My father used to walk by 162nd Street on a regular basis, seeing the logo for The Child Center of NY and not giving it a passing thought. Earlier this year, I was having some personal problems, and I told my dad I needed help. I was pretty sure I needed to talk to someone about troubles with peer interactions and relationships, and how it was affecting me on multiple levels. My dad remembered The Child Center.
I’m 17 years old, and I go to Queens Vocational in Sunnyside. I’m on an afterschool robotics team. We build robots and compete every year at the Javits Center. I try to keep my grades in the 90s range, so I’m fairly confident that I’ll get into NYU to study electrical and computer engineering. I visited the school, and it’s my first choice.
When I was 15 years old, I was tired of dealing with reality. I wanted to forget everything I ever felt. I was raped at age 11 by an older boy in a gang. That was the start of the journey where I would begin to isolate myself. The way I would escape from the world would be to drink and smoke until I was no longer myself.
“I was trapped in a world full of darkness. I am just so happy that The Child Center was there to shed light. If I had never gotten the help I needed I would probably have either ended up dead or in jail. I would have definitely dropped out of high school. My relationship with other people would still be horrible. My parents would be disappointed in me. I would still have friends who were toxic to me.”
When Nasrin first came to the United States from Bangladesh, she struggled to adjust to the unfamiliar language and customs. Life at home was stressful, too. She felt that her husband dominated her, and she was unsure how to address her son’s aggressive behavior or her daughter’s shyness. In her neighborhood in Woodside, Queens, Nasrin had often passed by The Child Center’s Head Start program, and she decided to enroll her son, Haseen.
At the family orientation for the program, Nasrin heard about services to help families facing domestic violence and emotional abuse. She took advantage of every opportunity. With the help of a case worker and counselor from The Child Center, she improved her parenting skills and gained confidence.
Kawkab Abid, a senior at International High School at LaGuardia Community College, arrived in Brooklyn from Bangladesh with his family when he was 13. As a high school junior, he was accepted into our Workforce Investment Act youth program, an income-based program that provides job readiness training and internships. Kawkab, whose village in Bangladesh was devastated by typhoons, now plans to become an engineer to help communities like his rebuild and grow stronger. In March, he was one of 13 high school students awarded a prestigious New York Times college scholarship. Kawkab is currently finishing high school and deciding where he will attend college.
Here, Kawkab describes his long journey from his village of Meherpur, Bangladesh, to a high school in Queens–and how his past has shaped his plans for the future.
In middle school I had a tough time because I didn’t feel good about myself. I was dealing with a lot of traumatic memories that I had been repressing. Then one day I remembered that I was abused as a child. I was dealing with things someone at my age should not have had to deal with.
I tried a few times to kill myself because I couldn’t stand the pain. I remember standing in the bathroom after taking a bottle of my mom’s medicine. I looked in the mirror. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see myself. It was just some stranger in the mirror.
I had a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital. It was a very scary experience. When I got out, I was sent to The Child Center.
“I tried a few times to kill myself…”
Jorge’s father had a history of severe mental illness and his mother was the victim of domestic violence. When Jorge, a fifth grader, first arrived at The Child Center, he ran and hid under the table to avoid talking to his therapist. During subsequent months, Child Center therapists were able to understand the real reason that Jorge, a child of above average intelligence, was skipping school so often. He was afraid to leave his mom alone with his dad.
“I feel like I’m going back to school with a fresh start,” his therapist reports him saying. His return to a healthy routine is a real turnaround for this child who had suffered so much from educational and emotional neglect.
A single mom, Judith’s 2 1/2 year-old son, Rodrigo, had speech and developmental delays, and she could not find a place where he could be cared for in the ways he needed while she worked long hours at Dunkin’ Donuts. Her language obstacles made her ashamed to ask questions, and she knew no other parents in similar situations.
“The Child Center gave us the opportunity to grow as a family,” says Judith. “It showed me that if you have dreams, you can live those dreams. You want to be a good parent but you don’t always have the tools to do it. The Child Center has shown me how to be a better parent and a better person.”