The Children's Aid Blog

IBM Donates Kid-friendly Computer Stations to the Drew Hamilton Learning Center

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Technology company IBM recently donated brand new, cutting edge computer stations to four classrooms at The Children’s Aid Society’s Drew Hamilton Learning Center as part of an effort to distribute computers to early childhood programs located within New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facilities. Located in West Harlem, the center offers quality and accessible early childhood programming to high-needs children in the neighborhood, preparing them socially, emotionally and intellectually for kindergarten. This gift provides our Drew Hamilton preschoolers, many of whom live in NYCHA’s Drew Hamilton and Frederick E. Samuel Houses, with a tremendous boost, since at least 85% of the low-income children who attend our programs do not have access to computers at home.

The “Young Explorer” kid-friendly computer stations are fun and brightly colored. They are part of IBM’s KidSmart Early Learning grant program, designed to introduce youngsters to technology, as well as cultivate their math, science, language and team building skills. According to research, this programming provides substantial improvements for disadvantaged youth as they prepare for kindergarten. For the children Drew Hamilton serves, who are impressively resilient and have already overcome so many obstacles to successfully navigate their way to being kindergarten-ready, an infusion of friendly, bright, accessible technology is a tremendous advantage. Many parents also benefit from the new computers by participating in workshops with their children, learning the best methods to ensure that their kids are tech-savvy by the time they reach kindergarten. 

Since the inception of the KidSmart Early Learning Program, IBM has invested more than $133 million, donating more than 70,000 Young Explorers to schools and nonprofit organizations in 60 countries, reaching more than 105,000 teachers and more than 10 million students.

The Children’s Aid Society is profoundly grateful to IBM for giving our children the advantage they need to succeed in today’s high-tech world, and prepare them for the social and intellectual demands of kindergarten and grade school.

Parent Literacy Event at Children’s Aid’s Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus

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Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Children’s Aid community school site in Washington Heights, recently hosted a gathering of roughly 80 parents and their middle schoolers. This was no regular home-school communication meeting; it was a rather impressive cross-generational and cross-genre theater event.  Grandparents, parents and children performed theater skits that they themselves directed, with profound themes spanning from euthanasia, bullying, and separation between school and religion to the negative impact of forced immigration on families.  

The performance was the result of a process that began in December 2012 with a playwriting workshop at the Children’s Aid Wagon Road Camp.  The workshop was facilitated by poet and playwright Dinorah Coronado, who has generously donated her time and talent to the school community for many years. She guided the parents through the complex writing process, helping them shape and edit their plays, which were made available to the audience in printed—and proudly signed—copies.

The event, which was coordinated by Children’s Aid staff Lidia Aguasanta, Lorena Jimenez-Castro and Migdalia Cortes-Torres, exemplifies how community schools create meaningful opportunities for parent and family engagement.

Written by Hersilia Mendez


Children’s Aid Commemorates Dominican Independence

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Parents and other adults who participate in engagement programs at Children’s Aid recently gathered at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus for its annual Dominican Independence Celebration. Drawn from all over Washington Heights, a neighborhood famous for its rich Dominican culture and life, the crowd enjoyed an exhibit, delicious food, a musical performance and a theater production titled “Mujeres De Febrero” (The Women of February). This production tells the story of Juan Pablo Duarte, who passionately fought for the Dominican Republic’s independence, and includes the stories of three powerful female figures who dramatically improved life for the Dominican people. The show was written by Dinorah Coronado, a writer and founder of Teatro Coronado who has received many awards and nominations for the production and her books.

Children’s Aid College Prep Celebrates Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

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To commemorate the birthday of Theodore Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss, Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School held a day of activities to celebrate his talents last Friday. Staff dressed in costumes of characters from Dr. Seuss stories, and the school was decorated from floor to ceiling with student artwork and colorful images from the books. Kicking off the event in the morning, administrators served delicious green eggs and ham to parents of the charter school students. Later in the day, students read together and participated in arts and crafts, making Lorax masks, Cats in the Hat, huge flower bouquets and other well-known objects from Dr. Seuss books. Students also enjoyed snacks such as cookies that looked like green eggs or ones that had famous Dr. Seuss phrases written on them.

