The Children's Aid Blog

Celebrating a Head Start on Learning

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Family, friends and staff looked on with pride as their children paraded into the decorated gym at the P.S. 152 Dyckman Valley School this past Tuesday for the school’s very first Head Start “Moving Up” ceremony. For these youngsters, who started the program as 3-year-olds and had never spent time away from their caregivers, moving up signifies so much growth in their development. They commemorated a year full of new books, skills, teachers and friends.

The Early Childhood program at P.S. 152, a Children’s Aid community school in Washington Heights, is still very much in its early years. The program expanded its presence in this community in 2011 with the implementation of Early Head Start at the school.  It later broadened its client base with the addition of Head Start in 2012 thanks to funding through ACS. “This year has been a dream realized,” said the school’s principal, Julia Pietri, of the first Head Start group at P.S. 152. Early Childhood services are also offered at community schools P.S. 5 and P.S. 8 in Washington Heights.

The Early Childhood program at The Children’s Aid Society strives to develop a lifelong love of learning in our communities youngest children beginning at birth. Its comprehensive approach focuses on meeting a child’s social, emotional, physical and developmental needs and improving parental engagement inside and outside the classroom.

Grand Opening Held for the Manhattan Preventive Services Center

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Our newest facility, the two-floor, newly renovated Manhattan Preventive Services Center, celebrated its opening with an official ribbon cutting ceremony on June 14. Many Children’s Aid staff members as well as Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell Jr., Deputy ACS Commissioner Jacqueline McKnight and a representative from Councilwoman Inez Dickens’ office attended the event, celebrating the opening and viewing the space of our new Manhattan home for the 32-year-old Preventive Services Program.

The Preventive Services Program at The Children’s Aid Society provides a comprehensive array of family-focused and home-based intervention services, aimed at strengthening families and alleviating stressors for children. Key components include:

•Individual, family and group counseling

•Teen and parenting groups

•Parenting guidance

•Case management services


We are also proud to share that Preventive Services has received high praise from the ACS and a renewed city contract for the next 10 years, allowing us to continue our high-quality family support services for communities in Upper Manhattan.

AAMI Hosts “The Central Park Five” Screening, Panel Discussion

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On Tuesday night, several dozen young men who are part of Children’s Aid’s African American Male Initiative (AAMI) attended a screening of the 2012 Ken Burns documentary, “The Central Park Five.”  The documentary recounts the wrongful conviction of five black and Latino teenagers for the brutal attack and rape of a female Central Park jogger in 1989.

Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise, two of the five accused as young men, joined the AAMI participants for the screening and later offered their reflections on the film, discussing the various racial and social issues depicted in it. Mr. Salaam and Mr. Wise, now in their 40s, spoke about their tribulations before, during and after their prison sentences and how they have managed to stay positive and hopeful.

The young men from AAMI, most the same age as the Central Park Five at the time of their convictions, were able to connect on many levels with Mr. Salaam and Mr. Wise as they could image what they stand to lose if ever in the same situation. The youth learned to appreciate trivial things in their lives like how much time they spend with loved ones or merely eating a home cooked meal, two things that are lost while in prison. It was inspiring for these young men to witness the resiliency of their visitors, who through forgiveness have been able to move on to productive and fulfilling lives.

The African American Male Initiative was launched in 2007 by The Children's Aid Society to help young black males receive all the support needed to become successful. Rooted in research and guided by expert advisors, the program aims to reverse persistent negative outcomes—academic, social-emotional, health and behavioral—for African American boys by intervening early in their lives and urging them to reach for excellence.

A Visit from the Chancellor

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Schools Chancellor Walcott, along with DYCD Commissioner Mullgrav, paid a visit to CS 211 this morning as part of a tour of NYC Summer Quest sites. Together, the group practiced with the marching band, observed a cooking demonstration and paid a visit to the chicken coop outside 211.

