The Children's Aid Blog

Food Justice Students Embark on Community Projects

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The radical thinking middle-schoolers in our Food Justice Program have been working hard since the beginning of the school year--exploring topics such as hunger and food security, what it means to eat healthy and the impact our food choices have both personally and as a community. They have interviewed their neighbors, mapped the food options available in local bodegas and supermarkets, evaluated advertisements and used photo and video techniques to document this whole process. Now it’s time for the students to create a community project.

The project ideas we have seen so far reflect the unique creativity of these serious, funny and talented kids.  For example, the group at C.S. 211 in the Bronx has chosen to create a Diabetes Cookbook, and they have invited their teachers, parents and other community members to work on it with them. Each week, a “guest chef” comes to class, and together they cook their favorite healthy recipe. Dr. May May Leung, Assistant Professor at the CUNY School of Public Health, has also offered to provide a nutritional analysis for the recipes so that the final product can be an effective tool in the fight against diabetes.

The group at P.S. 50 in East Harlem has been using their artistic talents to create a promotional video for the Food Justice program involving rap, spoken-word and dance. They found an experienced lyricist and hip-hop artist who shares their passion for community health and has offered to donate his time and experience to help them make a hit music video. They have already begun to choreograph step-dances and write rhymes about their favorite healthy snacks!

Finally, the East Harlem Center group is collaborating with a prominent local artist to create a food justice mural in their community. Together they will co-create a work of art that demonstrates their shared vision of universal access to healthy food.
 
All of these projects, along with their photography/video documentation, will be showcased in the final event on June 12 at Hunter College from 5 – 7 p.m. Stay tuned as the details of the projects, and the event itself, continue to unfold. If you want to get involved with our Food Justice program, contact at Kaitlin Dougherty at kdougherty@childrensaidsociety.org.

Written by Kaitlin Dougherty

Campaign for Children Rallies Outside City Hall

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Hundreds of children, youth workers and government officials gathered this morning outside of City Hall, rallying against the proposed budget cuts to after-school and other OST (out-of-school time) programs. At the rally, which was led by the Campaign for Children, young people from a range of community organizations delivered heartfelt testimonies on how after-school programming has positively impacted their academic and personal growth. Children also performed jump rope routines, songs, drumming and dances, all activities they learned from the very programs that could be facing elimination.

City Council members Jackson, Levin, Brewer, Gennaro and others also voiced their strong opposition to the budget cut plans, and pledged to fight for New York City’s youth. City Council member Gale Brewer even remarked that after-school programming is so crucial to a child’s development that she considers it as important as school itself.

Please click here to browse through our photo gallery of today’s rally.

From the Associates Council: What’s in a Name?

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Last year’s second annual spring fundraiser was “A Gatsby Affair,” and the David Rubenstein Atrium transformed into the terrace of Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Some of our most enthusiastic guests dressed in flapper outfits and fashion of the Roaring Twenties, and everything from the raffle tiers to the cocktails fell in line with the theme.

When we sat down to choose this year’s theme, we thought about what made Gatsby such a good pick. A lot of us on the committee liked the idea of a literary reference, but we also wanted to tie the event back to children. After many rounds of discussion and fruitless attempts to recall the classic novels we read in high school, we landed on children’s literature as a long-term motif for the spring party. This of course meant reaching even further back into our English class memories, but we eventually came up with a list of favorite books.

Books are a very personal thing, so it was hard to agree on the best one. Plus, we wanted the story to have a festive quality (Oliver Twist just wouldn’t do). We decided to table the issue and revisit it at the next meeting.

But then, just a few days later, a few committee members read that Pantone had selected Emerald as the color of the year, and suggested that we turn the Wizard of Oz idea from our book brainstorm into an “Emerald City” theme.

This worked on so many levels. For one, the Wizard of Oz is a story virtually everyone knows, and the fact that it’s both a book and a movie makes for great marketing and creative around the event. Second, the David Rubenstein Atrium is decorated with a mixture of greenery and cityscapes. Third, the green-ness of the theme would align well with our beneficiary Go!Healthy’s mission of healthy eating. Overall, it was exactly the kind of whimsical, colorful, lively theme a party on a May evening demands.

