The Children's Aid Blog

Hope Academy Youth Honored by Boys & Girls Club of America

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Julio Santana, a participant at The Children's Aid Society Hope Leadership Academy, was recently honored as one of the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) “Faces of the Future.” His interest in computers and dedication to our technology program have earned him one of the few spots in this national campaign which highlights the great work being done at our community centers.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Julio is a young man who has been chasing a dream of a better future for his entire life. He spent most of his childhood in Santo Domingo with his mother after his father legally immigrated to New York almost thirty years ago. “It was lonely,” Julio said, but my father “always took care of us, he called, sent us money -- so I could study.” While in Dominican Republic, Julio attended a technical high school and studied computer programming, networking and learned to build databases using Microsoft Access.

In 2009, after enduring the loss of his older brother in an accident and watching his mother battle cancer, Julio and his mother were finally able to join the rest of their family in East Harlem. Eventually Julio began attending Hope Leadership Academy on Madison Avenue at 115th St.

When Julio first joined Hope, he barely spoke English, but his warm personality drew the other teens to him. Despite the language barrier, he became a leader in the technology program. Julio has been involved with computers ever since he “has memory,” he says. But thanks to the technology program he is gaining new skills, perfecting his English and having the opportunity to share his knowledge with other teens. Hope Leadership Academy has also introduced Julio to a welcoming community where he is able to meet and develop relationships with a diverse group of kids his age, as well as learn new tech skills and have access to a computer lab.

Julio is currently finishing an ESL prep course at Bronx Community College before he begins his degree in Computer Science. He wants to become a software engineer and earn his masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because “It’s one of the 10 best schools in the world for technology. I did the research.” Julio’s drive and dedication is obvious to everyone who meets him and he is a role model for his peers at Hope.

-Joanna Grosberg

2011 Youth Speak Out on Education Conference

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On Tuesday, May 10th, hundreds of youth attended the  7th Annual Youth Speak Out on Education Conference held at New York University’s Kimmel Hall and presented by The Children’s Aid Society, The Department of Education and The Audrey Miller Poritzky Education Fund for Children. This year's conference theme was “Preparing Students in Transition to Succeed in College.” Middle and high school students from throughout New York City and Children’s Aid community centers and schools came together to present their research on issues affecting the academic success of students in transitional housing.

The event opened with welcoming and inspirational remarks by Elayna Konstan, Executive Officer, Office of Youth Development, and Susana Vilardell, Director of Students in Transitional Housing Programs of the New York City Department of Education, and New York Ranger Adam Graves. As in the past, the youth presented their topics and solutions using power point presentations, skits and poetry. Among the many academic obstacles faced by students in transitional housing, the ones touched upon at the conference included inadequate spaces to study or do homework because of overcrowding, loss of supplemental academic services and programs due to budget cuts and strict curfews at shelters that prevent teens from visiting colleges. One very moving presentation was given by Angel from Children’s Aid's Dunlevy Milbank Center, who spoke about the importance of peer mentoring and extended day services in the life of students in transitional housing. He said that too often he sees “kids hitting each other instead of hitting the books” and that “these programs help unleash talents.” Speaking of his own journey, he believes that these programs give children in transition the opportunity to be a kid.

This year the conference presented two Q&A panels, one featuring college students who were successful while in transitional housing or facing issues with immigration. This first panel discussion was moderated by Toure, host of FUSE Network’s”Hip Hop Shop” and “On The Record with FUSE.” The second panel included The Children’s Aid Society’s very own President and CEO, Richard R. Buery, Jr., along with Anthony Orzo, Deputy CEO, Office of School and Youth Development, New York City Department of Education. Both panelists shared their personal stories about the obstacles they had to overcome and advice on how to stay focused on the road to college. Mr. Buery, who was one of the few residents of his block in East New York to go to college, credits his education for his success today.

Please visit our complete Youth Speak Out Photo Gallery.

Rhinelander Saturday Program for Deaf Children and Teens Honors Lost Participant

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On Saturday, April 30th, I had a great treat – the chance to sit outside on a beautiful day and watch a very quiet game of basketball among a very energetic group of deaf teens. Some of the teens are strong players, good enough for their high school teams. Others have played only a few times per year, mostly as part of our program. Even better, the game is co-ed. And, while winning and losing matters a bit, what matters most is that everyone who participates has fun.

