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NY Mets Celebrate Child Center of NY Staff!

NY Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo shakes hands with Child Center of NY staff of the Cohen Family Wellness Center.

NY Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo shakes hands with Child Center of NY staff of the Cohen Family Wellness Center.

In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, the New York Mets invited nine employees from the Child Center of NY to Citi Field to recognize their impactful work in the mental health space.

The visit was part of Nimmo’s 9, a new player initiative led by Mets Outfielder Brandon Nimmo. This program offers support, empowerment, and memorable experiences to local community members. Throughout the season,  Brandon Nimmo is meeting with individuals from diverse communities, including the elderly, youth in foster care, individuals with disabilities, military personnel, first responders, and under-served youth. We were thrilled to be a part of the first installment of Nimmo’s 9!

Right before the May 30 Mets vs. Diamondbacks game (the Mets won!), Brandon met with and recognized nine employees of the Child Center team. They got to speak with Brandon about their work and how it helps strengthen the local community. Brandon listened intently to their individual stories and presented them with a signed baseball bat that will be displayed at The Child Center’s Cohen Family Wellness Center.

NY Mets Outfielder Brandon Nimmo presents a bat to be displayed at The Child Center of NY's Cohen Family Wellness Center

SNY posted a clip of our team members chatting with Brandon. Through this interaction, two things were crystal clear: Brandon’s genuine interest in mental health and his gratitude for those who provide mental health services. Our nine colleagues who attended could not stop raving about the experience and how meaningful it was to feel seen and appreciated by someone outside our organization in such a public and personal way.

“Vising Citi Field with my co-workers was truly memorable and impactful, as it highlighted the importance of mental health awareness,” said Sarah Garner, a social worker who works with adolescents and adults at the Cohen Family Wellness Center. “One of the standout moments was sharing with Brandon our mission of helping individuals overcome life’s challenges. Hearing him share his personal stories about mental health was incredibly meaningful. As a lifelong Mets fan, stepping onto that field with everyone was an unforgettable experience.”

Sarah Garner, a social worker who works with adolescents and adults at the Cohen Family Wellness Center, chats with Brandon Nimmo

Sarah chatting with Brandon before the game.

Our employees are the heart and soul of The Child Center. They are the unsung heroes who change lives, often in some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable. We are delighted to see them get the recognition they so richly deserve.

The New York Mets and the Amazin’ Mets Foundation have been longtime supporters of The Child Center.  From a dramatic renovation and expansion of services at our Cohen Family Wellness Center, which was made possible by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, to Mets players having been generous with sharing their time and resources with Child Center employees and clients for years,  we are deeply grateful for the Mets’ commitment to shining a spotlight on mental health issues, their dedication to the community, and their support for The Child Center’s efforts to make mental health services accessible to all.

How Head Start Helped a Migrant Family

Corona Head Start Senior Program Director Yolanda Vega with Johana and her two children, a migrant family.

A long-time Child Center employee reflects.

By Yolanda Vega, LMSW
Senior Program Director, Head Start Corona

Corona Head Start Senior Program Director Yolanda Vega with Johana and her two children, a migrant family.

Blog author Yolanda Vega (far right) with Johana (center) and her two children

This is a story about a family who traveled on foot from South America to the United States.

Johana and her partner, José, had their first child in Venezuela. When their first child was one, Johana and José made the decision to leave the country, as economic and political turmoil made it increasingly more difficult to get by. The family then settled in Peru for six years where they welcomed their second child. In 2022, the family made the difficult decision to leave Peru, facing economic hardship and challenges accessing critical services and resources because they were not recognized as citizens; only their baby, who was born on Peruvian soil, was considered a citizen. Traveling by foot through Mesoamerica and Mexico with two small children, Johana and José were determined to make it to the U.S. to provide the best future possible for their family.

I met the family in the fall of 2023, shortly after they had finally made it to the United States. I made a recruitment outreach visit with my co-worker Aaron McIntyre, Corona Head Start’s family service coordinator, to the homeless shelter where the family lives. It is customary for us to conduct these outreach efforts to let families in the community know of our program. On the day Aaron and I met Johana and her young son Misael, I was immediately struck by Johana’s enthusiasm for our program. She wanted to give her child the opportunity to learn how to read and write, as she never learned these skills and knew how hard life was without them. She wanted better for her son and worried that she couldn’t teach him. Aaron and I quickly shifted our attention to speaking with mom rather than showing her pamphlets and forms. We talked, and Johana listened attentively. She was so happy to learn that her son would be eligible, and about all he would learn at Head Start, including, though not limited to, academic readiness, so that he could begin his educational journey at the same level as his peers, and her own lack of knowledge would not hold him back.

