The Children's Aid Blog

Children's Aid's Senior Director of Capacity Building at the NCCS Published in The Magnet Compass

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As part of a series of articles featuring "exceptional, innovative researchers," the April 2012 issue of the Magnet Compass, a publication of the US Department of Education Magnet Schools Technical Assistance Center, publishes an interview with Janice Chu-Zhu, Senior Director of National Capacity Building at The Children's Aid Society National Center for Community Schools.   This issue focuses on school-community partnerships as a strategy to achieving student success.  On page 4, Chu-Zhu, whose participation in the interviews was approved by the US DOE, maps the way to long-term sustainability and success of magnet schools through school-community partnerships.  You can access the article by clicking on the link below:

Volunteer Spotlight: Evan Kereiakes

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In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Societyis shining a spotlight on Evan Kereiakes who has volunteered at The Children’s Aid Society as a Project LIVE Mentor at our East Harlem Center and is also a member of the Associates Council.  Project LIVE is a mentoring program that helps link dynamic and positive individuals with middle school students to help them make a successful transition into high school and beyond. Mentors not only provide academic support but also help youth with self-esteem issues and to explore career options.

Diana Matias, Educational Coordinator at The East Harlem Center says:

While he was here he made an impact in our program and we miss having him here. Miriam is the lead facilitator for Project LIVE and worked directly with him. She informed me that Evan was a wonderful mentor, coach and motivator. He helped his mentee think outside the box and push herself to her potential. Under his guidance, his mentee gained true leadership skills and team building qualities. She reached her true potential under his supervision.

Below, Evan shares his feelings on volunteering and working with the youth at The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer at The Children’s Aid Society?

I liked the mission of the organization and thought it fit well with my desire to have a positive impact on the lives of kids from all types of backgrounds.

What keeps you coming?

The people who run the organization and the volunteers themselves are very caring and professional. Children’s Aid has deep roots in the NY community so it’s easy to have a more direct impact thanks to all the hard work that has built the organization over the years.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

The best part of volunteering with kids in Harlem is watching them grow and learn from week to week. Being a mentor means contributing to this development, which is rewarding.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

I've learned how important it is to volunteer.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

Volunteering keeps you grounded and connected to the broader community. Especially if you have a college education, it's important to spend at least a few hours every month giving back and working with kids who are also striving to achieve their goals and go to college.

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

I'm thankful that my parents signed me up for volunteer opportunities at a young age.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at CAS?  Please share with us!

It was very nice to see my mentee had changed some of her afterschool habits and started doing her science homework.

What are some of your hobbies? (Optional)

Biking, enjoying the outdoors, reading, traveling, cooking, playing piano

Featured image: Evan with an East Harlem participant

Volunteer Spotlight: Tara Koschei-Tinelle

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In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is shining a spotlight on Tara Koschei-Tinelle who began volunteering at the Rhinelander Children’s Center in 2008 working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Saturday Program. Tara wanted an opportunity to work with children and teens while at the same time developing her fluency in American Sign Language.

Karen Solomon, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program Director, says:

“You could not find a more dedicated, reliable, responsible and caring individual. Tara gets along well with other program staff, the children she works with and their families. Program participants are very comfortable with Tara and know she is always available to lend a helping hand. Tara's sign language skills have improved so much since she began volunteering at Rhinelander. She is now considering enrolling in a sign language interpreter training program so that she can put these skills to work in a vocational setting. She goes above and beyond what is expected of her and never hesitates to help in any way that she can.  Her dedication and concern for the children and their families is very obvious.  In addition, during special events, Tara recruits her family members to help out as well!! Tara's attendance and punctuality are excellent despite the long distance she travels from her home in Yonkers, NY. “

Below, Tara shares her feelings on why she enjoys working with this specific program and what she has gained by volunteering with The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer in the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program at the Children’s Aid Society Rhinelander Center?

I wanted to volunteer at Children's Aid because I wanted to utilize my ability to communicate in American Sign Language and help enrich the lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and teens by enabling them to experience new things.

