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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Image Credit: Detail of Hispanic Heritage Select Photos, by David Valdez at Hispanic Heritage Month

What Is National Hispanic Heritage Month?

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The observance started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
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Message from Redfern Director Lakia Echols

Last week, we began the campaign for Far Rockaway’s Redfern Cornerstone Community Center, which closed abruptly last year. I’m from the Far Rockaway community — grew up here, went to school here, and now serve as Director of the Cornerstone program. So I know it from both sides, and here’s what I can tell you: The children of Redfern need this community center more than ever. Continue reading

Don’t Leave Them Stranded Again

Every Dollar You Give Goes to Redfern!

I am excited to tell you about our Redfern campaign, where every dollar raised will go directly to the Redfern Cornerstone Community Center in Far Rockaway, Queens. One year ago, children went to the Center for their afterschool program, as usual, and found the doors locked and a note on the door: the center was closed until further notice.

School-age kids, literally stranded on the doorstep. It’s painful to imagine. So when the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development asked us to become the new provider for Redfern, we just couldn’t — would never — say no. Overnight, we had to come up with a budget, programming, and staffing.

Redfern is in a tough neighborhood. It lacks services most of us take for granted, such as recreational activities and high-quality health care — and without the Redfern Cornerstone program, it would lack tutoring and afterschool enrichment opportunities.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the reopening of the center, someone was shot to death in the bodega across the street. Not a stranger — someone these kids knew from the neighborhood. I was so concerned that the police presence and crime scene tape would upset the kids on a day of celebration. The kids are used to it, someone explained to me. And then tragically, in the first two months of this year, two 15-year-old boys were shot to death, one of whom attended our centers; two families will never be the same again. We can’t be okay with this being the norm. We vowed “never to get used to it.” The loss of these young lives continues to break my heart each and every time. It actually enrages me, and I pray that never changes.

Those are the sad things, but here’s what’s good: parents who continually show up for their children, physically and emotionally; and kids who dream of a future in which they can be anything, just like all kids do. When we told the kids we were launching this campaign, they were so excited. “Do you think we can get some recreational equipment?” one child asked. Please, let’s show them that their larger New York community cares about them and are willing to help close the gap, so they have a fighting chance to compete and succeed. It really is in our power to do it.

For the next three weeks, every dollar donated through the links on this page will go directly to the space and programs used by Redfern kids. Kids like Tristian (pictured below, in front), who told us, “I struggle with math, and the center helps me understand the problems I have. We don’t have much to do in Far Rockaway, and I come to have fun, plus see my friends. Even though I wish robotics was here, Mr. Kirk teaches about science, money, and internet safety. When the center was shut down, I did not have a place to go.”

We need your help to remind these kids that they do matter and offer them a reason to say no to violence by offering them something to say yes to. Your gift will go directly to help us provide programming specific to these children and their community — such as robotics for children like Tristian, and video editing programs and instruction, which many kids have asked for. We know this approach works. (See Murlisa’s Story for a first-person account that shows why.)

Although you won’t find kids asking for it, another thing Redfern desperately needs is social workers. The trauma of seeing friends, loved ones, neighbors dead on the street is traumatic and affects these kids in ways that may not be apparent. It causes people to never really get attached, because the person you get attached to might not be there tomorrow. To anticipate loss and minimize the feelings that come with that loss can cause our kids to devalue themselves and others, when they each are so full of potential and possibilities.

Imagine if kids and their families had a place where they could get professional help to deal with these issues; and if that same place offered a safe haven where they could connect with others, explore their strengths, and begin to believe in tomorrow. Redfern is becoming that place, more and more every day, but we need your help; together, we can make Redfern a place to which our youth are proud and excited to go, where they can begin to realize their dreams.

I hope you will join us in this campaign!

P.S. Please give today. We can begin purchasing the things Redfern needs right away, and so many children are counting on you. Thank you for your support!