Summer Quest is a free, five-week, full-day summer learning program that provides elementary and middle school students with fun, hands-on enrichment experiences while strengthening their academic skills. DOE teachers collaborate with educators from community-based organizations to offer students Common-Core aligned instruction, enrichment activities, sports and recreation, and field trips.

The program’s aim is to help promote equity in learning for all students, infusing the best practices of academic preparation and enrichment with the fun of summer camp. In the program’s first year, NYC Summer Quest served over 1,120 students in the South Bronx across 11 sites.

Volunteers Brighten Up Harlem Early Childhood Center

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In June, the Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Children’s Center got a splash of color thanks to volunteers from the Fixed Income Division of Morgan Stanley. This generous beautification project, coordinated by New York Cares, involved the volunteers painting two murals inside the center’s Go!Books room.

The murals depict the children in future careers, as scientists, athletes, police officers and other professionals. Another wall shows a teacher reading to her students, a warm reminder to all that literature is greatly valued by adults and students alike.

The volunteers were energetic and friendly, and worked well together despite the cramped space. They took pride in their project and paid great attention to detail. “Our children are thrilled with the beautiful murals that Morgan Stanley created for them and now they feel that they have a very special place to engage in Go! Books activities,” said Donna Chandler, director of the Drew Hamilton Children’s Center. “The children have stated that the art is ‘awesome.’ They are reminded daily that books will help them grow and learn, and that one day they will become the doctors, construction workers, scientists, teachers and world leaders of the future.”

EXCEL Keeps College Dreams in Reach at 2013 Graduation

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This past Friday, June 14, The Children’s Aid Society’s EXCEL Program (Education eXecellence Creating Empowered Leaders) graduated 47 high school seniors and 25 college graduates at a lively ceremony, held in the Con Edison headquarters building near Union Square. EXCEL is a unique program offered at our various community schools and community centers throughout New York City, preparing underprivileged students ages 14 to 21 for success in college and their futures. It does this through a comprehensive integration of college exploration, financial aid resources and scholarships, employment preparation, mentoring and community service opportunities.

At the event, students gathered to celebrate their accomplishments in the program, as well as their personal, academic and professional achievements. Throughout the evening the students were also presented with scholarships and various awards, and delivered moving speeches.

A huge thank-you goes to the various foundations, corporations and individual donors, as well as the 2013 Golf Classic participants, for the generous support of the EXCEL program. Without this support the amazing work at EXCEL would not be possible.

Photography by Lonnie Johnson

Special Art Show Featuring Children's Aid Artists

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This spring, The Children’s Aid Society was honored to be one of five UBS NYC community partners to participate in a special art show, featuring artwork inspired by the Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative’s “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” exhibit. Students from the East Harlem Center and Community School P.S. 50 in the Bronx began their creative process by first participating in an inspiring tour of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Discussing the various pieces of art and diverse themes helped the students to begin thinking about their own art pieces. In the art workshops following the museum tours, the group used a narrative approach to creating their art work which was reflective of the Guggenheim “No Country” exhibit. The students’ art from all five partners was on grand display as the My Map. My story exhibition at the UBS Corporate Gallery.

This is The Children’s Aid Society’s second year collaborating with UBS, a global firm that provides financial services to private, corporate and institutional clients. In 2011, East Harlem Center youth explored the theme “New York: Through Our Eyes” and had the opportunity to meet UK artist Stephen Wiltshire.

In addition to providing memorable opportunities for children to express themselves through art, UBS supports Children’s Aid youth in their transition from middle school to high school and beyond through other engaging initiatives.


Children's Aid Holds Its 14th Annual Golf Classic

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The 14th Annual Children's Aid Society Golf Classic was held recently at the renowned Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey. Baltusrol is the site of 14 Children's Aid Classics, 15 USGA national championships, seven U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship. In 2016, the PGA Championship will return for a second time.

The Classic kicked off with a brunch, followed by 18 holes on the championship lower course, and ended with a cocktail reception, awards ceremony and a spirited auction. The event raised over $180,000 to fund higher education readiness programs and scholarships for hard-working yet underprivileged youth, such as the teens in our EXCEL program.  Since 2000, the Children’s Aid Golf Classic has raised over $3.35 million.