What keeps you coming back to the program?

I truly enjoy working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children/teens and sharing in their excitement as we go on different trips and participate in different activities together.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

Many of the places we travel to with our teen group are new places for me too, and I enjoy the enthusiasm and joy on their faces as we visit these excursions. I love sharing in the experiences with them.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

Working with the Saturday Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children/Teens has taught me how to communicate more efficiently with teens that are not only from diverse backgrounds, but have different hearing losses and learning abilities. It has also made me think of things in a different way and not take certain conveniences for granted.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

I think it is important to volunteer in the community because I think it is important to "pay it forward". I believe it is important to do good in the world and pass on your knowledge to others. You will never understand how much others have to offer you, if you do not offer yourself to them.

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

I grew up in a home with a mother that always volunteered to help others, even when she didn't have much time for herself. This work ethic has been instilled in me at a very young age and it makes me feel good knowing that I, too, can help others and make them feel good, just like my mother always did.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at The Children’s Aid Society?  Please share with us!

Through my years with the program, I came in contact with a young girl who wore a smile on her face every day despite the fact that she had little to smile about. She had been bouncing from home to home over the last few years and had few material belongings. When I learned that she didn't have proper winter attire for the harsh season we were having, I gathered together some winter jackets, scarves and gloves from myself and my family to provide her the warmth she needed. During the following spring, she was scheduled to go to a program at one of the colleges that offered an excellent program for Deaf students. When I learned that she did not have a suitcase to travel with, I was able to get an older one that was still good from my grandmother's attic to give her for whenever she traveled. I have learned so much from this young girl, especially not to take what you have for granted and that you can always find the sunshine on a cloudy day. Things could always be worse and we are, of course, alive, which is reason enough to be happy.

Featured image: Tara Koschei-Tinelle (left) with a Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program participant.

National Volunteer Week: Highlighting Children’s Aid Volunteers

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Written by: Volunteer Services Department

In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is celebrating its volunteer family comprised of hundreds of phenomenal individuals.  At Children’s Aid, there are many rewarding volunteering opportunities that range from one-time commitments and corporate volunteer projects to working directly with our clients on a longer term. Volunteer opportunities typically include tutoring, homework help, mentoring, clerical assistance, sponsored beautification projects, holiday events, and opportunities that require a special skill set such as creative design or teaching artists. This week, The Children’s Aid Society is highlighting just a few of our many wonderful volunteers in its blog. 

A message from Malia Poai and Kat Connelly of Volunteer Services:

“The Children’s Aid Society could not do its great work without the selfless dedication of those who give their time, talents, and generous spirit to our programs and children.  We are lucky to witness, time and again, daily examples of your kindness and the life changing impact you have made. Whether you have built a garden, helped a child understand math, facilitated a workshop, or have raised money, we are truly grateful and feel privileged to work with you. We hope that your lives are filled with the same warmth and joy that you give to each one of our children. We thank you and we celebrate you.”

Click here to learn more about Volunteering at The Children’s Aid Society.

An Intervention A Day Can Keep The E.R. Away

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This week, The New York Times introduced us to Gabriel, a second-grader in the Bronx whose classroom disruptions prompted multiple trips to the emergency room for psychiatric evaluations. His story serves to illustrate the harsh reality faced by thousands of New York City schoolchildren whose mental health conditions go untreated or receive punitive action instead of the supports they so desperately need.

The Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) has been successfully diverting boys and girls like Gabriel from the ER for nearly three decades. Today, our Mental Health teams are embedded within four New York City public schools to provide weekly group work during the school day, and full-time, year-round short-term and crisis intervention with program participants and their families, as needed.

Far too many of the young people we serve live in neighborhoods with appalling rates of poverty, violence, and untreated physical and mental health conditions – all formidable barriers to learning. In response, CAS-Carrera Mental Health teams work closely with educators to provide targeted interventions and supports, recognizing that persistent and gentle engagement is crucial, especially when a young person seems not to care. We are in it for the long haul, starting with students in the fifth or sixth grade and sticking with them until they finish high school and beyond.