For the past seven years, The Children’s Aid Society Rhinelander Saturday Program for Deaf Children and Teens has organized a basketball game and dinner for deaf teens from all over the city. The game was established in memory of a former Saturday Program participant and staff member named Kevin Lazare who was killed in a violent mugging; we believe he could not hear his attackers’ demands. After the game, there is always a moment of silence in Kevin’s memory. Before they moved to Georgia three years ago, Kevin’s mother helped cook dinner for the group and his brothers played basketball with the deaf teens.

This year the event was special because we had help from an amazing group of volunteers from TransCanada. Led by Community Relations Coordinator, Sharon Scott, the group included referees, coaches, “waterboys” and food service staff (who in real life are chemists, facilities workers and administrators). The volunteers were just as energetic as the teens. TransCanada has just signed on as a funder for the Saturday Program and their involvement in this event showed us how much they really care about the kids. The volunteers also took over a number of staff responsibilities for this event, so for the first time, Karen Solomon, the Program Director and I, actually found ourselves enjoying the game.

Laura Klein
Director, Rhinelander Children's Center

Children’s Aid Society and Diverse Coalition Demand City Reinstate Funding for After-School Programs

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The Children’s Aid Society, along with representatives from CAMBA, The Educational Alliance, The After-School Corporation, YMCA of Greater New York, United Neighborhood Houses, Good Shepherd Services, UJA-Federation and other advocates, was joined by Council members Lew Fidler and Jumanne D. Williams at a press conference on the steps of City Hall this morning to demand the City reinstate the $23 million proposed reduction in vital after-school programs.

“These programs provide essential opportunities and support for low-income children and have been proven to promote healthy development and reductions in crime, substance abuse, and pregnancy among teens. At least 16,000 underprivileged children will lose their after-school program throughout the City. We urge the Bloomberg Administration to work with The City Council to restore these devastating cuts” said Richard Buery, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society.

Please visit our Take Action Page to learn how you can contact the Mayor and City Council to demand that the cuts be restored before the June 30th budget deadline.

Richard Buery, Children’s Aid Society President and CEO, Addresses Mayor’s Executive Budget

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NEW YORK, May 5, 2011 – “As a key provider of city-funded daycare and after-school programs for New York City children, we are pleased that the Mayor has made some restorations to childcare subsidies for low-income New York families in his FY 12 executive budget. While we are encouraged by this news, as well as the restorations to child welfare preventive and homemaker services the Mayor made last month, we must also insist on restoration of funding for after-school (OST) programs – which stand to lose more than $23 million. These programs provide essential opportunities and support for low-income children and have been proven to promote healthy development and reductions in crime, substance abuse, and pregnancy among teens. At least 16,000 underprivileged children will lose their after-school program throughout the City. Further, the proposed cuts would make it impossible for some low-income working parents – who depend on these after-school programs for childcare – to earn a living; and hundreds of full- and part-time workers serving our most vulnerable populations will be laid off. The impact would be disastrous for children and working people, as well as for the economy of the City. We urge the Bloomberg Administration to work with The City Council to restore these devastating cuts.”

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter: @RichardBueryCAS

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

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Mark your calendars: May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month (NTPPM). Sponsored by Advocates for Youth, NTPPM is an educational campaign designed to help communities recognize the destructive effects of unintended teen pregnancy and early childbearing. The United States continues to have the highest adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in the industrialized world. Despite recent reductions in teen births in our country, 3 in 10 girls still get pregnant as teenagers.

The Children’s Aid Society is one of many organizations around the country that recognize the great need to work together to face the challenge of preventing this national tragedy. In 1984, Dr. Michael A. Carrera and The Children's Aid Society developed the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera). CAS-Carrera reduces teen pregnancy and births through educational repetitions centered on the benefits of abstinence, the importance of acquiring sexual and reproductive health knowledge, the wisdom of conscientious contraceptive use if abstinence is not chosen, the essential importance of acquiring primary health care, and the life-long benefits of educational achievement and developing aspirations for a career or profession. Guided by a philosophy that sees youth as "at promise" not "at risk," CAS-Carrera builds a participant's capacity and desire to avoid pregnancy.

