The Children's Aid Blog

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.

2013 Iron Go!Chefs Competition

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For many young chefs at the Children’s Aid Society, the Iron Go!Chefs competition is the event they look forward to all year. At this year’s fourth annual event, held on Thursday, June 6 at the East Harlem Center, the students harnessed their energy and excitement to chop, grate and sautée their way to the top.

Teams of elementary and middle school chefs from Children’s Aid centers and community schools showed off their healthy cooking, teamwork and organization skills as they raced against the clock in hopes of winning the Best Overall prize and the prestigious title of “Iron Go! Chefs.” In that hour, the students had to prep, execute and plate a delicious meal for a tough panel of judges, including Kerry Heffernan, judge in Bravo TV’s “Top Chef All-Stars” and runner-up in season four of “Top Chef Masters;” Harrison Mosher, executive chef of Alta; Radha Agrawal, founder and CEO of Super Sprowtz; and Children’s Aid staff.

Elementary-age chefs competed during the morning, presenting tasty recipes like black bean burgers with sweet potato fries, and the middle school students prepared nutritious meals appropriate for lunch or dinner with ingredients such as quinoa, salmon and shrimp.

View photos of both sessions of Iron Go!Chefs competitions here.

Elementary School Competition
Middle School Competition

All participating teams were winners in one category. This year's winners are:


Best Presentation – Frederick Douglass Center SAPASE
Best Tasting – C.S. 61 Cooking Rebels
Most Healthful – East Harlem Center Dishing Divas
Most Cultural Flair – C.S. 50 Balance & Variety
Most Original Dish – P.S. 152 American Chefs
The Best Overall - P.S. 50 Invisible Ninjas


Best Presentation – East Harlem Center Food Justice League
Best Teamwork – Dunlevy Milbank Center Something Untouchable
Most Healthful – Salome Urena de Henriquez Campus SU Chefs
Most Cultural Flair - Mirabal Sisters Campus The Unstoppables
Most Original Dish – Frederick Douglass Center Red Hot Chili Steppers
Best Tasting – Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School Panthers
The Best Overall – C.S. 211 New Age Chefs


Bronx Bowmen Compete in Archery Tournament

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Archery programs for young people have been growing at a clip, as studies begin to show that the sport helps boost self-confidence, motivation and focus—while being fun at the same time.

For nearly eight years, Children’s Aid’s has offered after-school archery programs—run by noted coach Larry Brown—at several of our Bronx community schools. On Saturday, June 1, students and parents from the programs at P.S. 50, C.S. 61 and Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom Middle School and High School competed in a borough-wide tournament, held in the gymnasium at Fannie Lou.

The son of a bow maker, Coach Brown began competing in archery locally and nationally in the late 1970s. He was one of a handful of African Americans competing nationally in the often closed world of Olympic Tournament Archery. Coach Brown holds many tournament titles and continues to compete in local and national tournaments.

From 2002 to 2004, Brown was the head coach for the Columbia University Women’s Archery Program. He left Columbia determined to pursue his dream of promoting archery with inner city and African American and Latino youth. Currently, he teaches archery at 12 different elementary, middle and high schools in New York City. 

Approximately 150 young people—from age 7 up—and their parents participated. You can view photos of the tournament here.


Bronx Youth Forum Explores How Bullying and Drugs Impact School Life

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On May 30, a group of nearly 200 youth ages 12 to 18 from The Children’s Aid Society’s adolescent programs participated in the annual “Youth Speak Out On Education.”  

This half-day forum featured young people from across the Bronx and Manhattan discussing the impact of drugs and violence on student graduation success.

The event featured student presentations and peer-led discussions with a ground-eye view of schools, communities, home and shelter life, and what the Department of Education, politicians, community-based organizations and parents can do to help students continue their education and development, free from the victimization and violence that impact their future success.

After careful research leading up to the forum, students shared their findings and proposed solutions that policymakers and education leaders can implement at schools and at the community level to decrease the dropout rate and truancy, and to increase school attendance and completion.

Students from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School surveyed 200 of their peers about bullying. Presenters showed that bullying is underreported because bullied students feel embarrassment and fear, and do not want to look weak to their peers and teachers. Another group tackled drug use and violence in the home, noting that children of parents who abuse drugs are three times more likely to be victims of abuse.

A trio of Milbank after-school participants called for the smoking age to be raised from 18 to 21, while Hope Leadership Academy students presented an exhaustive look at the dangers of cigarettes and marijuana.  

Throughout the event, video projects, live skits and interactive Q&A sessions were used to engage audience members, who were enthusiastic participants throughout the morning.

On hand to thank and encourage the students were two Department of Education (DOE) officials, Elayna Konstan, who is chief executive officer of the Office of School Youth Development, and Susana Vilardell, the director of students for the DOE’s Students in Temporary Housing program.

Click here to view pictures from the forum.

Super Sprowtz Joins Children's Aid Iron Go!Chefs

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The Children’s Aid Society is gearing up for its fourth annual Iron Go! Chefs competition this Thursday, June 6 at the East Harlem Center. Approximately 100 elementary and middle school chefs from East Harlem, Washington Heights and the South Bronx will slice and dice their way to glory and the ultimate title of Iron Go!Chefs!

Recently, Stefania Patinella, director of food and nutrition programs at The Children’s Aid Society, interviewed one of the judges for this year’s competition, Radha Agrawal. Radha is the founder and CEO of Super Sprowtz, a children's multi-media nutrition education company whose mission is to engage children to make better food choices. Special guest Brian Broccoli—a character from Super Sprowtz—joined Radha and Stefania for the interview.

Where are you from?

Brian Broccoli: The Great Glass Greenhouse in New York City.

Radha Agrawal: I'm from Montreal, Canada.

Where did you go to school?

BB: School of Life

RA: I went to Cornell University.

Where have you worked?

BB: I work with the Super Sprowtz team.

RA: I worked as a film and TV producer, I own 2 restaurants, I just launched another fashion company and I produced a movie!

Why do you do the work you do?

BB: To save the world and to get kids to eat more vegetables!

RA: I love building something from scratch that's important and seeing it grow and I want kids to be healthier! You are the future of our country and our world!

What’s going to knock the kids’ socks off about you? And, of course, what’s your favorite vegetable dish to make/eat?

BB: Super Sprowtz opened for President Obama in April for the annual Easter Egg Roll!

RA:  I used to race motorcycles! Is that interesting? 

BB: Favorite veggie dish: Broccoli and Hummus - it makes me feel super strong!

RA: Favorite vegetable dish to make/eat: Indian food - chickpea and vegetable curry.