The Children's Aid Blog

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 www.farmtoschool.org.

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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/CASGoHealthy/

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

 

 

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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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Team Children’s Aid: Part IV

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Drema Brown is seasoned and skilled on a number of different levels. At Children’s Aid, where she serves as our vice president of the School Age division, we have known for some time she has one of the city’s best minds when it comes to education. Once an elementary school principal in the South Bronx, she came to Children’s Aid because she understood the barriers that kids from low-income neighborhoods faced and “I saw how powerful collaboration could be between schools and youth development organizations.”

What we didn’t know about Drema is that she has put some serious mileage behind her. She first started running back in 2007 and ran her first half-marathon a year later. This year’s TCS New York City Marathon is not her first, but the fundraising challenge she’s taken on makes it extra special.

“I’m excited that Children’s Aid is having its first team,” said Drema, who is running specifically for the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School. “This is a great way to bring together my two biggest passions and what I do in my spare time as a hobby.”

We are psyched to have Drema on Team Children’s Aid. She’s going to be awesome.

If you would like to support her run, click here to make a donation.

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Teens Leading the Way

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The East Harlem Center Keystone Club has been a powerhouse in the Children’s Aid community when it comes to teen leadership. The program, part of the Boys and Girls Club (BGCA) service initiative, has given many teens in the East Harlem community the opportunity to become active in their community.

“It’s not just doing service for others,” said Midge Caparosa, the advisor for the group. “They are motivating their peers to do service as well.”

Not only that, but they are being recognized for their impact. The East Harlem Keystone Club recently received two awards at the BGCA Regional Keystone Conference for their hard work, dedication, and success for their service projects over the past year. Their Academic Success award recognized their work educating young children in the East Harlem community on asthma triggers and attacks and chronic absenteeism. Their second award was, naturally, for stellar community service.

The group of teenagers meets three times a week after school to think of innovative ways to engage their peers in community service projects. In addition to the education component of their service projects around key issues in the East Harlem community, the group would extend the invite to their friends at school to come and hang out at the center once a month on Friday evenings, for example, to listen to music while making cards for patients at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Most evenings ended with many of the teens playing basketball on the center’s court. Over the course of the year, the club engaged 1,700 youth through 14 different service projects, with each Friday drawing over 70 teenagers to center.

“These kids in particular hold a very special place in my heart,” Midge said. Many of her teens in the Keystone Club have been active participants at the East Harlem Center since kindergarten. Midge herself has worked at the East Harlem center for 28 years, a great reflection of the commitment to service and community she instills in her teens.

“They are learning the language of leadership,” Midge said. ”They are learning how to be community leaders and how to have a voice to create great change.”

Congratulations to Midge and all the teens at the East Harlem Center for representing Children’s Aid so well.

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Team Children's Aid: Part III

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Victor Liebregt, 31, was what you would call a casual runner until he caught the bug last year. The native of Holland ran a half-marathon for fun and was surprised at his performance. He started entering more races, and the desire to finish faster burned.

In just a few weeks, he’s going to take his first stab at a full marathon as part of Team Children’s Aid in the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon. But he wants to do more than post a solid time. He recently started working for Intertrust Group, and they offer opportunities to match charitable giving provided that the gift supports youth, education, and is a local organization.

“When I started Googling charities, Children’s Aid was highly recommended,” said Victor. “It looks very solid, very experienced.”

Victor hopes to raise $5,000 in partnership with a colleague from Intertrust. And then the company would match that amount.

“For a lot of people, New York is a hard city to live in, especially for young people,” said Victor. “This is a great way to use my network, and the company’s, to make this a better place for everyone.”

We wish Victor luck—with his race time and with the fundraising.

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A Space for Healing

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Within our Child Welfare and Family Services, the Children’s Aid Family Wellness Program offers critical support to families with either past or present cases of domestic violence to help ensure their well-being and achieve long-term stability.

“We try to get to the root of the problem,” said Manny Yonko, director of the Family Wellness program. The program’s caseworkers and counselors assess the needs of each family and strategize support for all members who either experienced or witnessed abuse.