As part of NTPPM, Dr. Carrera has partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth to discuss his “specific challenges and rewards of getting youth to care about their futures” based on his 40 years of working with young people.

Click to hear Dr. Carrera’s podcast or read the transcript.

If you’d like to support the efforts of CAS-Carrera, please click here.

Community School Honors the Memory of Jobis Ozoria

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Approximately 100 Children’s Aid Society parents, youth and staff crowded the auditorium at the Roberto Clemente Campus, a Children’s Aid Community School in the Bronx, for the naming ceremony in honor of Jobis Ozoria. The ceremony, which took place in early April, honored the life and work of Mr. Ozoria who was the Community School director at the Roberto Clemente Campus. He was tragically killed in a car accident in 2009.

Before his death, Jobis was instrumental in securing a grant from the office of New York City Council Member Helen Foster that was used to upgrade the auditorium’s audio equipment. The new auditorium will enhance all school functions and will also be of significant value to the students who admired and respected Jobis.

After a testimonial video with emotional and humorous anecdotes, Jobis’s father, sister and young daughter took to the stage and offered thanks for the tremendous amount of love and support. His sister shared a very meaningful dream she recently had with her late brother that brought the school a very strong message.

“…he came to me and wanted to take me to see where he lives now. He led me here, to I.S. 166.” She, along with other staff, reminded the students that Jobis had always wanted them to become bigger and better people, to graduate middle school, go on to high school and eventually college, that is exactly what he wanted for all his students.

2011 Iron Go! Chefs Competition: Teamwork, Healthy Cooking and Fun!

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For many children, Spring Break is coming to an end. But only a few can brag about having spent their time off participating in the 2nd Annual Children’s Aid Society Iron Go! Chefs Cooking Competition at the East Harlem Center! On April 19th, teams of elementary and middle school chefs from Children’s Aid Society centers and community schools showed off their cooking skills in hopes of winning the Best Overall prize and the prestigious title of “Iron Go! Chefs.” The students had only one hour to prep, cook and plate a delicious meal to be judged by a distinguished panel of judges, including New York City Commissioner of Community Affairs Nazli Parvizi, Radio Show host and Institute for Culinary Education instructor Chef Erica Wides (a.k.a. Chefsmartypants), filmmaker Heidi Reinberg and Children’s Aid staff.

All participating teams showed complete dedication in preparing a meal that was both healthy and delicious. Elementary age chefs competed during the morning with tasty breakfast treats and middle school students prepared nutritious meals appropriate for lunch or dinner with ingredients such as brown rice, salmon and shrimp.

Click here to view a complete photo gallery of the 2011 Go!Iron Chefs Compeition.

Click here to learn more about the Go!Healthy program.

All participating teams took home a prize in one category. This year's winners are:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL COMPETITION

Best Presentation - East Harlem Center Little Bites - Dish: Multigrain Pancakes with Fresh Fruit Sauce
Best Teamwork - Frederick Douglass Center’s Choppers - Dish: Hard-boiled Eggs and Pico de Gallo on multi-grain toast, served with a Mixed Berry Smoothie
Most Healthful - P.S. 5’s Chef Pepins, Dish - Cheesy Scrambled Eggs with a Quinoa Almond Milk Smoothie and a Fresh Fruit Cup
Most Ethnic Flair - C.S. 61 Scramblers - Dish: Breakfast Tostada with Kidney Beans, Scrambled Eggs and Low-fat Cheddar
Most Original
- P.S. 8 Little Stars’ Stars - Dish: Toasted Pita Nachos with Fresh Tomato “Star Sauce”, Spicy Egg and Veggie Omelet and Melted Cheddar Potatoes
Best Overall - P.S. 152 Top Chefs - Dish: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits with Veggie-packed Scrambled Eggs and Orange-Honey Fruit Salad

