The Children's Aid Blog

GIRLTALK #TakesOver Milbank

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GIRLTALK #takeover, an initiative co-founded by fashion designer and entrepreneur Angela Simmons and real estate executive Kerri Berson Levine to empower young girls with positive representation and mentorship, recently visited the Milbank summer camp in Harlem for an interactive day of fashion and fitness.

“Impressionable young girls are not receiving the right messages or being exposed to positive influences, particularly through the media,” said Angela Simmons. “GIRLTALK #takeover fills this void by creating an entertaining event in a comfortable setting with role models and professionals delivering important messages to encourage the girls’ full potential and help shape them for a healthy and creative future.”

More than 200 girls participated in exercises designed to boost self-esteem. They were treated to hair styling, makeup, and manicures; took part in yoga sessions, a Pretty Girls Sweat workout, and a fashion show; and they received a healthy cooking demonstration. A few celebrity guests, including singers Ne-Yo, Justine Skye, rapper Diggy Simmons, and athlete Mo’Ne Davis also stopped in to surprise the campers.

Center director Casper Lassiter said, “GIRLTALK #takeover will empower girls to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens by developing a strong healthy self-concept, a strong belief in their self-worth, and sense about their future.”

We thank GIRLTALK #takeover and their sponsors for providing our girls with a fun and dynamic experience.

Action! Broadway Goes to the Bronx

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This summer, we’ve embarked on an exciting partnership with Broadway Serves, an organization made up of members of the Broadway community who want to make a difference. We’re thrilled to work with them because they have brought some incredible programming to our kids at C.S. 61 in the Bronx.

Broadway Serves wanted to work with every age group at C.S. 61. For grades K-3, the group, along with their Kids Serve volunteers, ran a toiletry drive to provide much needed supplies to the men and women served by Urban Pathways, a nonprofit that works to get the homeless into stable housing. Getting a supply of toiletries is of great importance to this population.

About 30-40 participants in grades 4-5 are participating in a four-week workshop, led by six Broadway Serves theater professionals, to learn about movement, acting, and creative writing. All of these activities are anchored in raising awareness about food and health justice. “The students have really gotten very engaged with the idea of access to good, health food and how that fits into their lives,” said Dionne Figgins, a co-founder and director of programming at Broadway Serves. Each grade level has a professional playwright currently working on a script that the students will then rehearse and stage. The performance of these four short plays will be on August 14.


JANA Partners’ Summer Tradition

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You can count on two things during the summer in New York City. Several bouts of sweltering heat and the staunch support of JANA Partners. On July 9, 30 of their employees travelled to Dunlevy Milbank Center, in Harlem, and split into groups to tackle some major projects across the property. One group painted a mural as well as repainted picnic tables and walls on the rooftop. Another group completely cleaned up the center courtyard and planted new bushes and grass. The third group cleaned and planted the garden that is used to teach classes for our Go!Healthy programs.

This is the fourth Go!Healthy site in which JANA Partners invested their time and money. JANA paid for the entire cost of the project and supplemented that with additional funding for Go!Healthy.

Huge thanks to JANA for their commitment to kids in New York City.


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 (Mirabel Sisters)
By Jorge Diaz, MS 324, 7th Grade (Mirabel Sisters)
By Dhrake Velez, MS 324, 6th Grade (Mirabel 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.