The Children's Aid Blog

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.

Positive Deviance Project Finds Keys to School Success

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Recently, a group of Bronx residents met at Children’s Aid’s Next Generation Center to discuss the solutions to school failure they’re seeing among stronger students in the community and how to get other parents and students to model this positive behavior and achieve academic success.

This group of 25 volunteers is part of our “Positive Deviance” initiative, a two-year project that aims to boost school success rates for black and Latino males in Morrisania.

The positive deviance approach was developed in the early 1990s by researchers at Tufts University as a solution to malnutrition. It is based on the premise that every community has members whose behaviors and strategies help them find solutions to problems that their peers haven’t, despite having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges. Through positive deviance, the community identifies those people and their behaviors, and develops a plan of action to get the wider community to adopt shared solutions.

Our 25 volunteers are examining the barriers faced by young men of color and the strategies that successful community members have used to overcome them. The volunteers are students, teachers and other school staff, professionals from the community, Children’s Aid Society staff members, parents and grandparents, as well as an expert from the Positive Deviance Initiative.

Here’s a quick look at what the group has done to date:

  • Created a problem statement: The majority of black and Latino male students living in the Bronx do not succeed in school. The desired outcome is that most black and Latino male students will be successful in school in the coming years. 
  • Developed a conceptual framework and related questionnaire: School success is impacted by: teen dating, respect in and out of school, family life, time management and social networking, after-school activities and violence.
  • Identified stakeholders for group interviews: teachers, parents, siblings, friends, school guards, janitors, coaches, pastors, tutors, counselors, neighbors, principals, mentors, shop owners, police and community-based organization members. These stakeholders each impact the success of students and helped identify positive deviant behaviors in interviews.
  • Determined selection criteria for positive deviants: an 80% average in all subjects and meets one or more criteria such as being subject to gang violence or tough police tactics, or living in a home with a single working parent or where English isn't the primary language.
  • Conducted individual interviews with positive deviants and their families to see how their behaviors differ from the normative ones.

In late May, the group presented results from those interviews and engaged in a community dialogue about the findings from this research. The findings include actions students can take on their own—such as sitting near the front of class and being considerate to all students, even those you might not like—and actions families can take together—eating meals, reviewing homework and even activities like grocery shopping and running errands as a group on weekends.

Next, a replication phase will begin this summer, and in the fall, the group will launch a kick-off event for multiple replication projects. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project.

To browse through our photo gallery, click here

Children's Aid Proudly Graduates its 2012-2013 Adult GED Class

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Last night, 20 adult graduates affiliated with the Salome Urena Campus, a Children's Aid community school, celebrated the completion of their GEDs. This third annual graduation was organized by the adult education programming initiative, which provides free GED courses and other services to qualifying adults.

The night kicked off with a food reception and a viewing of adult artwork. Guests and graduates then headed to the auditorium to celebrate with student dances, a guest speaker, special awards, ESL course certificates and of course GED diplomas. Over 100 family members, friends and educators attended the event to mark this special milestone.

Congratulations to all of the graduates for their hard work and accomplishments!

Sephora Donates Prom Dresses to Children's Aid Teens

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Prom season is in full force and for many households, paying for all its details can quickly become a daunting expense. For a group of 40 young ladies from Children’s Aid Society teen programs such as the Dunlevy Milbank Center and the Hope Leadership Academy, finding the right prom dress was made easier thanks to a donation from Sephora Flatiron. As part of its Values Inside Out program, Sephora employees collected and donated nearly 100 gently used and cleaned prom dresses for the girls to choose from. The dresses were beautiful and the girls had so much fun trying them on and choosing their favorite! In addition, Sephora Flatiron will hold a “master class” for these young ladies, where Sephora experts will show the girls how to apply makeup and do their hair for prom. The girls will also go home with a fabulous goody bag of Sephora products.  

Sephora’s generosity doesn’t end there. They will be selling a special make-up bag through the end of December, and $13 from each purchase will be donated to The Children’s Aid Society.

From the Associates Council: The Hearts at the End of the Road

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In the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man meets Dorothy and states his yearning desire for a heart. He travels all the way to the Emerald City, along with the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, merely to obtain a heart--one he deservingly receives, yet most likely already had.

Those of us on the Spring Committee feel like we have been whisked away to our very own magical (and sometimes chaotic) Land of Oz; however, we have no dearth of nerve, brains or of course, heart. Our fantastic Spring Committee members and volunteers have proven that they, indeed, are the carriers of warm, helpful and beating hearts. I'm offering this final blog in our Courage - Brains - Heart series to the entire committee, as well as to our outstanding leadership.

Specifically, I would first like to thank Kathleen Connelly and Malia Poai, the Director and Assistant Director of Children's Aid's Volunteer Services. They have guided our committee down the yellow brick road, gently advising us through all of the twists and turns. I would also like to thank Jennifer Gallivan, the President of the Associates Council, who has served as a source of guidance and inspiration to our committee. In addition, I’d like to thank my co-chair, Giuliana Vetrano, who has been my other half in this process, offering her witty charm along the way. And as for our wonderful committee members, I’d like to thank Nathaniel Soria, Maxi Adamski, Ali Barrett, Lexie Benenson, Meredith Burgess, Alexandra Cannon, Mishelle Galarza, Anjali Kar, Suzanne Nabavi, Ali Rotondo, Rebecca Steuer and Kate Ruque. They have truly served as the “heart” of our committee, as without them, we simply would not be throwing this event.

As the Tin Man gracefully put it, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Similarly, one does not need to look farther than our very own committee in order to find a surplus of altruistic hearts. Come join us at the end of the yellow brick road, revel in the frills of Emerald City, and meet all of our kindhearted volunteers.

-- Sara Grace Moss, Co-Chair, Spring Event Committee

Children’s Aid Holds a Division Wide Word Bee

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Earlier in May, over 20 young people from our community centers gathered at the East Harlem Center to compete in the division wide Word Bee.  Our kids prepared over the course of the entire academic year, diligently  learning the words, their definitions and their parts of speech. All finalists in the Word Bee had previously won their first rounds of center-based competitions, and were excited to defend their titles surrounded by their peers and families. Our youth shined in not only their mastery of the words, but also their sportsmanship. It was truly a wonderful event, and all of the participants should be congratulated and celebrated for their hard work.

Written by Jaynemarie Angbah