Traci Donnelly
Chief Executive Officer
The Child Center of NY

Please see this message from Redfern Director Lakia Echols


Provides 16 weeks of individual therapy by a licensed social worker for a child touched by violence.


Replaces a badly torn safety cushion, like the one pictured above.


Purchases The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Laboratory: Build, Program, and Experiment with Five Wicked Cool Robots.

Donate Now

Descriptions of impact are symbolic. Your gift will be considered a contribution to the entire mission of Redfern and will be used to purchase goods, staffing, or services at Redfern Cornerstone Community Center.

Statement by Child Center Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Community Engagement Deep Ghosh on the Deaths of Youssef Soliman and Trevor Rhudd

On behalf of everyone at The Child Center of NY, I want to express my profound sadness
and sympathy on the deaths of Youssef Soliman and Trevor “Bubba” Rhudd — both of
whom were killed needlessly and taken from us much too soon.

Both boys were known to us as local youth who come in to play or hang out at our Community
Centers. We aspired to be a safe place for these boys, and for all the youth of the
community — a place where they could explore their strengths, make friends, and believe
in and work toward a future defined by endless possibilities. When this type of trauma
emerges, those of us living in day-to-day service of the youth and families are all left in
pain and sorrow, trying to make sense of it. It is impossible not to wonder what we could’ve
done differently or more to attract youth away from the evils that exist in our community.
What we can do going forward is renew our commitment to the children who need a safe
and positive place more than ever.

The staff of The Child Center, who are living and feeling the great stress and sorrow of
these senseless murders, know that what is happening is unacceptable. All layers of the
organization, from our CEO to our staff on the frontlines in the Rockaways, are searching for
ways to end the war on the streets. We call out to all who wish to join us in this fight to win
back the streets and minds of the young brothers and sisters in the Rockaways.

There is promise in all of our youth, and both were just starting to find themselves. At our
Centers, staff are willing to listen and explore all options to ending this violence. We invite
anyone with ideas or the desire to join us in an effort to end this violence to reach out to

To the families of these young boys, we send our deepest sympathies. While we know
that nothing can ease the grief you are feeling, we hope you can take some comfort in
your good memories of your sons, and in the knowledge that so many people cared about
them and will miss them, and hopefully will go on to do good in their memory.

Statement of Child Center CEO Traci Donnelly on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Credit Proposal

4workers_300x300“Last week, Governor Cuomo announced a new Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit that will help more than 200,000 middle class families make their child care more affordable. For many of the nearly 22,000 children and families The Child Center of NY serves per year, limited access to low-cost programs can force parents to choose between providing safe, quality child care arrangements and work. Under the Governor’s proposal, middle class families earning between $50,000 and $150,000 would see their benefit double, on average from $169 to $376. Continue reading

Sean’s Story

Sean with Ms. Brenda at his high school graduation

Sean with Ms. Brenda at his high school graduation

I was a naïve kid. I never really paid much mind to what was going on around me. I was bullied because I like to be weird and a little out there—it makes the friends I have now laugh—but in first through eighth or ninth grade, I didn’t have any friends who were like me. People just saw me as a weird kid nobody likes.

That sounds really sad, but I just drowned it out. I’d come home from school and make my little fort out of pillows and play with my action figures.

I knew I was unhappy, but I tried not to pay attention to it. I was a little kid, so I was easily distracted. I never really thought about it until I was at school and realized I had no friends to talk to during recess.

But then I got older and it became too much. I had always pushed my feelings down because I didn’t want to seem weak or be a burden. But I couldn’t deal with myself—I started developing voices, seeing things, losing it. I didn’t know what to do. I was too afraid to die but too depressed to live. Sometimes I would hold a knife to my throat so that I’d realize how much I wanted to live.

That’s when I had a breakdown. I was 16, my girlfriend had just left me, and my grandma and aunt had passed away. I just snapped. I was at school and started screaming and crying that I couldn’t handle it anymore. The school called my mom, who came right away and took me to Bellevue Hospital. I was there for a week and a half, and then they referred me to The Child Center of NY’s home visiting program.

