The Children's Aid Blog

Chancellor Walcott Visits AileyCamp Washington Heights

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Students of the Children’s Aid Society Alvin Ailey Summer Camp in Washington Heights received an enthusiastic visitor today. Dennis M. Walcott, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education dropped by to observe and take part in the dynamic classes offered at this unique summer camp in the Mirabal Sisters Campus, a Children’s Aid Community School. Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, National Director of AileyCamp, along with Richard Buery, President and CEO and William Weisberg, COO, both of The Children’s Aid Society gave the Chancellor a behind-the-scenes tour. Mr. Walcott energetically joined in during the ballet lesson and percussion workshop and read out the daily affirmations with all campers and staff. He commended the students for their love of artistic expression and shared that he has always wanted to learn ballet.

Each summer, AileyCamp Washington Heights, one of 10 camps nationwide, offers a variety of dance classes and developmental workshops that helps over 100 deserving inner-city youth develop positive self-esteem, problem solving skills, and healthy self-expression.  Students memorize daily affirmations, such as “I will not use the word ‘can’t’ to define my possibilities,” to serve as a guide to becoming productive and motivated individuals.

Volunteers Give Much-Needed Face Lift to Harlem Center

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Written By: Volunteer Services

Despite the harsh summer heat, nearly two dozen volunteers from New York Life came out to Harlem on June 20th to beautify space at the Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center. Equipped with bright paint, artistic skill and an energetic mood, their efforts produced an uplifting mural in the center’s playground. Children’s Aid youth, parents and community members can view the mural as a beautiful reminder to always reach for the stars.

Designed by Children’s Aid Associates Council member Nathaniel Soria, the mural touches on themes of community, education and mentoring. New York Life is a long-time supporter of The Children’s Aid Society and their services are greatly appreciated.

See the mural come to life in this video montage:

Video by Nathaniel Soria

Additional Photos by Jc Zeal

Children's Aid Continues Efforts to Expand Community School Model Under New Pilot Program

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Last week, the Union Federation of Teachers (UFT), City Council and Partnership for NYC announced a new pilot program aimed at bringing health care and social services to six New York City schools. The Children's Aid Society will act as one of the service providers in partnership with Curtis High School in Staten Island. At a press conference attended by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Partnership for NYC President and CEO Kathy Wylde and Children’s Aid President and CEO Richard Buery and teachers and principals representing the six designated schools, the program's financial and structural details were outlined. The participating schools will receive $600,000 in grants provided by The Partnership for New York City, the New York City Council and UFT. Each school will have the ability to tailor its program, selecting those services most needed by students and the surrounding community.

This pilot program is based on a partnership in Cincinnati that similarly drew funding from various sources to provide a range of health care and educational services in city schools. The Children's Aid Society provided guidance and technical assistance to schools in the Cincinnati program, offering knowledge and resources drawn from our own community schools model. For twenty years, Children's Aid has been a leader in expanding school services and supports. Beginning with the Salomé Ureña Middle Academies, which opened in 1992, Children's Aid has partnered with the New York City Department of Education in more than twenty community schools in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. Open well into the evening, six days a week, year-round, these programs transform schools into community centers. The expanded learning opportunities along with health care services are critical to removing barriers to learning and ensuring each child thrives academically and socially. In 1994, The Children's Aid Society created the National Center for Community Schools. The center training and consultation regarding implementation of the community schools model. Additionally, the center is a leader in advocating for the model locally, nationally and internationally.

Children’s Aid Honors Students on Track to Success

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On June 15, The Children's Aid Society community gathered in the Con Ed auditorium to congratulate the graduates of the Educational eXcellence Creating Empowered Leaders (E.X.C.E.L.) college preparatory program. Honoring more than 60 high school students and 25 college graduates, the ceremony featured speeches by former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and City Councilman Robert Jackson, both of whom emphasized the power of higher education to lift children out of poverty. "Don't let yourself be distracted by all the challenges and temptations in life," said Councilman Jackson. "Stay the course."

Florence Wen echoed this sentiment during her acceptance of The William H. Dinkins, Jr. Scholarship. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a dual major in Biology and Public Relations, but admitted to her fellow graduates that it wasn't always easy stay on track. "You have to stay focused," advised Wen, who is going on to pursue her Ph.D. Conservation Biology.

Two of the evening’s graduates, Dominique Giordano and Corey Scott, served as spirited co-hosts, introducing special guests one by one as nearly a dozen scholarships were awarded. One such award, The Audrey Miller Poritzky Scholarship, is given each year to select students who display attributes of leadership, community service and excellence in education. David Poritzky spoke candidly about his wife's belief in the importance of education, and with his daughter Sophie beside him on stage, praised this year's recipients for honoring Audrey's memory with their commitment to success.

Children's Aid President and CEO Richard R. Buery also offered his congratulations and praise--not just to the students, but also to their parents and caregivers. "Being a parent is the hardest job of all. That these young people are standing here tonight is a testament to all of your hard work. Your support has made the difference."

