The Children's Aid Blog

Knocking Down a College Obstacle

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It’s always excellent to see our commitment to improving and expanding impact—to building on something that works well.

That’s certainly what has been taking place across our Adolescence sites lately. You might remember, in the last academic year, that Ruben Rivera led a team of Children’s Aid volunteers to help teens and their parents conquer the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka FAFSA. The group hit five sites and each evening was a resounding success.

This year, Ruben and Amani Gheith, also in our College Success program, expanded to eight sites: Opportunity Charter School, Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women, Bronx Career and College Prep, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, Bronx Preparatory, Hope Leadership Academy, Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, and the African American Male Initiative.

All told, more than 250 young men and women have gotten a jump on the often complicated (and potentially frustrating) task of arranging for financial aid. And when they apply early, their chances increase for stronger financial aid packages.

Here’s to another successful year of seeing our kids take a big step toward college success. 

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Breaking Records for Children and Families

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We don’t stage our premier fundraiser solely for the purpose of breaking a record. But when we do, that’s good news for the kids and families we serve.

On November 3, 530 guests (record #1) gathered at Guastavino’s under the 59th Street Bridge for the 6th Annual Keeping the Promise Benefit. And by the end of the night, we had raised $1.8 million (record #2) that we will use to ensure that our kids and families have the opportunity to capitalize on every ounce of their potential.

We couldn’t have done it without the support of our two honorees: Wade Davis, the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Viacom, and Hugh F. Johnston, the vice chairman and chief financial officer of PepsiCo. Their corporate leadership and commitment to creating opportunities for young people is an inspiration to so many.

The night started with the talented Children’s Aid Society Chorus and their rendition of “Happy.” And we had four incredible young people on hand. Mahil Sumbundu, 17, a senior at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math & Science II, and Julio Reyes, 21, a business student at Binghamton University, served as the masters of ceremonies. Bridget Dennis, 22, who capitalized on the training she received at the Next Generation Center to land a job supervising about 200 peers in the concessions stands at Yankee Stadium, was the subject of our video and introduced the auction. She’s now studying at Bronx Community College. Finally, Dzifa Dzaba, 17, a senior at Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, served as our announcer.

Regardless of any records broken, it was an incredible night celebrating the accomplishments that are possible for these young people when Children’s Aid is with them every step of the way. 

View more images from the evening in our photo gallery.


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Lifting Children’s Voice on Election Day

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Children may not have the right to vote, but on Election Day the many who attend Children’s Aid community schools made sure to exercise another important fundamental right: their freedom of speech.

Students from across our Bronx community schools participated in a special Lift Every Voice Election Day debate competition, which was hosted by Community School 61 and facilitated by the Children’s Aid African American Male Initiative (AAMI). Each year, AAMI’s Lift Every Voice public speaking series challenges elementary and middles school students to engage in issues affecting their community through persuasive speeches and debate. This week’s debate was no different, as it provided students with the opportunity to hone their critical-thinking skills and strengthen their written and verbal communication skills outside of the classroom around a critical day during the election year.

Students engaged in a fiery debate to discuss the harms and benefits of using social media and delivered expository speeches outlining what they would do if they were president. Their speeches thoughtfully addressed some of the most pressing issues affecting their generation: bullying, homelessness, health care, safe communities, and quality education. Their mature reflection reminded all those in the room that children are paying as much attention to current affairs as the adults who were voting at polling stations across the country.

We are incredibly proud of all the participants and their peers who came out to support them. And we thank the CS 61 and AAMI staff for working together to empower our students to lift their voice.

Congratulations to all the winners.



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Family Nights at Children’s Aid

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What does it take to host a successful family night? Plenty of apples, employment advice, free books, and a list of great contacts. Our early childhood staff employed this formula at the Children’s Aid Bronx Early Childhood Center last week during school pick-up hours to direct parents to resources they may have otherwise been unable to access on their own.

In addition to the array of direct services we provide children and their families, Children’s Aid also knows when to call on our friends across New York City to further support children and families. Representatives from IDNYC, Hunter College, and Workforce 1 graciously answered the call to talk with parents about applying for the New York ID and to share information on language classes and employment opportunities. And of course, our Go!Healthy program was on hand to provide a nutritious snack for the toddlers present and share healthy recipes with their parents.

Families in attendance went home with a wealth of knowledge, books for their young ones, and fresh apples courtesy of City Harvest. We want to thank all of our community partners for helping us to put together a wonderful family night that we look forward to replicating across Harlem, Staten Island, and Washington Heights.


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Carrera Program Keeps Rolling with SoulCycle

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About 18 months ago. SoulCycle launched a comprehensive program designed to engage teens in health while also providing them with a mentor to help them start thinking about their future, perhaps in ways that they hadn’t considered before. It started with 15 young men and women from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx and Urban Assembly Institute in Brooklyn.

The entire program has taken off.

This year, SoulCycle wanted to up the ante. So they gathered 300 of their instructors and staff members from across the country for a day of volunteering. They convened at Opportunity Charter School in Harlem where they painted every single classroom. Not only that, they donated 20 computers plus brand-new desks and chairs for many of those classrooms.

The group gathered for a pep rally before executing their plan. None other than Mike Carrera, the namesake for the nationally recognized pregnancy prevention program, came out to thank the volunteers for their support and explain just how much their efforts mean to our kids.

Huge thanks to SoulCycle for really getting behind this program and changing teens for life. 