MIDDLE SCHOOL COMPETITION

Best Presentation - Mirabal Sisters Campus' MSC Chefs - Dish: Salmon and Baby Greens Salad in Whole Wheat Pita Pocket with Pineapple Salsa and a Delicious Pineapple “Soda”
Best Teamwork - East Harlem Center Mighty Bites - Dish: Shrimp Fried Rice with Cabbage and Carrot
Most Healthful - SUMA’s Dominasian Invasion - Dish: Asparagus-Broccoli-White Bean Soup
Most Ethnic Flair - I.S. 98 Bosses - Dish: Fish Taco with Pineapple-Strawberry Salsa
Most Original Dish - I.S. 166 Fire and Spice - Dish: Asian Noodles with Lemongrass Shrimp, Snap Peas and White Asparagus
Best Tasting
- I.S. 50’s Chef Kids Italiano - Dish: Whole Wheat Pasta with Sundried Tomatos and Feta Cheese
The Best Overall - Fannie Lou Hamer’s FLH Cooks - Dish: Salmon with Asparagus, Roasted Red Peppers and Brown Rice

Incredible Talent On Display at the 10th Annual Children's Art Show

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Dozens of youth attended the 10th Annual Children’s Art Show reception on April 14th to view their artwork on the legendary walls of the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park. The children, accompanied by family and friends, were bursting with pride as they slowly looked around for their piece and stayed close by throughout the evening in case one of the many cameras wanted to capture their moment.

The 10th Annual Children’s Art Show showcased over 150 pieces of art by children ages 3-18 and featured artwork of students from The Children’s Aid Society's fall and winter programs. The reception also featured a salsa performance from P.S./I.S. 50 Vito Marcoantonio, a Children’s Aid Community School in Harlem, and a fashion show from the Eco-Fashion and Green Design club at the Mirabal Sisters community school campus in Washington Heights.

Click here to view a complete photo gallery of the Art Show.

The Associates Council: Young Professionals Making a Difference for Children's Aid

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The Children’s Aid Society Associates Council (AC) is comprised of a dedicated group of young professionals who share the common vision to “convey the mission of the organization through both their words and deeds.” Since 1985, the AC has been taking ordinary volunteers and transforming them into future leaders that help guide Children’s Aid in its mission to serve New York City’s neediest children and families.

Members of the AC come from a variety of fields including media, finance, education, human resources, and social work. They combine their individual talents to provide a vibrant and diverse resource to The Children’s Aid Society. Throughout its history, AC members have spearheaded and engaged in numerous initiatives, projects, and special events such as Miracle on Madison Avenue, the Annual Holiday Toy Drive, and “Cocktails for a Cause” happy hours.

Currently, the Associates Council is focusing its efforts on an exciting calendar of fundraising events and forums. These include:

Childhood Obesity Speakers Forum
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
6:30 to 8:30pm
105 East 22nd Street, New York, NY

The Associates Council of the Children’s Aid Society invites you to “Preventing Childhood Obesity: A Speakers Forum.”  Shockingly, this could be the first generation where children do not outlive their parents.  Experts Kevin Dedner from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Children's Aid Society's Stefania Patinella will present compelling information on this wide-spread issue which will inevitably have a huge impact on our healthcare system and the future of our children and families.  Come learn about the facts, our approach, and how you can make a difference! For more information or to RSVP for this event, please email Malia Poai at maliap@childrensaidsociety.org. For a preview of this event, listen to Stefania Patinella talk about The Children's Aid Society's efforts to combat childhood obesity in the podcast at the bottom of the post.

FORWARD—First Annual Spring Cocktail Event
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
6:00pm to 9:00pm
Southwest Porch at Bryant Park
Bryant Park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

FORWARD will feature food from 'wichcraft, drinks from New York's best craft breweries, raffle prizes and more, all in one of the city's most picturesque spots. Proceeds go to The Children's Aid Society Early Childhood program. Purchase tickets here.

Click here for more information on these events or to learn more about The Children’s Aid Society Associates Council. You can also follow the AC on Facebook.

As a preview to the upcoming Childhood Obesity Speakers Forum, please click "Play" below to listen to an interview with Stefania Patinella, Director of Food and Nutrition Programs at The Children's Aid Society.

You may need: Adobe Flash Player.

The Children's Aid Podcast: Stefania Patinella discusses The Children's Aid Society's efforts to combat childhood obesity