The ceremony concluded with the traditional roll call of graduates, giving each student a long-awaited moment of recognition and each family a moment of pride. The Children's Aid Society's E.X.C.E.L. program is a comprehensive educational and life skills program designed to engage students, ages 14-21, in a breadth of services geared toward preparing them for college and promoting their future success. We wish all of this year's graduates the best of luck in their future endeavors!

Click here to view the entire photogallery.

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CAS-Carrera Celebrates 26th Annual Parent Graduation

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On Friday, June 1st, The Children's Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) held its 26th graduation ceremony for the Parent Family Life & Sexuality Education program (PFLSE) at Hunter College. PFLSE is a multi-week workshop that encourages New York City parents to be their children’s primary source of sexuality information. Led by bilingual CAS-Carrera Sexuality Educators with peer support from promotores (trained community educators), PFLSE provides parents knowledge and strategic approaches to become more actively involved in their children’s development. Since 1986, more than 3,000 parents and guardians have participated in this no-cost community program, which fosters intergenerational learning and family discussion on this essential issue.

Dr. Michael A. Carrera, who launched CAS-Carrera in 1984, urged the audience of 120 graduates, family, and members of the Children’s Aid Society community to “remember to express our sexuality with joy, dignity and positive feelings for ourselves and others.” He reminded parents and guardians that they have no choice but to be “the primary sexuality educators of your own children…Your only choice is how well or poorly you deliver on that obligation.”

Indeed, the research backs this up. In a recent nation-wide survey, teens say parents most influence their decisions about sex and 87% say it would be much easier for them to postpone sex and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.

Every year, PFLSE Class Valedictorians are chosen to share what they had learned with the audience. Rosalinda Alvira, mother of two sons enrolled in the CAS-Carrera program at the Bronx Preparatory Charter School, observed that “our responsibility as parents is to teach them responsibility in everything they do. Accept and love them just as they are and to accept themselves without fear.” Likewise, Genaro Muñoz, a father of a student at The Children’s Aid Society Community School at P.S./I.S 50, The Vito Marcantonio School, took pride in knowing that he learned “how to be an educator as a parent for my kids and our community.”

We congratulate our graduating parents and their families who will benefit greatly from improving their literacy of one of life’s most important and overlooked subjects.

Richard Buery on the Huffington Post: Let Education Reform Blossom in New York

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Just weeks after President Obama awarded New York State a reform-friendly waiver to onerous federal "No Child Left Behind" education rules, for-profit education firms are threatening to strangle the new reforms in the crib.

At issue is the federal Supplemental Education Services (SES) program, which currently diverts hundreds of millions of federal Title 1 dollars from school districts to outside tutoring providers. A few of these outside groups do good work. But multiple reports and investigations of the SES program have shown bloated budgets, profiteering and corruption. An evaluation of the implementation of SES revealed that providers were providing, on average, only 45 hours of services to these high-need students. And national evaluations sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences, most recently by the leading educational evaluation firm Mathematica Policy Research, have found that SES has little to no impact on raising student achievement. Current SES programs are often poorly coordinated with school-day instruction, and success is often driven more by marketing budgets than impact on students. New York can put these funds to better use.

NY State Senate Recognizes Children’s Aid at Ercilia Pepin Parent Leadership Institute Graduation Ceremony

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Close to 500 mothers, fathers and grandparents from the Washington Heights and Harlem community schools received certificates of completion from the Ercilia Pepin Parent Leadership Institute (EPPLI) on Saturday, June 9--the biggest number in EPPLI’s history.

New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat (running for US Congress), NY Assemblyman Herman Farrell, NY Councilmember Yidanis Rodriguez, NY Councilmember Robert Jackson, and Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer (potential candidate for NYC mayor) attended the event. Richard Buery, CAS’s CEO and President, Bill Weisberg, COO and Executive Vice President, and Richard Negrón, Director of Community Schools, represented the agency.

Senator Espaillat, who in 2007 founded the institute along with CAS, and has been a strong supporter ever since, gave the agency a proclamation on behalf of the State of New York for its efforts to strengthen the Northern Manhattan community through education and empowerment of its parents and caregivers. CAS gave the Senator a plaque recognizing his longstanding and critical support of family empowerment.

The EPPLI services ease families’ transition into American culture, facilitate relationships of trust with long-time and native-born community residents, guide parents to become well-informed and effective advocates for their children, and help families to become happy and productive members of the community.

The Institute provides opportunities for personal growth and education, including ESL, GED and technology training, as well as vocational skills development, financial literacy and small business development.

After the graduation ceremony, there was an exhibit showcasing examples of Institute programming. A papier-mâché art show featured one artist’s striking recreation of Taino petroglyphs and a cross-generational chess tournament had fathers, mothers, grandparents and children engaged in friendly and fierce competition. Chess is component of EPLI’s educational track that participants have embraced as a family activity with enormous positive cognitive effects for participants of every age.

The Institute team is led by Alma Whitford, Deputy Director of Community Schools, along with Coordinator Fatima Reyes, and includes the very talented and hardworking parent coordinators at the CAS community Schools (Lidia Aguasanta, Nayady Cruz, Carmen Natera, Viviana Ramirez, Lissete Leonor and Perseveranda Cruz).

