The Children's Aid Blog

Mentoring Self Esteem and Building Success in Life with The Children's Aid Society in New York

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Educators and parents agree that high self-esteem and respect for others helps youth accept responsibility for their actions, and take pride in their accomplishments. Positive self esteem in teens helps gives them control of their lives. Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., a well known psychotherapist, defines self esteem as 'being able to experience oneself as...coping with the challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.' That sounds a lot like Charles Loring Brace, the founder of New York City-based Children's Aid Society, who believed that children had the right to a happy and productive life.

Mentoring programs have proven to be especially helpful in fostering self-esteem.  Through mentoring, self esteem develops and responsibility for oneself, family and community follow.

Youth Empowerment for Success, or the YES Mentoring Program, was founded in New York in 1992 in conjunction with The Children's Aid Society to address the needs of the adolescent males coming through the Family Court system. YES for Girls was created in 1997. The award-winning YES Program is a unique collaboration that addresses the educational, social and emotional needs of this at-risk population. By fostering pride and self-validation, YES mentors guide youth towards positive self-identity.

Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the harsh challenges of the world. Kids and teens who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. You can help kids become involved in this experience - YES is looking for energetic, committed men and women to be part of the YES team. For more information, click here.

The Children's Aid Society Kids and Music: Nourish the Mind and Soul

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singingWe all know that music soothes the soul, but - what about the mind?  Well, recent neuroscience research studies have found that children who play musical instruments are more focused, perform better on intelligence tests and have advanced cognitive ability, compared to children without any music instruction. This is not news to The Children's Aid Society, where music has always been a fundamental tool we use to help children and teens explore the freedom of creativity - individually and as a team.

Children of all ages have been enjoying the music experience through innovative after-school programs like The Children's Aid Chorus, Harmony in Harlem, drumming groups and music recording studios.  Within these programs, children of all ages can explore all types of music - whether it's a gospel song or moody jazz on a tenor sax.   Budding composers and recording artists can write, record and produce an original piece of music composition at actual recording studios in either the Frederick Douglass Center or Dunlevy Milbank Center. notes

Music brings people together - crossing all boundaries of culture, race and economics - The Children's Aid Chorus Program is a perfect example. It comprises 19 vocal ensembles with over 350 chorus participants aged 5-18.  The award-winning choristers have had the opportunity to tour across North America, perform on television and at famous, historic venues, sing for dignitaries and collaborate with composers. In fact, each year at its Spring Concert, The Children's Aid Society Chorus debuts new commissioned work by an American composer.

Yes, at New York's Children's Aid Society, we know that music nourishes both our kids' minds and souls.  We see it in their smiles and in their bright eyes - each and every day.

For more information on any of our music programs, please call (212) 533-1675

Children's Aid/AileyCamp: Dance and the Power of the Self

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New York's Children's Aid Society provides several types of summer camp experiences in and around New York City, providing all-day adventures for children ages 5-14. The activities are designed to emphasize creativity, skill, youth development and social learning - while still remembering that summer is meant to be fun.

One of the more unique opportunities for developing self-confidence and creativity is the Children's Aid/AileyCamp, a singular experience that provides underserved middle school students with the power of expression of dance and art.

Children's Aid/AileyCamp is an innovative six-week summer dance camp that also uses dance as a vehicle for developing a sense of worth and confidence for underserved youth. Creative expression and critical thinking skills are developed: empowerment that carries over to other activities and walks of life. Students begin each day with the AileyCamp Daily Affirmation-"I will not use the word can't to define my possibilities."

Alvin Ailey was a visionary dancer and choreographer who founded the world renowned Alvin Ailey Dance Theater fifty years ago, changing forever the perception of American dance. Today the legacy of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater continues with extraordinary artistry from the current company's dancers and Artistic Director.  Students need no prior dance experience to attend Children's Aid/AileyCamp. Once involved, they experience beauty, spirit, and passion that knows no bounds.

The students develop a strong sense of self and self-expression; within this unique opportunity, teens learn and use dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem. What a fantastic message to learn as a young person making his/her way in the world!

During the summer of 2007, the highly successful Children's Aid/AileyCamp expanded to a second Children's Aid Society site, on Staten Island. (The original location remains in the Mirabal Sisters Campus community school in Washington Heights.) The camps' final, emotional performances in August stand as strong testimonials to the power of the arts to change lives.

