Program. Margarita first fostered a girl, Ived, who was diagnosed with advanced leukemia. With love and support from the agency, Ived is beating cancer and has been in remission for more than three years. Most recently, on November 5, Margarita adopted Ived. It was a joyous moment for all, including Children’s Aid staff. Margarita is thrilled that her daughter is flourishing. And she truly understands the importance of providing consistency and love, and getting support from the agency. Margarita says to all those thinking about becoming a foster parent, “Keep an open mind, never judge, love is the cure.”

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A Night for Promise

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Some things do get better as they age. One of those things is the Children’s Aid Keeping the Promise Gala.

Last week, more than 400 guests gathered at event space 583 Park Avenue for the 5th Annual Keeping the Promise Gala, celebrating the work of Children’s Aid and at the same time investing in its future success. The event raised more than $1.3 million that will sustain our efforts to knock down the barriers to learning that children living in poverty face every day.

The night could not have started with more energy. The Curtis High School Jazz Warriors unleashed 10 minutes of soulful, thumping music (“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars). We were lucky to have three incredible young people—current or recent members of Children’s Aid programs—on hand to guide the night.

Naseem Haamid, 16, is a junior at Fannie Lou Freedom High School and he helped Children’s Aid Trustee Richard Edelman present our Corporate Leadership Award to Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder, CEO, and chairman of Chobani.

Tashana Victor is a freshman at the New York City College of Technology and an alumni of the Hope Leadership Academy. She stood with Children’s Aid Board of Trustees Chair Iris Abrons in presenting the Promise Award to Harold “Terry” McGraw, the chairman emeritus of McGraw Hill Financial.

Alexander Pereyra, who attends the Borough of Manhattan Community College, was the voice behind the scenes, introducing many of the speakers, including our own leader, Phoebe Boyer. She made a stirring and unimpeachable case for why Children’s Aid is so critical to tens of thousands of young people and their families: “We are the bridge that endures—unquestionable in its strength, unmatched in its ability to get people where they need to be. We are the beating heart of this city.”

It was from top to bottom an incredible night, and we thank all of those who came out to support Children’s Aid and the futures of so many youth in New York City. Please take a look at the photo gallery if you have some time.