Youth Face Off in Tasty Cooking Competition

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On Thursday June 7th, elementary and middle schools students from Children’s Aid Society Community Schools and Centers gathered at the East Harlem Center for the delicious food face-off called the Third Annual Iron Go!Chefs competition!

The annual Iron Go!Chefs event is the culmination of our yearlong cooking and nutrition education. Our young chefs work together in the weeks before the event to craft and test an original dish that incorporates one non-meat protein, one whole grain, and at least two vegetables or fruits. On the day of the event, youth competed in a Nutrition Bee and prepared their dishes live for a panel of expert judges. Each team won a prize—whether for best teamwork, most beautiful presentation, or for ethnic flair—and one team in each age group took home the grand prize!

In the elementary competition, students from six community schools competed to wow away the guest judges with their tasty take on school lunches. Judges were Bill Telepan, Owner and Exec Chef of Telepan Restaurant on the Upper West Side and co-founder of Wellness in the Schools, Sally Sampson of Chop Chop Magazine, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of the 85thDistrict in the Bronx and last but not least, our very own Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society. The judges expressed delight and astonishment as dish after dish came to them perfectly prepared. It was a super close call, but C.S. 61’steam took home the award for Best Overall Dish for Pan Seared Salmon with Mediterranean Couscous. Assembly Member Crespo called the event “transformational” and gave a beautiful and impassioned talk to kids about how their dishes had opened his eyes to new foods he has been missing out on.

Competition got even tougher with our six middle school teams. Our guest judges were Rhys Powell, Founder of Red Rabbit, Chef Fernando Marulanda, Corporate Chef for the Tweedy Gomez group (Tappo, Gruppo, Posto and other thin crust pizza restaurants), Chef Alexander Smalls, Elsie Encarnacion (Youth Services Director for Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito) and Elana Wilf, friend and generous funder of our program through The Wilf Family Foundation. To the participants’ surprise, East Harlem’s very own Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez  stopped by and addressed the students about how important nutrition and healthy foods are. The South Bronx was on fire and I.S. 98 won the middle school competition with their delicious Potato-Encrusted Tilapia with Summer Fruit Salsa and Red Quinoa.

This was truly a day of fun, hard work and new food journeys. To say the least, the 2012 Iron Go! Chefs Competition is a highlight of the year! Congrats to all the participants and their teachers for all their hard work and for making healthy foods a cause for community celebration!

Parents and Advocates Continue Efforts to Save Programs; Parents Bring to Life Startling Statistics in Campaign’s Report

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Days away from learning if the Mayor’s proposed budget in which more than 47,000 children will lose access to child care and after-school programs is adopted, advocates throughout the city are continuing their efforts to send a clear message to Mayor Bloomberg. The scorching heat and blinding sun couldn’t keep dozens of parents, elected officials and child care advocates from gathering at the steps of City Hall yesterday afternoon to release the Campaign for Children’s latest impact brief which highlights how specific communities, with the highest statistics, would particularly be hit the hardest with these cuts. 

Along with this report, many parents were on hand to speak on behalf of their child’s program, not one with any possible alternative child care come September. They recounted for the crowd how they themselves benefitted from child care services, allowed them to continue working to provide for their families and now as parents provides a safe haven for their children and prepares them for the future. “Mayor Bloomberg says he loves New Yorkers, but he is treating the smallest constituents like they do not even matter” said one parent, who was referred to other alternative after-school programs for her two children but not one has an available spot. “When you abandon a child, you get ACS, but he is abandoning all the children, what will he get?” said another mother through tears who credits her 15 year old daughter’s high school success to the tutoring she received at her after-school program.

Robin Fleshman, The Children’s Aid Society’s Assistant Community Schools Director in the Bronx, shared some particularly devastating statistics for the Morrisannia section in the Bronx. In a community where only 27.1% of children are performing at or above grade level in reading and over 58% of children are living below the federal poverty level, Morrissania is set to face 91% reductions in its programs.

If these cuts are not restored in the final budget due June 30th, thousands of New York City families will lose access to programs that keep children safe and learning while parents are at work. The City of New York cannot afford to cut child care or after-school programs for even a single child. We urge the Mayor and City Council to stand up for children and working families, and fully fund child care and after-school in the final budget. Find out what you can do to make your voice heard at www.childrensaidsociety.org/take-action and http://www.campaignforchildrennyc.com.

Richard Buery's Essay “Can We Save the City’s Children?” Published in The Atlantic

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The following is an excerpt from Can We Save the City's Children?, by Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children's Aid Society, published as part of The Atlantic’s essay series, America the Fixable.

"Engaging the local community is vital to the rehabilitation process. For young offenders, receiving supportive services in their home communities, where they can remain connected to families and local institutions, offers the most reliable path for ensuring that they do not grow up to become lifelong criminals. For most children convicted of minor infractions, effective services can be provided while they live at home, avoiding the costs and negative impact of institutionalization. Yet for the past few decades we have failed troubled youth--the vast majority of them black and Latino (84 percent of all admissions in 2009)--by shipping them to juvenile detention facilities hundreds of miles away from home, often for minor infractions."

Continue reading: Can We Save the City's Children?