The Children's Aid Society's Camps Combine Educational and Cultural Experiences with, "Good old summertime fun"

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In 1873 in New York City The Children's Aid Society leased and then equipped a large house on Staten Island, establishing the first "Fresh Air" type of vacations for city children and mothers. The rural surroundings offered an escape from hot city streets and stifling tenements that the children faced every day.

Then, in 1884 The Children's Aid Society developed summer health and vacation homes in Brooklyn, New York's Bath Beach and on Coney Island to help poor, sick children recover from illness.The sea air was considered an effective cure for the diseases and malnourishment of city life where children lived in unsanitary and overcrowded tenements.

New York's Children's Aid Society today continues not only help to keep children safe, but introduce engaging and stimulating activities at camp. It's important to have fun, but also to try to counter the "summer slide," when students lose educational ground during summer vacation. Learning is fun and invigorating at these many camps, including:

Country Day Camps and City Day Camps - These programs combine summer activities with field trips to recreational, cultural and historic destinations, bringing children from different neighborhoods and cultures together.

Dance Camp - Alvin Ailey Camp combines typical day camp activities and field trips, along with the unique opportunity to learn and use dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem. Creative expression and critical thinking skills follow.

Respite Camp - A year-round Respite Camp for physically and developmentally disabled children from low-income families. Respite campers participate in activities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them because of their disabilities and limited financial means.

Taking Time to Honor Academic Achievers and Civic Minded Youth

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A real sense of family prevailed in the Con Ed auditorium on the evening of June 18th as an eager crowd gathered for the annual Children's Aid Society E.X.C.E.L. ceremony honoring high school and college graduates. Students' families were in attendance, in addition to the families formed at Children's Aid community centers and schools across the city - support networks of peers and staff that have proven invaluable in the lives of many teens.

Quenniqua Martinez, 17, Children's Aid's Youth of the Year and a member of the Frederick Douglass Center since age 6, said, "There is always someone there to talk to and someone to support me when my family can't."

The Children's Aid Society's E.X.C.E.L. (Educational Excellence Creating Empowered Leaders) is a comprehensive educational and life skills program designed to engage students, ages 14-21, in a breadth of services geared towards preparing them for college and promoting their future success.

In an emotional ceremony, 48 exceptional graduates were recognized for their achievements, ranging from academic excellence to overcoming obstacles to demonstrating leadership and community service.  The young peoples' hard work and perseverance were lauded and accomplishments celebrated.  Children's Aid's CEO, C. Warren Moses, praised the "beautiful, smart articulate young people" gathered for the ceremony.

As college costs rise and aid to low-income students declines, higher education is increasingly out of reach for many youth. To help ease the burden of these escalating costs, fifteen graduating high school seniors received scholarships provided by Children's Aid, individual donors and corporate sponsors.

As he presented a scholarship named in honor of his father to the college graduate with the highest grade point average (Wendy Flores), former mayor David N. Dinkins told tales from his own college days and emphasized the importance of education.

At the end of the evening, the graduates were excited for the new adventures and challenges that lay ahead.  The Children's Aid Society wishes them the best of luck!

Photo Caption: Bob Stern congratulates Quenniqua Martinez, winner of the first Jean L. Stern Memorial Scholarship.

New York's Children's Aid Society Teens Speak Out-On Education

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Fourteen teens from community schools and centers across The Children's Aid Society visited City Hall on April 30th

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said "Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education."  Well, intelligence and character were certainly in abundance when local teens from The Children's Aid Society community centers and schools voiced their opinions, insight and concerns on educational issues at a recent visit to City Hall.

These articulate young men and women participated in an interactive discussion with New York City Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development, Dennis Walcott, on topics such as municipal government control of the NYC school system, parental involvement, overcrowded classes and gang violence.  It was a win-win exchange of ideas. The students gained an appreciation for the role that government plays vis-à-vis their education, as well as a sense of empowerment in knowing that their collective voice is being heard. The Deputy Mayor was duly impressed by the young people whose educational best interests he, in his official capacity, is entrusted.

This visit to City Hall grew out of the fifth annual Youth Speak Out on Education Conference, held in February 2009 and presented by Children's Aid and the Audrey Miller Poritzky Education Fund for Children. Students researched, wrote and performed lively presentations on a topic of their choosing - the New York City school environment and academic success. As in years past, Deputy Mayor Walcott attended the Speak Out and invited these motivated teens to City Hall for a more in depth conversation.