The good news? The CAS-Carrera program works: For the 1,309 students served during the 2010-2011 school year alone, our mental health staff completed nearly 2,000 mental health assessments; 89 were connected to suicidal ideation, and none resulted in an ER visit or outside referral.

Considering the national average cost for each ER visit is $1,500, in one year we saved NYC taxpayers $133,500 and provided families the access to services that every New Yorker is legally entitled to. More importantly, we have equipped young people with the tools to avoid risky behaviors and embrace the vision of healthy and productive life.

When one considers that youth with mental illness have the highest school dropout rate of any disability group, creating a safe, nurturing and therapeutic environment at school is an effective strategy to ensure our young people get their diplomas. If you’d like to make a powerful investment in the future of our city and young people, please donate to CAS-Carrera  here.

Lottery Randomly Fills Coveted Spots for Children's Aid College Prep Charter School

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The nervous excitement could be felt up and down Southern Boulevard yesterday as big things were happening inside The Children’s Aid Society’s Next Generation Center where a new generation of students was randomly selected at the inaugural lottery of the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School. Over 400 applications of promising youngsters were received by The Children’s Aid Society and the randomized drawing gave preference to particularly needy students who came from a single-parent household, have not attended a full-day kindergarten and who are English language learners among other criteria.

One of the parents in attendance was Jessica Ortiz, a Children’s Aid Society Ambassador and whose children have participated in CAS programs throughout their lives. Her youngest son will be attending 1st grade at Children’s Aid College prep this fall. “I can’t believe we got picked — it’s very exciting and I’m glad that he can go to a school where his needs can be better met,” said Ortiz.

The school will begin serving 120 students in Kindergarten and 1st grade this coming August and will eventually serve 300 through 5th grade. The school’s mission is to ensure that children will achieve academic success by providing them with the best instructional practices, advancing their physical, emotional, and social needs, fostering a sense of pride and hope, and serving as a safe and engaging community hub.

Photo Courtesy of Lily Kesselman.

Learn more at the Children's Aid College Prep Charter School website and in the following media stories:

New York Times School Book

CBS New York

Watch these video clips to see the excitement of the lottery firsthand:

Listen to this clip from 101WINS news radio:

You may need: Adobe Flash Player.

Staten Island Community Fights for Their Beacon Program

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By: Keyla Espinal

On Wednesday April 4th, The Children’s Aid Society and other members of Campaign for Children joined Staten Island parents, students, advocates and Elected Officials to fight against the closure of the Tottenville High School Beacon program and the devastating cuts proposed by the Mayor’s preliminary budget.

The rally was also joined by members from the Community Education Council and their very own councilmember, Vincent Ignizio. Councilmember Ignizio acknowledged that these cuts would be devastating and vouched that he and two other Staten Island council members would work on trying to save these important programs. The agenda was filled with students and advocates alike talking about the positive impact beacon and after-school programs have on them and their families.

Diane Colon, the single mom of 5th grader Ami-Lani who attends the after-school program at The Children’s Aid Society Goodhue Center, reiterated the importance of after-school programs. “In her after-school program, my daughter gets opportunities that I couldn’t afford to give her otherwise – academic support, creative arts, music, and other activities that help her get better grades and enjoy going to school.” Diane’s sentiment is shared by the parents and care-givers of the 47,000 children that will be left without needed services like child care and after-school programs if cut in the Mayor’s proposed budget.

Similar to this rally, the Campaign for Children will be hosting Borough-wide rallies to highlight the specific impacts these cuts would have on those communities.

Next up, on April 17th, there will be a rally at City Hall in which all participating organizations of Campaign for Children, students, parents and advocates will gather from all around the New York City to have their voices heard by city officials. Visit our Take Action page learn more on what you can do and to get more information.