Richard Buery Jr., a Dr. Seuss fan and the CEO and President of The Children’s Aid Society, stopped by to share in the excitement, where he had a chance to read with the students.

Be sure to check out pictures from this exciting event here

Dr. Carrera Presented With a Key to St. Petersburg

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The Children’s Aid Society’s very own Dr. Michael A. Carrera was recognized for his important work in the field of adolescent sexuality last week at a meeting of the St. Petersburg City Council, where he was presented with a key to the city. The Pinellas County Health Department in St. Petersburg has replicated his nationally recognized Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program.

In 1984, Dr. Michael A. Carrera and The Children's Aid Society developed an Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program that uses a holistic approach to empower youth. The program’s objective is to help teens develop personal goals and the desire for a productive future, in addition to developing their sexual literacy and educating them about the consequences of sexual activity. Most recently, Dr. Carrera was appointed vice president and director of adolescent services at Children's Aid.

The Children’s Aid Society congratulates Dr. Carrera on this recognition.

Food Justice Hits the Streets!

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Students in The Children’s Aid Society’s Food Justice After-School Program have hit the streets to conduct their very own community food assessment. The Food Justice Program empowers young people to explore what food means to them and to their community. These students, from Children’s Aid Community Schools P.S. 50 and P.S. 211 and from the East Harlem Center, are asked to consider the challenges their neighbors face as they struggle to feed their families healthy meals, and to propose projects aimed at increasing community wellness.

As the first part of this community assessment, the youth targeted local food establishments in their East Harlem and South Bronx communities which included restaurants, street cart vendors, local bodegas and supermarkets. The children paid close attention to what types of food were being sold, the quantity and quality of fruits and vegetables and what foods were displayed at the entrances.

The youth went on to interview members of their communities, asking them if they are satisfied with the available food choices in their environment and what changes, if any, would they make in their environment regarding food.

During this assessment, one could see the concept of food justice take root in each student’s mind. All the conversations about healthy food access, food systems and hunger went from abstract ideas to real issues affecting the people around them.

Stay tuned for our next program update, as the students compile their data and choose a community project to focus on.

Hundreds Advocate on Behalf of School-Based Health Centers in Albany

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School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) got a much deserved spotlight on February 12 during an all-day advocacy event in Albany. Over 500 hundred SBHC supporters—mostly students, parents and teachers—from around the state visited Albany to urge legislators to hold SBHCs harmless in this year’s budget.

The Children’s Aid Society operates five school based health centers, which were represented by a group of 20 parents and students from Salomé Ureña Campus (SUCA) who had been recruited by parent coordinator Lidia Aguasanta. 

The day began with an energetic rally; students, caregivers and teachers fired up the crowd through personal testimony of how SBHCs had helped students stay healthy and safe. Young people of all ages told stories of being able to access the necessary vaccines to attend school, the great strides they had made through the mental health services provided to them and having emergency cuts and scrapes attended to with no time wasted. Teens focused on the care they received as student athletes, the ability to access working papers and the reproductive health services and resources they were able to utilize.

Caregivers spoke of the newfound ease they had found in leaving their children with chronic asthma at school for the day. “My son has chronic asthma,” said Maria Morales, whose child attends sixth grade at M.S. 322 in SUCA. “I used to always work with my cellphone next to me because I knew that at any time I could get a call asking me to meet my child at the hospital. This school year he hasn’t had any hospitalizations.” As the students and the adults in their lives spoke at the microphone, the crowd cheered, clapped and waved blue pom-poms to show their support for SBHCs. Everyone from the youngest student to the eldest grandparent who had traveled to Albany in support of SBHCs made her voice heard.

The testimony did not end there. Participants eagerly met with elected officials to continue in the spirit of the rally. State senators and assembly members listened to the accounts of why SBHCs ensure better access to preventative health care, health education and treatment for young New Yorkers. Supporters were delighted to see our elected officials agree that SBHCs make good common sense, and we all look forward to seeing their continued support.

Written by Sharon Weintraub, SBHC Health Educator at SUCA and MSC

Frederick Douglass Youth Celebrate Fashion Week

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Recently arriving in New York City for fashion week, Australian-based clothing company Dresscode Initiative gave back to the community by hosting a fashion celebration at Children’s Aid’s Frederick Douglass Center.

