The Children's Aid Blog

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

Thanksgiving Tradition Continues

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On the eve of Thanksgiving, in the face of some awful winter weather, chefs from the city’s finest hotels and restaurants gathered at the Dunlevy Milbank Center to prepare a fantastic Thanksgiving feast for more than 1,000 Harlem residents—including many families participants in our Early Childhood and School Age programs. For 24 years, the Food and Beverage Association of America has generously organized and hosted this holiday dinner. A huge team of volunteers cooked an estimated 250 twenty pound turkeys with all the trimmings. The Food and Beverage Association members, their colleagues, and friends donated all the food, decorations, and table settings for the dinner, and served food to attendees.

This year’s Thanksgiving event was made even more special by the Harlem Globe Trotters, who played some one-on-one with Early Childhood participants and thrilled the audience with tricks. The entertainment continued throughout the evening as a DJ treated diners to music during their meal. Dessert time meant dancing in addition to the many sweets available. Further supplementing the spirit of giving, Milbank staff and the association raffled off an additional 125 cooked turkeys to families and individuals for their own Thanksgiving celebrations.

Thank you to the Food and Beverage Association for its generosity and to all the volunteers for making this a joyous event for the families we serve.

November is Adoption Awareness Month

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By a proclamation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, November is officially Adoption Awareness Month in New York. Governor Cuomo has declared that New York will join the rest of the nation and use November to highlight the need for young people in the child welfare system to find forever families. The proclamation notes that 2,900 children in care in New York will need adoptive placements this year, and more than 1,000 of them are awaiting placements in adoptive homes. New York’s theme for the 2014 Adoption Awareness campaign is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections,” which focuses on the importance of preserving sibling bonds by placing siblings together in adoptive homes whenever possible.

For years, The Children’s Aid Society has met and exceeded our goals for completing adoptions of children and youth needing Forever Families. Last year Children’s Aid worked to finalize the adoption of 100 children. Most of Children’s Aid’s foster children are adopted by their foster parents, when that’s not possible the adoption unit works to find families for the children who need an adoptive resource. Currently adoption unit staff are working to match five children in need of an adoptive resource with families looking to open their home and hearts to waiting children. If you are interested in exploring adoption, or hearing more about our waiting children call the agency adoption unit at 718-764-2406. For more information and to find out more about New York State’s waiting children explore the New York State Adoption Album.

Operation Warm with BNY Mellon

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As we approach the coldest months of the year, we are reminded that not every family can afford a new winter coat. Operation Warm was started in 2002  with this in mind—and a goal to see that our neediest children are outfitted with coats to protect them from the harsh winter elements.

On Wednesday, November 5, 25 volunteers from BNY Mellon visited our Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem to deliver warm coats to hundreds of our kids. Every child had his or her own “personal shopper”—a volunteer from BNY Mellon-- to help find that perfect coat.

Thank you to Operation Warm and BNY Mellon for continuing the annual tradition of keeping a child warm in the winter.

From the Associates Council: Last Call for a Roman Holiday!

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Over the past few weeks, the Associates Council has been hard at work prepping for our fall fundraiser, Roman Holiday, on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:00p.m. This is a perfect event to kick off the holiday season.  We’ve secured a fantastic venue at Bread & Tulips in Gramercy and worked with chefs to curate a delicious, rustic Italian-themed menu. There will also be raffle prizes available, including a gorgeous “Porto Rotondo” Audrey bag.

While it will be great to connect with friends, we’re really excited to gather together for a good cause and support The Children’s Aid Society’s foster care program. As you may know, Children’s Aid supports more than 500 foster care children   each year. To help support this important initiative, proceeds from ticket sales will directly benefit this program.

If this is your first time attending an Associates Council event, you’re in for a treat! The Associates Council is a group of dynamic young professionals committed to using our talents to improve our community. Every event we execute has a purpose, and we need your help to make our last event of the year a success.

Event and raffle tickets are still available for purchase here. If you can’t attend, donations of any amount are accepted and greatly appreciated. To stay current on Associates Council events, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (follow the hashtag #CASRomanHoliday for event updates).

Hope to see you there!

Event Details:

Date:  Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Time:  7:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Location:  Bread & Tulips (365 Park Avenue South between 26th and 27th Streets)

Purchase tickets here.

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Foster Fridays: Meet Bendu Konneh

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Some people have a natural instinct to think of others. Bendu Konneh is one of those people.

“I wanted to help,” said Bendu, when presented with the idea of becoming a foster parent. “It’s good to help people. Someday, I might need help.”

She had already raised her own daughter, but Bendu was involved with an organization that provides services for women from Africa living in the Bronx. She learned about becoming a foster parent and the organization referred her to Children’s Aid.

Bendu, a home health worker, brought a young woman and her infant son into her home in 2013. She gave the woman, now 19, her bedroom and instead slept in the living room. First and foremost, Bendu wanted to make sure the woman and her child, now two years old, felt at home. They have family dinners together, and Bendu brings the mother and son to other family events. She also wanted to make sure the young mother would finish high school to better provide for her family. She’s now in 11th grade and on the path to a degree.

Bendu is getting much from being a foster parent. And there are hundreds more children who could use the kind of home and support that Bendu is offering. Read more to learn about becoming a foster parent.