The response to the “Emerald City” theme has been wonderful so far--but I can’t give away all the decorating plans just yet. I will say that Sephora has agreed to send makeup artists to the party to add a splash of emerald to our guests’ looks. And I just found the perfect emerald dress.

We hope you’ll join us--in theme or just in your Wednesday finest--on May 8. Buy tickets now at TheACStop.org.

--Giuliana Vetrano, Co-chair, Spring Event Committee

The Dunlevy Milbank Center Opens an Imagination Playground

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This past Friday night, the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem debuted its newest addition – the Imagination Playground. This exciting new mobile play system is made up of big, bright blue blocks of various shapes and sizes for children to play with, including cubes, bricks, cogs, curves and cylinders. What makes this playground special is that children can use their own creativity with the blocks to construct customized objects, such as rocket ships and robots, or places, such as houses and cities, or may use the blocks to invent new games with their peers. The Imagination Playground is for ages 2 and up, and aside from being exceptionally fun, is a great place for youngsters to develop their social and cognitive skills in a safe setting.

Children’s Aid and the Dunlevy Milbank Center would like to thank nonprofit organization KaBOOM! and the NFL for generously donating this new space to the Central Harlem community.

Fannie Lou High School Wins Basketball Tournament

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The boys basketball team at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, a Children’s Aid community school, achieved their dream of winning the Division B basketball championship on March 17. After a very successful season, including a record of 28-3 and a nearly three-month winning streak, Fannie Lou’s 63-58 win came as no surprise against opposing team Wingate Education Campus.

Several of the championship team members have had strong connections to Children’s Aid throughout their basketball careers and schooling. Some participated in our basketball after-school clubs, and others were active with our academic services in our center at Fannie Lou. And Children’s Aid’s partnership with Helen Keller International provided one student, Oscar Norales, with a donation of prescription basketball goggles.

Congratulations to Fannie Lou for an inspirational season!

 

From the Associates Council: Down the Yellow Brick Road

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Like “The Odyssey” and “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Wizard of Oz” is a story about a quest. At the end of the yellow brick road lies the Emerald City, and all Dorothy and her friends have to do is get there.

Easier said than done.

This spring, the members of the Associates Council are working our way to our very own Emerald City--the name we’ve chosen for our annual spring fundraising event on May 8 at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. And it’s no small task! The 15 enthusiastic AC members who make up the event committee have committed to months of preparations for one serious cocktail party, which we’re counting on to deliver much-need funds for this year’s AC beneficiary, Go!Healthy.

Here on the AC blog we’ll be documenting the highlights of the planning committee’s journey toward our goal. Stay tuned for more information about how we picked the theme, the special guests we’ve invited, the generous companies who are sponsoring us, and profiles of our outstanding members.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Here we go.

-- Giuliana Vetrano, Co-chair, Spring Event Committee

Children’s Aid Holds Grand Opening for South Bronx Headquarters

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The Children’s Aid Society held a grand opening today for its new 40,000 square foot Bronx headquarters, with a crowd of nearly 100 donors, friends and staff gathering to mark the occasion. The new site, located at 910 East 172nd Street, features a state-of-the-art health center that will provide more than 15,000 visits per year to an estimated 4,000 children, nearly doubling the capacity of the organization’s current medical, dental and mental health services in the South Bronx.

The new site will accommodate health care referrals from all Children’s Aid programs in the South Bronx, and will provide comprehensive health and social services for children and adolescents from Children’s Aid’s foster care programs in the South Bronx.

“Families that become connected to our Child Welfare and Family Services will find that services that might have otherwise taken them from one side of the Bronx to the other are happening under one roof,” said Director of Permanency Michael Wagner in his remarks to the crowd. “This will ease access and free up time that families need to be strong and connected.”

Over the last 12 years, Children’s Aid has built a network of coordinated services for underserved children and families in targeted South Bronx neighborhoods, where poverty and unemployment rates are high, college graduation rates are under 10 percent and health indicators—obesity,  teen births, and access to care and insurance—rank among the worst in the country.

