The Children's Aid Blog

Foodies Face Off

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All year long, dozens of young chefs from across New York City have been perfecting their chopping techniques, learning the difference between cumin and cayenne, tasting an endless stream of vegetables and fruit, all in pursuit of the perfect recipe for their year-end Iron Go!Chefs competition.

They gathered last week at the East Harlem Center, whisk and spatulas at the ready. Five teams in both the elementary and middle school divisions—representing Children’s Aid centers and community schools—faced off to prepare the best dish they could under strict time limits. And they did so under the scrutinizing eyes of some top-notch judges, including Rich Buery, deputy mayor of strategic initiatives and former president of Children’s Aid; his successor at Children’s Aid, Phoebe Boyer; Andrea Luz Bergquist, who works with the West Side Campaign Against Hunger; Karen Washington, a NYC food justice advocate and urban farmer; and Karen Bornarth, the chef at Hot Bread Kitchen.

The kids brought so many unique flavors and creative recipes to the contest. Picking winners wasn’t an easy task. In the end, C.S. 61 (see recipe) from the Bronx won the elementary division with their scrumptious butternut squash and mushroom tacos, accompanied by a black bean mango salsa. The Jalapeno Hotties from Mirabal Sisters Campus took home the trophy in the middle school contest with their Pan Mexican Quinoa.

Congratulations to all of the young chefs for their professional quality performance!

Check out our Iron Go!Chefs competition photo gallery.

Jesse Owens: A Beacon of Light

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Jesse Owens was the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals, during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Today, he’s widely considered the greatest track and field athlete in history. Yet, he also faced many challenges, and his highs and lows are explored in a recently unveiled mural at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.

Twenty-five students worked under local muralist Lance Bradley’s influence to conceive and create the mural for a Black History Month project. After watching documentaries and interviews, the students determined important life events to shadow the runner, portrayed in the mural at a starting line. In describing the mural, Bradley said Owens is the “beacon of light”. 
Kevin Powell, president and cofounder of BK Nation, an activism organization, and author of The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood, spoke to the crowd of youth and parents. He highlighted both Jesse Owens’ athleticism and his educational pursuits, referencing the runner’s attendance at Ohio State University, as a reminder to students to see both as equal means to success.
Congratulations to all those involved at Milbank for producing a great work of art, including staff member Kenesse Rivera, who documented the creation of the mural from its beginnings in March to its completion in May. The full list of the artists’ names can be found on the left side of the mural in the following order:
Lane Estos Bradley
Saniya McMillan
Dayana Pineda
Nalani Williams
Jahsean Nash-Fuller
Niatah Johnson
Melanae Graham
Treasure Diaz
Johny Yoko
Nia Moore
Shelby Brown
Dallas Dillard
Laila Banks
Jaylen McCoy
Terrayah Grant
Paige Parker 
Diasha Singlton
Rokhaya Ndiaye
Lance Breamfield

Defying the Odds

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Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx has been racking up honors and awards this spring, but none have drawn as much attention as its Schools of Opportunity Gold Recognition.

The National Education Policy Center launched the Schools of Opportunity project, intent on identifying schools because they excel AND they close the opportunity gaps that exist. FLH was one of five schools to receive Gold Recognition. The Washington Post has been profiling the award-winning schools, and they shined a welcome light on the successful community school strategy in place at Fannie Lou.

There is a ton of interesting work happening at FLH, and we’re naturally excited to see CAS mentioned as a key component of student success.

Let the Letter's Fly

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On Tuesday, June 9, the School Age Division held its third annual word bee at the Dunlevy Milbank Center. Over the course of the year, young people in grades K-2 learned 25 new words, parts of speech, and definitions through engaging activities. In grades 3-8, students learned 50 new words, parts of speech, and definitions. Competitions began in May to crown site champions, and those winners came to test their skills and knowledge at Milbank.

Our brave competitors from C.S. 61, East Harlem Center, Milbank Center, Frederick Douglass Center, the Mirabal Sisters Campus,  P.S. 5, P.S. 50 ( Vito Marcantonio), and the Salome Ureña  Campus proudly and confidently spelled their words to a room filled with their peers, parents, Children’s Aid staff members, and judges. Anyone in the audience can attest to the spirit of diligence, healthy competition, community, and joy that was exhibited by all of the young people in attendance. All of our children left winners, but below are a list of those who received Barnes and Noble gift cards for winning their grade-level competitions.