Survivors are given the space to heal in both individual and group counseling. And to ensure that child care doesn’t present an additional barrier to accessing help, the Family Wellness program also offers play groups and counseling for children. Teens who witnessed abuse at home or are in abusive relationships themselves receive counseling where they learn to define healthy relationships.

The Family Wellness program also offers intervention work for abusive partners who are invested in ending the cycle of violence. Through therapeutic services and counseling, parents who were aggressors understand the effects their actions have on their children and learn how to have age-appropriate conversations with their kids around their actions. In his work with abusive partners, Manny has found that many parents think they need to take drastic steps to transform their relationship with their children. He advocates for small and important steps first.

“I just need you to hold yourself accountable,” he advises parents who participate in the intervention services. “And then you’ll really be your child’s hero.”

In many cases, children who witnessed their parent being an aggressor in intimate partner violence display signs of anxiety and fear. So he encourages his participants to verbalize to their child that “it is okay for them to feel their feelings.”

 “That kind of validation is so important for kids,” said Manny.

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Perrigo Exposes NGC Youth to Robots, Diversity and Career Possibilities

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It might not seem noteworthy to report that about 10 young people from Children’s Aid’s Next Generation Center (NGC) visited a pharmaceutical company in the Bronx last Thursday and met a worker named Charlie. But what if you found out that Charlie was actually a robot on the line at a Perrigo facility? Now that is something to make note of.

Charlie was but one of the highlights of youths’ tour of the pharmaceutical lab. While the robots mixing vats of ointments and topical medicines were indeed intriguing, NGC members also benefited greatly from the human connections made that afternoon.

Wearing protective gear, including hairnets, booties, gloves, and earplugs, youth took a brief tour of the plant and had the chance to ask questions of various Perrigo employees. The teens peppered workers with questions about educational requirements and job trajectory, and they were delighted to see a significant amount of diversity in the company and to learn that moving up the ranks within Perrigo is not uncommon.

The youth described the trip as an “eye opening experience” and an “inspiring venture.” Through NGC, Children’s Aid promotes workforce readiness for the young adults who seek out our myriad services across the city, and we are more than happy to expose them to opportunities, like employment training programming and visits to local job sites, to help prepare them for the increasingly competitive workforce.

To be sure, the tour and subsequent meeting with the head of Perrigo’s human resources department were an enlightening and positive experience. Perrigo even agreed to attend NGC’s next Employment Mixer, our newest method to expose youth to NYC companies looking to hire. The mixers are organized by the center’s job developer, Wendell Moore, who was also on hand for the Perrigo tour. He said, “It was not only a learning experience on manufacturing, but also a valuable lesson on how to develop a solid plan to pursue a career in this field.”

It would be safe to assume that before last Thursday these young people likely had not given much thought to working in pharmaceuticals. It would also be safe to say that, now, a few youth walked away with a different perspective on the pharmaceutical industry and the role they could one day play in it. Children’s Aid thanks Perrigo and its employees for their time and for opening the eyes of our teens to a new avenue of possibilities for the future.  

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Summer on the Boulevard

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For the past two weekends, we joined our friends at WHEDco in shutting down Louis Nine Boulevard for the third annual Bronx Summer Fest. The event, which featured an array of performances from local talent, was an opportunity for Bronxites to enjoy the last few days of summer weather, celebrate heading back to school, and learn about the social services available to them in the Southern Boulevard neighborhood.

Children’s Aid showed up in strong numbers. Just Ask Me (JAM) Peer educators provided information on our health services in the Bronx. Staff from the Next Generation Center asked youth what resources they saw missing in their community. Our pre-k services and Children’s Aid College Prep provided enrollment information to interested parents, and the Go!Healthy program provided tips on healthy eating and nutritious samples for the public. And collaboratively, South Bronx Rising Together used the opportunity to highlight Attendance Awareness month for students and their families and the work they are doing to address chronic absenteeism in community schools like C.S. 61.

We had an amazing time out in the community over the last few weekends and thank WHEDco for inviting us out on the Boulevard this summer!

 

 

 

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