After school ended on Wednesday, over 50 Frederick Douglass students were greeted with cupcakes and balloons as they entered the gymnasium for this special day. The youth participated in activities including balloon blowing, coloring and a story telling exercise. Volunteers from Dresscode Initiative then unwrapped the clothing that they brought as gifts, and the kids were able to choose from hundreds of scarves, shoes, boots, hats, shirts and pants to take home.

Founded in 1958, The Frederick Douglass Center provides essential services to children and families on Manhattan's Upper West Side, including a Head Start program for 3- to 5-year-olds, after-school activities, English-language training for adults and more.

The Children’s Aid Society and The Frederick Douglass Center would like to thank Dresscode Initiative for their tremendous generosity, making fashion week a special time to celebrate for our kids.

View more pictures from this event in our photo gallery.

New Grant Will Help Children’s Aid Create Cradle to College Pipeline in the South Bronx

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The Children’s Aid Society and Phipps Community Development Corporation (Phipps CDC) have been awarded a $300,000 planning grant from JPMorgan Chase Foundation to develop a cradle-through-college pipeline initiative in the South Bronx. The project will employ an emerging model of multi-sector collaboration, known as collective impact, to promote student success in the Morrisania neighborhood, where 65 percent of children are born into poor families and just 7 percent of adults are college graduates.

Collective impact—a strategy based on the premise that no single organization can affect large-scale, lasting social change alone—has been applied successfully in education reform to boost rates of children adequately prepared for kindergarten, reading and math scores, and high school graduation rates. Through it, collaborating organizations tackle complex, systemic problems by creating a centralized infrastructure, allocating staff to the initiative and creating a process marked by five characteristics: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and systems-level coordination.

A short write-up in Crain’s New York Business describes the grant.

Youth Visit Legislators in Albany to Campaign for Summer Jobs

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On Tuesday, January 29, youth from The Children’s Aid Society’s Lasting Investments in Neighborhood Connections (LINC) program traveled to Albany with other young people from all around the city to meet with state legislators as part of the annual Youth Action Day. These young adults, LINC participants from Children’s Aid’s Dunlevy Milbank and the Next Generation Centers, wanted to demonstrate to elected officials the importance of summer jobs and the positive effects programs such as Summer Youth Employment (SYEP) have on the youth of New York City. LINC is a juvenile justice re-entry program operated by The Children’s Aid Society. Its participants are youth who have returned home from juvenile justice facilities and are matched with a life coach who works with them to increase their social and emotional competencies and decrease their probability of recidivism. SYEP is especially important to this group set as they work towards once again blending with their families and communities, and it helps to increase their employability by giving them new skill sets and work experience.

The Youth Action Day in Albany is put together by the Campaign for Summer Jobs, a coalition of more than 100 organizations that provide summer employment to youth all over New York City. Since 1999, the Campaign for Summer Jobs has mobilized young people, youth organizations and communities to fight for continued funding of SYEP. Due to cuts in federal, state and city funding, the city’s SYEP had about 22,000 fewer jobs in the summer of 2012 than in 2009. Given these cuts, this year’s annual Youth Action Day was an important way for legislators hear about the positive influences that the SYEP program has on young people.

The day’s agenda included a youth rally in the Legislative Office Building, at which State Senators and Assembly Members from all over the city addressed the crowd. The rally also included dance and spoken word performances by youth, and an open mic discussion for all to take part in. Youth organizations also had the opportunity for more intimate meetings with the offices of the state legislators later on in the day.

For many, including youth from The Children’s Aid Society, summer employment is a way to stay off the streets and contribute to their households. Youth also use income earned during their summer youth employment to buy school supplies—which are often very expensive—for the upcoming year. All SYEP participants make lasting connections and build relationships in the workplace while expanding their resume. Whatever the reason for taking part in SYEP, they all have positive outcomes for our youth. We need to continue to fight for more SYEP opportunities to ensure that young people are using their time off from school productively and that as a city we are making a lasting investment in the next generation.

For more information on the Campaign for Summer Jobs and what you can do to help, click here.