That’s when I met Ms. Miriam. At first it was awkward having some new person coming into my home. But over time, I warmed up to her and got used to her being around. I gradually began to realize how bad my anger was, and how I needed to treat the people in my life better—and that they needed to treat me better, too. Ms. Miriam worked with my mom and me on that, and on communicating with each other.

I’d gotten back together with my girlfriend, and the things Ms. Miriam taught me helped the two of us communicate better, too, and deal with our anger. Normally when I was angry, I’d punch things or break stuff, or hold it in. Or I’d start crying because I didn’t have any other outlet. Ms. Miriam helped me find ways to reduce the buildup when I started getting angry and gave me other alternatives to the crying and breaking things. She helped me learn to think through the consequences and decide if I should walk away or talk about it. Before I started seeing Miriam, if my girlfriend and I disagreed, I’d yell my opinion, she’d shout hers, and one of us would walk out crying. Now, we’re able to say, “Okay, this is what I don’t like….” And we talk about it. Now I know what it takes to have a real relationship, and that helps me not just with my girlfriend, but with my other relationships, too.

Ms. Miriam also introduced me to Teen Time [a group that brings together teens from The Child Center’s various home visiting programs], which I like because I have a lot of fun with the other teens there. I can be myself around them—or at least, myself toned down a little. A lot of times, other people would tell me, “It’s not that bad,” and I’d think to myself, “You don’t understand this pain.” But the people at Teen Time, they understand that it was that bad—even though they’d never say it.

After four months with Ms. Miriam, I got transferred to a less intense program and started seeing Ms. Brenda. In June, I graduated from the program.

Now that I’ve been through it, I can say that getting help isn’t that bad. Nobody ever wants to do it, but it’s definitely worth it. I’m in a much better place now and looking forward to attending Vaughn College in the fall. I’m hoping to become a computer programmer or robotics engineer and either work for a gaming company or go to Silicon Valley and work on robots in the NASA branch.

I feel ready because The Child Center showed me that when you have a problem, there are things you can do. You can work through things, and a lot of things can be fixed; If they can’t, you can move on. Ms. Brenda and Ms. Miriam showed me that I wasn’t beyond help, and things can get better.

David’s Story


David Song and Dr. Sung Min Yoon

My name is David Song, and I am 10 years old. I came to see Dr. Yoon because I was shy and did not talk to teachers and friends. I was fearful of talking to others outside of my parents and older sister at home. I was so scared that I could not say any single word when I was asked to make a presentation in front of class. I felt embarrassed. I just looked down the floor and wanted to cry. My self-esteem diminished, and I was upset every day. When my mother asked me to go to The Child Center of NY, I didn’t want to because I was uncomfortable. But my mother did not give up on me, and eventually I agreed to give it a try.
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Maura Nicolosi: How Can You Say No to These Children?


Maura Nicolosi is the owner of The Nicolosi Law Firm, P.C., in Manhasset, New York, and a member of The Child Center of NY’s Golf Committee. In the following Q&A, Nicolosi discusses how she was introduced to The Child Center, why she stays involved—and why it’s so easy for her to convince others to do the same.

The Child Center of NY: How did you first become involved with The Child Center?

Maura Nicolosi: I was invited by a business acquaintance to a Child Center golf outing about eight years ago and have been supporting the agency ever since. Continue reading

Child Center’s WIA Program Prospers under Leadership of Eric Torres

ericTorres_200x200For the third year running, The Child Center of NY’s WIA program, managed by Eric Torres, received an “Excellent” PQMT rating by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. The PQMT, or Program Quality Monitoring Tool, measures programs in eight key areas, from “Administrative Requirements” to “Program Content.” Torres, who became director of WIA in December of 2012, has been working hard to change the direction of the program and meet the needs of the students. WIA, from the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, aimed to increase occupational skills, employment, retention, and earnings for individuals in or potentially in the workforce. WIA is currently transitioning to WIOA, after the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act signed a year ago.

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