Children's Aid to Receive Pro Bono Consulting Through Morgan Stanley's Strategy Challenge

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Morgan Stanley is lending a helping hand to The Children's Aid Society and fourteen other nonprofit organizations by providing pro bono strategic consulting as part of its fourth annual Strategy Challenge. Over the course of eight weeks, CAS will work with a team of Morgan Stanley volunteers to review the current business model and growth strategies.  This wonderful opportunity will benefit CAS in a multitude of ways and will further our mission to assist children and families in need throughout New York City.

As part of this exciting program, Morgan Stanley volunteers will present their recommendations to experts from both the private and nonprofit sectors. Chairman and CEO James Gorman will present awards to the top teams. Click here to view the official press release.

Richard Buery on The Huffington Post: An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Moving From Pilots to Policy

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"At the end of the day, however, this incredibly wealthy city has to decide that all children merit real investment."

On the evening of March 27, one of our community schools located in Washington Heights, a heavily Dominican neighborhood, hosted an event with potential implications for education policy in New York City and across the country. The event took place in the library of the Salomé Ureña de Henriquez Campus, our flagship Children's Aid Society community school, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The audience included education students, teachers, parents and principals from across the City.

New York University professor and prominent education policy expert Pedro Noguera spoke passionately and personally about the impact of poverty on students in this neighborhood and dozens like it around the City and the need for a Broader Bolder Approach to Education. Michael Rebell, a professor, founder of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, made the case for the legal right -- not privilege -- of every child to have access to the comprehensive supports that enable a real opportunity for sound education. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pointed out that when he grew up as a child just a few blocks from the school, the supports being promoted -- quality early childhood and after-school programs -- were assumed to be a necessity and a given, not grounds for political infighting and budget wars. The sticking point, said Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky, is not that these aren't needed, but rather that putting in place a system that ensures consistent access and quality is complicated and takes time.

Continue Reading on The Huffington Post

Access a complete list of Richard Buery's Huffington Post columns

Follow Richard Buery on Twitter (@RichardBueryCAS)

Campaign for Children Call In Day

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We need YOU to call City leaders in charge of the budget and tell them to save child care and after-school programs – programs that allow parents to keep their jobs while their children get the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

Campaign for Children Call In Day – Instructions

On Wednesday April 4th between 9am and 4pm, parents, providers and concerned New Yorkers will take action by calling City leaders and letting them know we are paying attention. 

Call (888)-279-3491 on Wednesday, April 4th to let our City leaders know that child care and after-school must be saved!

Use this script as a guide for your call (and please be polite):

Hi, my name's ________. I'm calling to urge you to save child care and after-school programs.

With the newest budgets cuts, more than 47,000 NYC children are at risk of losing the educational opportunities that pave the way for success. Families that rely on subsidized child care and after-school work hard and play by the rules. Without these programs, many working family members will be unable to keep their jobs and provide for their households, or will be forced to make potentially unsafe arrangements for their children. It is morally wrong to balance the city budget on the backs of children and hard-working families.  We’re counting on YOU to restore the funding to save child care and after-school programs. Thank you.

Calls to the number above will be automatically connected to one of the City leaders in charge of the budget.  If no one answers, leave a voicemail. Despite what message you get from their office, please be assured that these are the key people in making budget decisions.

You can also send a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and other elected officals by clicking here.


Mayor Bloomberg’s released his preliminary budget for New York City.  While many programs and services have been protected, the proposed budget fails to include funding for child care and after-school programs for more than 47,000 children currently enrolled in these programs.  The Mayor’s proposed budget would eliminate child care for 15,900 children, and would cut after-school programs for 31,800 children – leaving 47,000 of New York’s children and their families stranded without care. Currently, Children's Aid serves 2,280 children in city-funded OST programs and more than 600 childrens in early childhood programs.

These sweeping cuts would strike a devastating blow to New York City’s working parents – who depend on these critical services to keep their jobs – and their children – who need these early education and after-school programs for future success. The cuts represent a dramatic departure from the Mayor’s stated desire to make education reforms and economic development his top priorities and the foundation of his legacy as mayor.