The Children's Aid Blog

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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Foster Friday: The Making of a Family

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Herbert Godoy and David Hatcher had been thinking for some time about how they were going to start their family. They knew they were going to adopt but didn’t know which of several routes to take. Then they saw a picture of Jaylen.

David is an executive producer for WNBC News in New York, and approves the weekly segments of “Wednesday’s Child,” a  feature that helps find adoptive homes for children who are in foster care and cannot reunify with their families. As a result, he has seen the faces of many youth in foster care come across his desk. There was something about Jaylen, now age five, that spoke to him.

“I could see his energy and his vibrance and sense of personality,” said David. “He was just unlike anyone I had ever seen.”

Herbert, who works in human resources for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising firm, was similarly struck. “I knew he was the one.”

They met Jaylen in October 2014 and quickly started taking the full slate of classes and training that all Children's Aid foster care parents go through. Day visits led to overnight stays. “He really felt comfortable with us and very attached,” said Herbert.

The family lives in Harlem, and Herbert and David are overjoyed by how their life has changed. “He brings this love and energy, and makes our lives so much better,” said David.

Until Jaylen went to live with his new parents, he had spent his entire life in foster care. That fact isn't apparent when you meet him. After just a few months in a new school, he seems to know everyone. “He has a sweetness that is contagious,” said Herbert.

David and Herbert credit the classes and training they took with helping them become good parents. “Having support from an agency is so important,” said Herbert, “just knowing you can call someone and say, 'I don't know how to do this.'”

“If you're looking to becoming a parent through adoption, look into fostering,” said David. “It makes you look inward and think about how well-equipped you are for being a parent.”

Herbert and David appear to be on the right track. They can officially apply for adoption in July and hope to finalize soon thereafter.

A big part of their success might be attributable to the way they've approached raising a son. “Adopting Jaylen was about embracing him, who he is, and not trying to change him,” said Herbert. “We accepted Jaylen for who he is and we encourage him to be who he is.”

Representing Children’s Aid

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Earlier this spring, eight teens from our four different Boys & Girls Clubs competed to be the Children’s Aid representative in the Youth of the Year competition. The competition was stiff, and it was difficult to pick one candidate above all others. But Sage Lopez, from our East Harlem Center, rose to the top and earned the right to travel to Albany and compete for the statewide honor. While he didn’t win, he had a great experience and wrote about his journey and the competition:

After being chosen as The Children's Aid Society Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year, I began rehearsing my Youth of the Year speech for the New York State competition. My speech articulates in three minutes who I am, what impact my club has had on me and my entire community, and what my vision is for the youth of the future. At the state competition, in Albany, Youth of the Year candidates from every corner of New York gathered to deliver their club-driven speech, and venerate Youth of the Year winners for being exemplary, young community leaders. 

My heart was crushed when I heard one particular Youth of the Year's struggle with adversity in a house where he had to be a grown-up from as early as 12 years old because his parents were substance abusers. While his parents' shortcomings lead to his siblings being put in foster care, and difficult circumstances, he managed to find stability, hope, and refuge at his local Boys & Girls Clubs. We were able to find inspiration when Youths of the Year recalled how their club's presence eradicated teen gang and drug association within a few years. And even I was able to empathize with a Youth of the Year who used to ask when his mother would return home. However this person's scenario was different since he was from a military base club and his mom's job included long deployment periods. Still, the sense that life is uncertain is a feeling almost everyone can relate is not easy to be optimistic when facing adversities, but these individuals succeed and the club is at the backbone of their resiliency. 

I felt very inspired by the accomplishments of all my peers at the Albany celebration. I was ecstatic at Dave & Busters when my advisor got a thousand D&B tickets on her first attempt at a game. The exclusive tour of the College of Nanoscale was epic; they have the best in store when it comes to top of the line technology! The historic area surrounding the Capitol and Legislative buildings, and the food, makes Albany worthy of a revisit. 

The opportunity to sit in on a Senate hearing on global warming, as well meeting my local representatives such as Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblymen Michael Benedetto, and Assemblymen Robert Rodriguez's staff in their Albany offices, was exciting and memorable. We discussed the importance of providing teenagers with positive programs in their communities, and I was invited to visit them in their NYC offices with other Keystone Club members.

Next year I will not be able to qualify for Youth of the Year because I will be 19. I strongly urge other teens to seek mentorship, membership, and accomplishment as a Boys & Girls Club youth, and run for Youth of the Year in their region. An investment in the club, and an investment in the youth, is honestly an investment for a better future. 

Thank you so much, and thanks for reading,Sage Lopez,
Children’s Aid Society 2015 Youth of the Year


Americorps Graduates Keep Moving Forward

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On May 19, our AmeriCorps program celebrated the end of another great year of service with a graduation ceremony for its members at the National Center for Community Schools on Riverside Drive. Guest Speaker Farhad Ashgar, the senior director of strategic partnerships for the College Board’s Access to Opportunity program, offered the graduates a time for reflection and shared with them a message from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “If you can't fly, then run, if you can't run, then walk, if you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

This past year, 64 members completed more than 35,000 hours of service in their communities. In those hours, members planned direct community service projects for 400 Children’s Aid Society students and engaged over 3,000 students at 22 program sites. Program Director Sharifa Shorter presented the graduates with certificates of completion and jars containing letters that the members wrote to themselves a year ago.    

In addition to their hard work at Children’s Aid sites, members also volunteered with various organizations such as the Food Bank for NYC, Isabella Geriatric Center, Habitat for Humanity, Student Conservation Association at East River Park, Taft Senior Center, and Riverbank State Park.

We are sad to say goodbye to our Americorps members, but we thank them for their service and the positive impact they have made in our students’ lives, and we wish them luck in moving forward.