The Children's Aid Blog

Taking Time to Honor Academic Achievers and Civic Minded Youth

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

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

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

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

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

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

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

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

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

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

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

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.

"Wild Thing" play a real theater-going experience at the Children's Aid Society's Philip Coltoff Center

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

This spring at the Philip Coltoff Center, theater-going children and adults alike were enthralled by the sight of a young-at-heart dad dragged off by monsters for a dose of discipline.  The play, "Wild Thing" by Resident Playwright Monica Flory, was put on by The New Acting Company, The Children's Aid Society's theater company and school soon to celebrate its 10 year anniversary.

Inspired by the well-loved children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak, this play was well suited for children ages 4 through Adult. The costumes and staging just added to the fun as Rohana Elias-Reyes from said, "The New Acting Company takes producing for kids seriously; they don't skimp on lighting, costumes, sound and set and this creates a real theatergoing experience." This is just the latest installment from The New Acting Company, which specializes in exciting productions for families, including "The Jungle Book", "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" & "Alice In Wonderland" just a few favorites from previous seasons.  The New Acting Company, created, founded and lead by Artistic Director, Stephen Michael Rondel is a fun, safe and creative place for students of all ages to explore the world of acting.

In the Kitchen Youth Learn about Cooking, Life

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

Kitchen work is busy work: slicing, dicing, basting, baking, tasting. There is much to learn, including the deliciousness of fresh, natural foods, how to choose the best ingredients, plan nutritional menus and follow recipes correctly.  Learning to cook is an essential skill, but also stands as a metaphor for life - developing skills, planning, proper implementation...and living a healthy life. The Children's Aid Society knows the recipe for teaching the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, and we take part in several culinary educational programs. "Fun Food, Smart Food" is a 12-week cooking and nutrition program for middle school-age youth (grades 5-8) empowering young people to learn cooking skills, develop a passion for healthful food and to benefit from healthful food choices. After-school classes, which meet at sites in Brooklyn and Harlem, help students learn hands-on cooking and nutrition lessons. Utilizing fresh, healthful foods is the goal, and field trips to local greenmarkets and farms reinforce classroom work. Fresh Direct and Baby Buggy donate food to the program, which is a collaboration of the Department of Youth and Community Development and The Children's Aid Society, in partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Office of the Food Policy Coordinator. The program is scheduled to expand in fall 2009 to the South Bronx and Jamaica.

The Children's Aid Society has also teamed up with the Food Network and Share Our Strength® with the opening of the first Good Food Garden in New York City at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. Share our Strength tells us that one out of six kids in America is at risk of going hungry.  Good Food Gardens is a multigenerational learning opportunity, with toddlers, teens and seniors working side by side to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. The produce is used in The Children's Aid Society's Go!Chefs program, which makes healthy cooking and eating both fun and accessible for young people, ages two through 21. (You're never too young to learn prepare and enjoy "real food"). Take a tour with this blogger here. We'll look at all the Go!Chef  programs, including the Go!Kids early childhood obesity prevention program, in more detail in a future blog. Feed the body, feed the mind!

Photos Courtesy of Lily Kesselman

Founder of The Children's Aid Society, Charles Loring Brace understood the Power of Education

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

For over 150 years The Children's Aid Society has been a leader in assistance to needy children, with the ultimate goal of helping them become healthy and productive adults. Founder Charles Loring Brace believed that by filling the gaps between what children deserve and what life has dealt them, they would prosper. Education has been an anchor of The Children's Aid Society; Today, Children's Aid continues to be an education leader, operating community schools in New York City in partnership with the Department of Education.

Charles Loring Brace knew that the role of the education system should provide more for children than the typical education provided in the 19th century; it should offer a community of support and multiple services to the child. The phrase "the child is the father of the man" coined by William Wordsworth, was a popular phrase in the 19th century and was surely embraced by Charles Loring Brace. It speaks to the growth to adulthood requiring a strong foundation in childhood.

The schools operated by The Children's Aid Society in New York City are open early, close late, and are open evenings, weekends and summers. These community schools serve as more than a place where children attend classes. With a familiar and nourishing environment, children can also receive medical and dental care, speak to a counselor about a problem, stay after school to build reading skills, play chess, work on a computer, take art and music lessons, get help with homework, practice sports and attend summer camp: "school days" that provide a strong foundation to aid in growing to prosperous adulthood. And parents find a new center of their community.

2009 Report: 15,000 Youth are Homeless in New York City: The Children's Aid Society's Housing Programs Fight Back!

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

This spring the Coalition for the Homeless released its annual "State of the Homeless 2009" report, an assessment of homelessness in New York City. The report finds that there are currently more than 36,000 homeless New Yorkers sleeping in municipal shelters each night - including an astonishing 15,500 children. The report states that high unemployment and rising housing costs were major factors that led to a serious increase in families ending up in shelters in 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009.

It was the homelessness of impoverished children who lived on the streets of New York City that helped propel Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children's Aid Society, to action in 1853. Today, more than 150 years later, The Children's Aid Society in New York still believes that every child belongs with a family in a safe place that he or she can call home. We provide many services for housing youth and their families, including:

  • The Carmel Hill Project provides social services to residents in three renovated apartment buildings on West 118th Street.
  • Children's Aid Society's Pelham Fritz Apartments, provide apartments for homeless families on the road to permanent housing.
  • The Children's Aid Society's Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy helps families resolve housing issues by providing legal and financial assistance.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless' report, data from the past two New York City recessions points to continued growth of unemployment and high housing costs, which will increase homelessness in New York City throughout 2009. With growing need,The Children's Aid Society's programs are more critical than ever.