2nd grade
First:  Brandon Nassa ( P.S. 50: Vito Marcantonio)
Second: Trinity Alonzo( P.S. 50: Vito Marcantonio)
Third: Amiyah Danclair ( Frederick Douglass Center)

3rd grade
First: Raiden Abreu (P.S. 5)
Second: Mario Leon (P.S. 5)
Third: Kalyah Barr ( Frederick Douglass Center)

4th grade
First: Jalen Thomas ( Dunlevy Milbank)
Second: Brian Callwood ( Dunlevy Milbank)
Third: Cyanna Torrado ( P.S. 5)

5th grade
First: Jessica Rivera (P.S. 5)
Second: Rahmatoulahi Diallo ( P.S. 50 Vito Marcantonio)
Third: Awa Diop ( Frederick Douglass Center)

6th grade
First: Annegelise Batista ( Salome Urena Campus)
Second: Nia Moore ( Dunlevy Milbank)
Third: Shelby Brown ( Dunlevy Milbank)

7th and 8th grade
First: Ricci Barua (Salome Urena Campus)
Second: Rokhaya Ndiaye ( Dunlevy Milbank)
Third: Daniel De La  Rosa (Mirabal Sisters Campus)

Wagon Road and Citi: A Tradition

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On Saturday, June 13, about 60 volunteers from Citi descended upon Wagon Road Camp in Westchester County for a long day of service to help get the site ready for summer. In just a few weeks, Wagon Road will be the destination for hundreds of kids, many of them from New York City getting a chance to experience new outdoor adventures while staying engaged with learning opportunities.

This marks Citi’s 10th annual Global Community Day. This company-wide initiative brings together tens of thousands of Citi employees, family, friends, and community organizations in volunteer projects to help local communities across the world.

Volunteers arrived in the morning and split up into teams to spread woodchips on the adventure trail,  assemble picnic tables, paint buildings, build floors in the horse sheds, and make a base for the water slide. Citi has made its day at Wagon Road a much-anticipated tradition. Children’s Aid is so grateful for the help in making this a summer these kids will never forget.

Where the Art Starts

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Colorful paintings, expressive masks, and street photography covered the walls of the Boricua College Art Gallery in Washington Heights at the 14th Annual Children’s Art Show. The many pieces of art on display came from all corners of the Children’s Aid community, with artists starting as young as our Head Start participants—three and four years old—to our graduating high school seniors.

President and CEO Phoebe Boyer’s opening remarks at her first Children’s Aid art show revealed her anticipation of the widely heralded art event. Curator and organizer Marinieves Alba presented the Arts Excellence Award to winners Liliana Candelario and Midge Caparosa, both of whom have shown leadership in teaching the arts through their work. The East Harlem Center was also recognized for the second year in a row for its dedication to arts programming.

The evening, a testament to Children's Aid's continued commitment to quality visual arts programming, ended with many proud student artists presenting their pieces to even prouder family members. Every year our children and teens are empowered to express themselves in creative and safe ways because, as we have seen for 14 years, the outcome is always beautiful.

Walking for Foster Care

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When Warwick Valley High School student Ally Ehrmann was told that her senior project had to have a tangible outcome, she decided to raise money for a cause close to her heart. That cause ended up being young people in foster care.

Ally was born in Russia and was adopted when she was just 18 months old. Her personal experience gives her an understanding of how having a “forever family” can change the life of someone in foster care, so Ally wanted to have an impact.

With the help of family members and friends, Ally organized a 5k walk in her hometown in upstate New York. She rented tents and tables, found sponsors, and secured the space at Sanfordville Elementary School for May 2.  Her many months of research and 28 hours of service resulted in raising $700 along with securing $400 in donated clothing, handbags, and board games. Her decision to donate to Children’s Aid was supported by a family friend, who knew of our foster care services for children and youth in New York City.

We thank Ally for her hard work, dedication, and determination to make a difference in others’ lives. Her fundraising achievement will go right toward supporting children in our foster care services. “It is really amazing to look back on the last 10 months of school and see that you can make difference,” said Ally. 