A Holistic Approach to Keeping Bullies at Bay

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As any student, teacher or parent knows, bullying can have a huge impact in the way students view the school environment. The news that next month the American Academy of Pediatrics will revise their policies on the pediatrician's role in youth violence to include a section on bullying, gives weight to the idea that bullying is an issue that needs to be dealt with on all levels, including medically.

Children's Aid uses a holistic approach to combat bullying in schools. Each of The Children's Aid Society's 21 New York City Community Schools offer social work and/or mental health services, as do our 6 community centers. According to the New York Times, The American Academy of Pediatrics' new policy statement emphasizes the importance of the watchful eye of a physician. When both the medical and mental health are integrated into schools, as they are in The Children's Aid Society Community School model, school officials can provide immediate attention for suffering kids, the bullied or the bully.

Activating the bystanders and empowering students to speak up about bullying is the model of Norwegian professor Dan Olweus that is recommended in the revised American Academy of Pediatrics policy and exactly what The Children's Aid Society gives support to. Events such as the recent Bronx Youth Council conference on violence allow the students themselves to discuss these issues and foster an environment of community responsibility.

In February at the 5th annual Youth Speak Out on Education, described the effects of bullying and ways to combat it. Encouraging and open dialogue about bullying, allows students to guide each other on how to deal with bullies, either on the more obvious personal level or when they see it around them, making a more accountable community.

Keeping it Fun: Coach "Hammer" Stevens Teaches Kids Basketball, Integrity and the Value of Education

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Sure, it's great to win a game but, in the world according to Coach Marvin "Hammer" Stevens, winning and losing take a back seat to the sheer fun of playing and the self-esteem kids develop through social interaction and academic achievement.  Retired from a career in basketball, he has been coaching The Children's Aid Society's girls' basketball teams, including the trophy-winning Douglass Panthers, for 20+ years.  Thanks to his expert guidance and passion for the game, the teams represent New York City's best in girls' basketball.Honor the Game

Hammer, along with his brother and founder of the youth basketball program, Kelsey Stevens, is dedicated to mentoring kids, encouraging them to strive for excellence and teaching them a keen sense of respect for themselves and others.  The results speak for themselves: three high school seniors on this year's Panthers have won Division I scholarships, and a former player plays for the WNBA. Sport is an integral part of The Children's Aid Society in New York, offering year-round action, serving boys and girls ages 5-18. It's all about teamwork, fun - and honoring the game.

Children's Aid Recognized for Its Century of Service to the Greenwich Village Community

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Children's Aid's Philip Coltoff Center received a prestigious Village Award from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation for its long service to the community - 117 years and counting!

The neighborhood has evolved over the years, but Children's Aid's commitment to the community has remained the same.

In a ceremony held on June 15, Children's Aid and the center's director, Steve Wobido, were singled out for playing a vital role in the area, providing educational, recreational and service programs for Village families.

The center opened on Sullivan Street in 1892 to serve the immigrant and working class population. Children's Aid offered instruction in cooking and the trades, in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic. Currently the center offers early childhood education, after-school programs and summer camp, with a special emphasis on the arts.

The Villager ran an article in its June 17-23 issue highlighting all of the Village Award winners.

Recognize President Obama's National Health Care Day of Service

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During President Barack Obama's National Health Care Day of Service on Saturday June 27th, please keep in mind that currently, of the 2.6 million New Yorkers without insurance, 400,000 are children.

The Children's Aid Society is working hard to decrease that number through our Health Care Access Program. This program assists New York City children and families with the complicated task of enrolling in and accessing their state provided health insurance. The Children's Aid Society employs Facilitated Enrollers, people who are specially trained assist in this process and tirelessly help the uninsured until they have secured an adequate health plan.

Facilitated Enrollers are particularly necessary because many of the families in the communities we serve are immigrants or non-English-speaking New Yorkers; the language barrier makes the already complex application procedure even more challenging. Facilitated Enrollers, or FEs, provide culturally sensitive outreach and enrollment services in more than 40 languages.

A huge part of why HCAP is able to reach and gain the trust of many uninsured families is the integral role that The Children's Aid Society already plays in their lives. The Children's Aid Society provides school-based health services in Community Schools in Harlem and Washington Heights, in addition to serving the wider community with three community health centers, so that health care can be convenient as well as affordable for New York City families.

All children in New York City deserve adequate medical care and the Children's Aid Society works toward this goal. At Children's Aid, every day is a Health Care Day of Service.