The Children's Aid Blog

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

Teens in Action Debut PSA

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Salomé Ureña de Henriquez Campus (SU Campus) in Washington Heights has been buzzing with teen activity over the last few weeks.

For the past year, participants in the Teens in Action Program have worked to bring awareness on topics such as health and beauty to their family and friends.  One of their most successful projects so far has been The Real You, a youth-developed public service announcement (PSA) on body image. After weeks of research online and through peer discussions, the group filmed a talk show that highlights teen perceptions on how society impacts their views on body image. The talk show also discussed eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and shared their thoughts on plastic surgery. The teens found that many of their peers agreed that getting plastic surgery such as breast enhancements can improve body image. The majority also agreed that being thin, blond and blue-eyed is what society considers “beautiful.” Most importantly, the film educates the audience on the warning signs of someone with an eating disorder and how to get help for someone.

The group premiered their PSA to family and friends on April 26, and were also honored for their wonderful work.

Most recently, the teens hosted the annual “Spring in Action” community health fair at SU Campus on Saturday, May 4. The goal of the event was to bring together community members to take advantage of the helpful  health information. Many organizations came together to bring health care enrollment, cosmetic care and nutrition programs to the community. Children’s Aid Society home-finding services and foster care staff were on hand to provide assistance and recruit future foster care families. It was a full day of festivities, including face painting, raffles, aerobic instructions, massages and dance battles among adults and youth alike.  

The Teens in Action Program at SU Campus, a Children’s Aid Society community school, provides youth with personal and career development, leadership and community service opportunities.  Teens are the most important information circulators, and these messages about taking care of yourself and knowing when to get help were loud and clear. We are extremely proud of these young people!

Written by Lorena Jimenez-Castro



At Drew Hamilton: Plantings & A Pep Talk from a Young Alum

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The Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Center recently had the pleasure of hosting two engaging visitors. The first was Charlette Mayfield (pictured), the mother of student NasZair Crabb, who provided a hands-on workshop for our children on the basics of planting in Drew Hamilton’s yard, as part of the class’s education series on plants. Under the instruction of Ms. Mayfield, the children, their teacher and a few parents joined in the labor intensive work of preparing the soil and planting flower seeds and grass, and are patiently watching for new growth. 

The second visitor to Drew Hamilton was Andrew Fenteng (pictured), himself a graduate of the center’s Early Childhood program. He came in to share his kindergarten experience with the preschool students here, and the children listened raptly as Andrew shared his wisdom and advice. After hearing Andrew speak, they became confident that they were ready for "big school," and their biggest fear about tying shoes was alleviated when he assured them that in his charter school, all children must wear Velcro sneakers or shoes.

Written by Donna Chandler







From the Associates Council: Over the Rainbow and Back Again

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In my last blog post, I wrote about the abundance of heart within the Associates Council's spring event committee and our lively path down the “yellow brick road.” Today, I am thrilled to announce that we successfully reached our destination, the great Emerald City.

Emerald City, which took place on May 8, turned out to be a spectacular, beautiful and record-breaking event filled with an abundance of red poppies, hors d’oeuvres and even a friendly (and photogenic) in-character Emerald City guard.  Thanks to the good witches of both the East and West coasts and helpful hands along the way, we were able to raise $28,000 to fully benefit the Go!Healthy Program. This represents a 35% increase from last year and marks the most successful spring event the AC has ever had.  We attribute the increase in revenue to our over 200 guests, wonderful sponsors (Goldman, Edelman, Jonathan Rose Companies, Scotia Bank and Trident Investment Management), individual donors, raffle ticket sales and those who supported scholarship opportunities for Go!Healthy participants.

While the emerald-filled event has come and gone, the vivid memories of a boisterous and action-packed night still linger in my thoughts. I will never forget the sound of uproarious applause after guest speaker Tanya Steel’s compelling speech, the overwhelming feeling of laughter and warmth during the children’s statements about how the Go!Healthy Program has improved their lives or the sense of comfort and satisfaction I received from being surrounded by a team of such brilliant and compassionate individuals. Days have passed and emerald suits and dresses, ruby red heels and accessories, and fashionable accents from the Wizard of Oz still occupy my thoughts. I cannot thank the Spring Event Committee enough for giving their time, energy and resources to the cultivation of this transformative event during the past six months. This experience has been one I truly enjoyed and will never forget. While the excitement of this year’s event has passed, I'm already looking forward to the AC's fall fundraiser. We'll be announcing the date soon!

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

Richard Buery on the Huffington Post: The High Costs of Aging Out

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For many young people, the transition from teen to independent adult is a gradual process that extends into their mid- to late 20s, with financial and emotional support from family. Most youth make it, but a significant number don’t—and so they become disconnected.

Youth who age out of foster care have the hardest time getting on their feet, and without family to rely on, the odds of success are against them.  But investments in the futures of these young people can result in significant benefits to them and to society.

On December 1, 2011, the Community Service Society of New York and The Children’s Aid Society convened over 200 local and national experts, policymakers, service providers and advocates to discuss the issues faced by older youth in foster care and strategies to prevent and address their disconnection from anchor social institutions like school, work and family.

I discuss what’s at stake for these young people in my latest essay on the Huffington Post.

You can also download the full report, called “Foster Care and Disconnected Youth: A Way Forward for New York,” that emerged from our forum. It highlights and further develops the issues the forum raised, recommends policy directions and discusses successful program models that address the many challenges facing aging-out youth who become disconnected.