CAS-Carrera Celebrates 29th Annual Parent Graduation

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The Children Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program’s (CAS-Carrera) Parent Family Life and Sexuality Education (PFLSE) graduation took place at Hunter College on June 5 in front of an audience of more than 300 graduates, family members, and Children’s Aid staff. More than 140 parents, along with their families, came from 13 Children’s Aid sites and represented the 29th consecutive class of this essential program. Dr. Michael Carrera, vice president of the Adolescence Division and founder of CAS-Carrera, addressed parents on their great achievement of completing the 18-week program. Two parent valedictorians representing the graduates talked about their own personal experiences.

Since parents are the primary sources of sexuality information for their own children, it is critical for them to increase their sexual literacy, develop and understand a holistic definition of sexuality, and improve and practice communication skills with family members on the important issues of sexuality and sexual expression. Since 1987, the PFLSE curriculum – delivered by trained CAS-Carrera Family Life and Sexuality Educators – has provided thousands of adults with a powerful opportunity to share their experiences with peers, strengthen ties with their children, and empower themselves to play a crucial part in preventing young people from becoming parents too soon.

For 29 years in a row, this has proved to be an inspiring night—one that will have an enduring effect on all who participated. 


A Garden of Peace and Health

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City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that she started working on the garden that opened this week at P.S. 50 in East Harlem when she was in her first term on City Council. Today, she’s in her third term.

Good things can take some time to come to fruition. And the Peace Garden is a very good thing—an undertaking that brought together school and Department of Education leadership, the team running the community school at P.S. 50, and stakeholders in the neighborhood. At the end of the day, the children of P.S. 50 have an amazing, hydroponic garden to tend to: tomatoes, basil, and an assortment of other vegetables and herbs.

School Chancellor Carmen Fariña has made the community school strategy the centerpiece of her reform efforts at more than 90 renewal schools in New York City (P.S. 50 is a Renewal school). “When you grow something, it lifts your spirits,” said Chancellor Fariña, adding that this is one of the first steps in making P.S. 50 a successful school and a valued neighborhood asset.

This was the culmination of tremendous effort, especially by Principal Ester Quiñones, P.S. 50 teacher Paul Clarke, and our community school director, Jeanette Then. 

Thank you for supporting “Once Upon A Time”

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Dear friends of the Associates Council,

Not too long ago (May 7), and in a magical place not too far away (The Manhattan Penthouse), Associates Council members gathered with friends, family, and supporters from all across the kingdom (New York City) for "Once Upon A Time," their Fifth Annual Spring Event. And this year, the event raised $40,000 in support of The Children’s Aid Society’s school-age literacy programs. 

Guests experienced an enchanting evening full of delectable fare, delicious cocktails featuring Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Cocktail Caviar, and mouthwatering desserts provided by Baked by Melissa, Robicelli’s Bakery, and Wat Chu Wan Wantons. Generous individuals and companies from far and wide donated prizes that introduced guests to the magic of giving. From JetBlue tickets to private tours of the MoMA to a Paramount hotel stay to dinners for two, each prize added to the thrill of the evening. Guests danced the night away to music spun by DJ Benny Blaze, took candid photos with Scar Vita and Kyle Martin (check out photos from the evening here), and were in awe of breathtaking views of the city from the dance floor.

This fairy tale evening would not have been complete without a little bit of creative storytelling.  Dallis Dillard, a young student from the Dunlevy Milbank Community Center, who won the modern fairytale contest hosted by the Associates Council, was featured in a short video with his friends for his story “Let It Glow.” The story is about three young basketball players who want to get new sneakers for the championship game, and Bilal, the Magical Ball God who grants their wish in exchange for acts of kindness. Dallis’s story underscored the impact of the work done through Children’s Aid literacy programs, and guests enjoyed seeing the creativity of New York children on the big screen.

The evening was a huge success, and the AC is thrilled that we have not only been able to contribute to this worthy cause, but also that we have been able to support and highlight it. The entire evening was made possible through generous donations from the Danzi Family, Edelman Public Relations, the Lord Family, Jonathan Rose Companies, Premiere Electronics, and Environetics.   

Finally, we would also like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Associates Council members who collaborated and used their talents to make this an unforgettable evening. And finally, we are so grateful for our guests, for those who purchased tickets, made donations, and supported this worthy cause.

Again, the AC thanks you. Children’s Aid thanks you. And all of the young readers at Children’s Aid thank you.

We hope to see you again next year!


Erika and Stephanie
Spring Event Committee Co-chairs

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

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