"Recognizing the vital role that health and parent engagement play in student success, today we are poised to act boldly on our promise to help children on a pathway from cradle to college," President and CEO Richard Buery told the guests. "Our capable staff will provide children and families health care, as well as safety and stability, to assure that children will have all they need to succeed and thrive."

Dia Ortiz, who was placed in foster care as a teenager and is now in her junior year at John Jay College, spoke movingly of the mentors and friends who continue to support her on her journey to adulthood.

“Children’s Aid adopted me,” she said. “They’re my family.”

IBM Donates Kid-friendly Computer Stations to the Drew Hamilton Learning Center

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Technology company IBM recently donated brand new, cutting edge computer stations to four classrooms at The Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Learning Center as part of an effort to distribute computers to early childhood programs located within New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facilities. Located in West Harlem, the center offers quality and accessible early childhood programming to high-needs children in the neighborhood, preparing them socially, emotionally and intellectually for kindergarten. This gift provides our Drew Hamilton preschoolers, many of whom live in NYCHA’s Drew Hamilton and Frederick E. Samuel Houses, with a tremendous boost, since at least 85% of the low-income children who attend our programs do not have access to computers at home.

The “Young Explorer” kid-friendly computer stations are fun and brightly colored. They are part of IBM’s KidSmart Early Learning grant program, designed to introduce youngsters to technology, as well as cultivate their math, science, language and team building skills. According to research, this programming provides substantial improvements for disadvantaged youth as they prepare for kindergarten. For the children Drew Hamilton serves, who are impressively resilient and have already overcome so many obstacles to successfully navigate their way to being kindergarten-ready, an infusion of friendly, bright, accessible technology is a tremendous advantage. Many parents also benefit from the new computers by participating in workshops with their children, learning the best methods to ensure that their kids are tech-savvy by the time they reach kindergarten. 

Since the inception of the KidSmart Early Learning Program, IBM has invested more than $133 million, donating more than 70,000 Young Explorers to schools and nonprofit organizations in 60 countries, reaching more than 105,000 teachers and more than 10 million students.

The Children’s Aid Society is profoundly grateful to IBM for giving our children the advantage they need to succeed in today’s high-tech world, and prepare them for the social and intellectual demands of kindergarten and grade school.

Parent Literacy Event at Children’s Aid’s Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus

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Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Children’s Aid community school site in Washington Heights, recently hosted a gathering of roughly 80 parents and their middle schoolers. This was no regular home-school communication meeting; it was a rather impressive cross-generational and cross-genre theater event.  Grandparents, parents and children performed theater skits that they themselves directed, with profound themes spanning from euthanasia, bullying, and separation between school and religion to the negative impact of forced immigration on families.  

The performance was the result of a process that began in December 2012 with a playwriting workshop at the Children’s Aid Wagon Road Camp.  The workshop was facilitated by poet and playwright Dinorah Coronado, who has generously donated her time and talent to the school community for many years. She guided the parents through the complex writing process, helping them shape and edit their plays, which were made available to the audience in printed—and proudly signed—copies.

The event, which was coordinated by Children’s Aid staff Lidia Aguasanta, Lorena Jimenez-Castro and Migdalia Cortes-Torres, exemplifies how community schools create meaningful opportunities for parent and family engagement.

Written by Hersilia Mendez

 

Children’s Aid Commemorates Dominican Independence

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Parents and other adults who participate in engagement programs at Children’s Aid recently gathered at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus for its annual Dominican Independence Celebration. Drawn from all over Washington Heights, a neighborhood famous for its rich Dominican culture and life, the crowd enjoyed an exhibit, delicious food, a musical performance and a theater production titled “Mujeres De Febrero” (The Women of February). This production tells the story of Juan Pablo Duarte, who passionately fought for the Dominican Republic’s independence, and includes the stories of three powerful female figures who dramatically improved life for the Dominican people. The show was written by Dinorah Coronado, a writer and founder of Teatro Coronado who has received many awards and nominations for the production and her books.