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The Great Bronx Pumpkin Patch

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The Patterson Rotary Club in Dutchess County came down to the Bronx last week to help the Clara Barton campus celebrate their Pumpkin Patch Extravaganza and get ready for today’s Halloween festivities. The club donated 500 pumpkins to both the Fairmont and SAMARA schools, transforming the school campus into a community pumpkin patch. Children’s Aid staff joined club members in distributing pumpkins to students and their parents. Thank you to the Patterson Rotary Club for your generous gift to our students and congratulations to the Clara Barton campus for coordinating a great harvest event. It really helped the kids get excited for Halloween. 


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October is National Farm to School Month

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October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate connections happening all over the country between schools and local food! Children’s Aid honors these connections, and strives to create and support pathways through the Go!Healthy program and community partner collaborations.

The Farm to School initiative enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by supporting a change in food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education settings. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons, and farm field trips.

Through the years, Children’s Aid has been working in connecting youth and their families to fresh healthy food through the Go!Healthy program and other community partners in the New York City area. This year, the Go!Healthy program championed the farm-to-school program by connecting Children’s Aid community schools and community centers with trips to local farmers’ markets. This summer we started the Go!Healthy Food Box program, where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at a low cost directly to the community members at Goodhue Center in Staten Island, and the Whitney Young Jr. Campus where C.S. 211, I.S. 318, Children’s Aid College Prep, and Early Childhood programming take place. The programs will continue through the fall. In addition to this, the Go!Healthy program strives to make direct links through its after-school programming to local community farms and gardens through its Go!Chefs programming and food justice programs.

Over the past decade, the farm-to-school movement has exploded across the U.S, reaching millions of students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Farm to School is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, 298 school districts participate in Farm to School. Children’s Aid is proud to also be a leader in connecting fresh, healthy, local foods to its community members.

To learn more about National Farm to School Month, visit

For the latest information about Go!Healthy events including walks to the farmers’ market or the Food Box Program, join our Go!Healthy Facebook group

For more information about the Go!Healthy program, please reach out to Children’s Aid Director of Food and Nutrition Alyson Abrami (



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Keeping the Lights on After School

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On Thursday October 20, after-school advocates across the country celebrated Lights on Afterschool. The annual event, started by the After School Alliance, highlights the importance of extended day programming from those who would know best: school staff and students. Despite the gains children receive from attending after-school programming, nearly 600,000 students are left unsupervised after school in New York State.

Children’s Aid is proud to offer after-school programming to youth at our community schools and centers across New York City. Whether its art classes, swimming lessons, or robotics programming, we are investing in children so that they can develop their natural talents and lifelong passions in safe and enriching environments. And it makes the difference for parents who cannot afford private lessons or child care during the hours between school dismissal and the end of the work day.

The Whitney Young Jr. Campus in the Bronx came out in strong numbers to showcase their appreciation for after-school programming. The after-school program there serves three community schools at the campus: C.S. 211, I.S. 318, and Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School. Students from all three community schools put on dance performances, skits, and used their platform to address the topic of bullying. The school community ended their evening by marching around the neighborhood with signs that expressed how much after-school programs mean to them.  

We are extremely proud of the young advocates at the Whitney Young Campus and thank all our after-school staff for supporting children every day after the school bell rings. 

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Helping Team Children’s Aid Go the Extra Mile

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Who better than employees of a marketing agency to help middle-schoolers in the arts group at our Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem come up with personalized banners to support Team Children’s Aid for the upcoming NYC TCS Marathon? Well, those were our thoughts, exactly, and we were delighted to welcome about a dozen volunteers from Rauxa, a digital branding and marketing agency, to the center last Friday to do just that. Employee volunteers encouraged youth to come up with clever slogans—something they do every day for their corporate clients. And our young people were more than up to the task.

With markers, paint, glue, and glitter in hand, they put their artistic talents to good use, creating personal banners for each member of Team Children’s Aid. We know they will be inspired to keep up the pace with encouragement like “Victor, 26.2 got nothing on you!” The banners will be held high on November 6 at Team Children’s Aid’s personal cheering section in Harlem, right around the 22nd mile of the marathon—a point at which runners could certainly use an added boost to get them through the last leg of the race. Children’s Aid can’t thank Rauxa enough for their volunteers’ enthusiasm and creative energy as employees dedicated a full day of service to Children’s Aid (another group of volunteers spent the morning reading and playing games with our littlest ones at Drew Hamilton Learning Center).

As the day of the race nears, so does Children’s Aid’s excitement: we are thrilled to have our first team representing the agency running this year and welcome you to join the team, too, by donating here and/or joining us at the Atwood this Thursday evening from 6:30-8:30 for a Marathon Mingle hosted by our Associates Council. For full information about the event, please visit our Crowdrise or Facebook pages. We hope to see you there

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#SpeakBeautiful with Dove

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Teen girls from our Frederick Douglass Center in Harlem and Mirabal Sisters Campus in Washington Heights participated in the launch of Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful campaign to combat online negativity. The event started with a brief panel discussion—lead by Dove Global Self-Esteem Ambassador Jess Weiner—with social media influencers who truly understand the issues girls are facing online, including vlogger and host of MTV’s Decoded, Franchesca Ramsey, and Modern Family actress Ariel Winter. From there, each panelist spent some time with the girls in activities developed to arm girls and their mentors with the tools to face negative online comments. It was an inspiring day for everyone in attendance. 

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