The Children's Aid Blog

Ms. Boyer Goes to Washington

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Last week, Children's Aid President and CEO went to Washington, DC, with Yolanda McBride, the director of our Office of Public Policy, to build relationships with federal legislators and talk about our work in key areas affected by federal legislation. They met with a number of elected officials, some of whom have Children’s Aid services within their districts and others who play significant roles in the areas of our work. And there was time for lunch with Bruce Lesley, the president of First Focus, a Children’s Aid ally in the battle against poverty. Their visits included:

Rep. Dan Donovan is relatively new to DC, having just been elected. But the former Staten Island district attorney has long memories of his time as a “Goodhue kid.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney represents the district that includes both Lord Memorial Building and the new Executive Headquarters. Education and women’s issues, including health, are priorities for her.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose father once volunteered for Children’s Aid, hopes to visit our Brooklyn-based LINC youth justice program.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler has been a champion of civil liberties and a host of progressive causes. Children's Aid has both child welfare and juvenile justice programs in his district.

They also met with the chief of staff from Rep. José Serrano, who ably represents the South Bronx, where we deliver so many of our services.

Finally, they met with Phoebe’s cousin, Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado), whose top priorities include education and health.

All in all, a great day for Children’s Aid in our nation’s capital.

Exploring Mental Health Through Art

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During June’s Mental Health Awareness Week, after-school participants at I.S. 90 and I.S. 218 participated in a program on mental health and the importance of practicing positive coping mechanisms to keep and maintain a healthy mind and body. Luisa Madrid, an early recognition and screening specialist, launched an art contest, asking for submissions that described “What Emotional Health Means To Me.”

The students submitted some incredibly intelligent and creative work. Below you will find some of the winners.
By Jordy Nuñez, MS 293, 7th Grade (Salome Urena)
By Omar Peña, MS 218, 8th Grade (Salome Urena)
By Angel Obergh, MS 218, 8th Grade (Salome Urena)
By Mariel Then Leonardo, MS 319, 7th grade (Mirabal Sisters)
By Jorge Diaz, MS 324, 7th Grade (Mirabal Sisters)
By Dhrake Velez, MS 324, 6th Grade (Mirabal Sisters)
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Little Ones on Their Way to Big Things

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If you’ve been out and about in New York City over the past weeks, you’ve probably seen them: teenagers looking their very best and decked out in cap and gowns. They are collecting their high school diplomas and quickly approaching the next chapter in their lives.

But they’re not the only ones celebrating milestones right now. Hundreds of young youngsters are taking part in “Stepping Up” ceremonies at Children’s Aid sites across the city, marking another year of educational and social-emotional development. Hundreds will graduate to kindergarten in the fall. Others will ascend to the next level in our Early Childhood programs, having a lot of fun while learning the valuable skills that will put them in a position to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

These events are certainly cute, as you can see in the photo gallery, but they are also a critical moment in their young lives that tells them what they are doing is important and that their parents and teachers are proud of them. So please wish these kids the best as they set out to do wonderful things. 


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A Path to Success

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June is a busy but thrilling time of year. School lets out, our youngest kids enjoy their “stepping up” ceremonies, thousands prepare for summer camps across the city and at our Wagon Road Camp.

But one of the most gratifying experiences we have each year is to share the achievement of so many high school seniors as they graduate and get ready for their next steps. Last week, we celebrated 57 young men and women who won more than $150,000 scholarships as they take aim at higher education.

The Stern Memorial Scholarship Luncheon, at Lido Harlem, is a highly anticipated event for both students and Children’s Aid Staff. The Stern family, represented by Rob and Yuka Stern and their son, Ren, have established two different scholarships that benefit nine soon-t0-be freshman. This year’s winners will be attending Cornell University, Hunter College, Virginia State, a host of schools in the SUNY system, and other colleges. “You’ve made something good happen,” said Rob Stern. “You’ve lifted all the heavy weights. You’ve earned it.”

The Stern scholars were in attendance on Friday, June 19, for the Children’s Aid Scholarship Awards Ceremony, the crowning event of the year for the Path to College Success Program. They joined dozens of other ambitious and aspiring students at the Silberman School for Social Work in East Harlem. Adam Graves, a former star hockey player for the New York Rangers, was just one of many distinguished presenters during the night. He introduced the four recipients of the Garden of Dreams/Inspire Scholarship, which is a renewable scholarship worth up to $40,000 over four years.

The following scholarships were also awarded: The Jean and Wick Stern Memorial Scholarship, The Richard R. Dieterle Memorial Scholarship, The Alonzo Milligan Mentorship Award, The Gluck-Dyja Family Scholarship, The Audrey Miller Poritzky Scholarship, The Elda Alicia Santaran Scholarship, The Aegis Media Cares Scholarship, The Jean Marie DeVeaux Scholarship, The Golf Classic Scholarships, and The Children's Aid Society Path to College Success Scholarships.

The winners came from every corner of Children’s Aid: Hope Leadership Academy, Opportunity Charter School, Urban Assembly of Math and Science for Young Women, the East Harlem Center, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, and more. This night couldn’t be anything but fantastic, with so many young women and men about to take the next giant step on their path to excellence and success. Congratulations to all!



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.