Special Guests speakers included Howard Cross, SVP, Cresa, Co-host, YES Network’s This Week in Football, Sideline analyst for the New York Giants’ radio network and member of the Super Bowl XXV Champion New York Giants; and Elvis Santana, a graduate of both the EXCEL program and Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, a Children's Aid community school, who is now studying Organizational Psychology at Albertus Magnus College.

A very heartfelt thank you to our 2013 Golf Classic sponsors including Founding Sponsor, Accenture; Hole-in-One Sponsor, Audi of Bernardsville and Mendam; foursome supporters Buck Consultants, EmblemHealth, FXI, Russel Hamilton, Jon Harrington, High Point Wealth Management, Housen Financial Group, HUB International Northeast, MKP Capital Management, LVI Services, Merrill Lynch and UnitedHealthcare Oxford; and our dedicated Steering Committee.

Click here to view photos of the 2013 Golf Classic.


27th Annual Parent Family Life & Sexuality Graduation

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On Friday, June 7, The Children's Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) held its 27th graduation ceremony for the Parent Family Life & Sexuality Education program (PFLSE) at Hunter College.

PFLSE is a multi-week workshop that encourages New York City parents to be their children’s primary source of sexuality information. Led by bilingual CAS-Carrera sexuality educators with peer support from promotores (trained community educators), PFLSE provides these parents with knowledge and strategies on how to become more actively involved in their child’s sexual development.

Dr. Michael A. Carrera, who launched CAS-Carrera in 1984, urged the graduates, family members and the Children’s Aid community to remember that the most powerful sexuality message to convey to children is unconditional love and belief in them that they are good and capable.

Every year, class valedictorians are chosen to share what they learned over the course of the program. Danny Vallecillo of the Salome Urena de Henriquez campus in Washington Heights and Melissa Gomez from the Urban Assembly Institute for Young Women in Brooklyn spoke eloquently about their participation in the program, how it has improved their views about sexuality and strengthened their overall communication with their children.

“My biggest fear in life is that my daughters take the same steps I took in becoming a teen mom,” said Ms. Gonzalez remembering her own journey. “But with this amazing program, my mind is a little bit more at ease.”

Photos by Lily Kesselman


Fannie Lou Holds Outdoor Peace Fair

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On May 16, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School held its third annual Peace Block Fair. Three years ago, the fair was created to honor students who have been killed due to gang and gun violence–students who went to Fannie Lou and also those outside of Fannie Lou who lost their lives due to this issue.

One student killed in gun violence, Damien Martinez, was remembered by a classmate. Nashali Batista, who graduated from Fannie Lou, said “I knew Damien by going to middle school with him. He lived right up the block from me. Damien Martinez was like my brother, family and best friend and I wish it had never happened.”

After experiencing these events, the students of Fannie Lou TV, a video production class in the school, decided to create the Peace Fair and bring awareness on gun and gang violence in the community.

Every single student from Fannie Lou attended the Peace Fair this year, so it was staged by class. The first classes to go to the peace fair were freshmen and sophomores and the last classes to attend were the juniors and seniors.

Many different activities were available for the students to participate in—such as basketball, foosball, button making and many others. At the fair, there were also information tables from groups such as Healthy Eating in the Community and the Gay-Straight Alliance, which is a student-run club that brings together straight and LGBT students to support each other, create a safe environment and create activism to fight homophobia and transphobia. Another information table was Bronx Defenders, which is an organization that helps students and their families deal with legal challenges.

In conclusion, the 2013 Peace Fair was a success. At the end, students gathered with white and purple balloons, releasing them into the air to honor victims of gun and gang violence.

Click here to look through pictures of the Peace Fair.

Written by Sonia Rodriguez. Sonia is a senior at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, a Children's Aid community school. This fall, she will be attending SUNY Purchase.