Many of our migrant families have made the trip north through very dangerous circumstances, especially when walking through the “frontera,” or the divide between two countries, which many times is filled with gangs and other perilous circumstances. This family, sadly, was no exception. They were robbed in two countries. One time, the robbers pulled out machetes and stated they would slaughter them if they did not give up their cash. Though they had little money with them, who can argue with a machete against their throat?

The family’s journey through eight countries took them through Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and, finally, Mexico, where they surrendered to U.S. immigration officials and, eventually, got on a bus to New York for a 36-hour ride to the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, where all migrants are taken upon their arrival to New York. After they completed the process for entering a shelter, the family was given a room with a kitchen and their own bathroom. When the family got to their room, Johana got on the floor to thank God for finally having a bed for her family to sleep on.

After the family had been living at the Manhattan shelter for a year, the NYC Department of Homeless Services moved them to a shelter in Corona, Queens, which is how my team and I came to meet them and enroll Misael in our Corona Head Start program, where he has been thriving.

After assessing Misael’s development in various areas, as we always do with students, our Head Start team worked with Johana to get Misael evaluated through the New York State Department of Education (DOE) Committee for Pre-School Special Education for a suspected speech delay. As Johana awaits word about Misael’s placement for speech therapy (which we can provide on-site through a collaboration with the DOE), Misael is flourishing in the classroom. The class’s language immersion has helped him tremendously. He is able to state his wants and needs to his teachers, which he hadn’t been able to do previously. As a result of being understood, he is much calmer and ready to learn.

The Child Center takes a holistic approach to serving families, and while we care for Misael’s development, we also help the family meet other needs. Both Misael and his brother received backpacks filled with school supplies that they can use in their shelter room, pajamas, sneakers, books, and coats. Through the collection efforts of several of our teachers, Johana received much-needed shoes, a coat, and other clothing.

Johana is extremely grateful for all of what she has gained from being connected to our program, and she often comes to my office to keep me posted on the jobs she and her husband have taken. Johana has found work in offices, though she doesn’t find openings as often as she would like. Her husband, who is a food delivery person on an e-bike, is busy working seven days a week. On a recent weekend afternoon while I was in my car waiting for the light to change, I heard my name, “Miss Yolanda,” and as I turned my head to face where the voice was coming from, I saw that it was Misael’s dad, who was waving at me. I blow my horn, and wave “hello.”

It is moments like these, when I run into clients, and they seem so genuinely happy to see me, that confirm why I continue to work for The Child Center of NY. The mission drives right into my heart, and I often think of that professor who said when I wanted to join the Peace Corps, why are you doing this when you are so needed right here where you are! Indeed, I love living and working in the communities I serve as it confirms: The Child Center of NY strengthens children and families with skills, opportunities, and emotional support to build healthy, successful lives.

Yolanda Vega has worked for The Child Center of NY for 22 years, first as a part-time Head Start social worker, followed by promotions to assistant director of early childhood programs and director of one of The Child Center’s Prevention and Family Support programs, and now as the director of our Corona Head Start. 

Photo of the Month: Brooklyn Pride!

Staff and volunteers of Brooklyn Community Pride Center stand at a table with information during the 28th Annual Brooklyn Pride Multicultural Festival.

Brooklyn Community Pride Center staff and volunteers tabling at the 28th Annual Brooklyn Pride Multicultural Festival.

On Saturday, June 8, our friends and partners at the Brooklyn Community Pride Center participated in the 28th Annual Brooklyn Pride Multicultural Festival. Their presence  showed the Brooklyn LGBTQ+ community that the Pride Center is here for them with compassion, support, and, yes, pride!

The Pride Center has participated in the Brooklyn Pride Multicultural Festival and Twilight Parade in Park Slope every year since the Center’s inception in 2008. “Having celebrations like Brooklyn Pride is essential, as they uplift and celebrate our diverse and expansive community right here in our own backyard,” said Omari Scott, the Pride Center’s director of development and communications. This year, the Pride Center was one of dozens of contingents, in what appeared to be Brooklyn Pride’s largest Twilight Parade yet.

The Child Center’s partnership with Brooklyn Community Pride Center is part of The Child Center’s behavioral health consultation model. The model is based on the belief that community trust is one of the most important components of service. Here’s how it works: The Child Center lends its mental health expertise to other organizations—like Brooklyn Community Pride Center—that already have relationships and earned trust with people in their communities. Brooklyn Community Pride Center delivers the clinical services through a Child Center satellite license. LGBTQ+ youth and adults who know and trust the Pride Center can access the care they need and deserve in a place where they already feel comfortable. In this way, we all reach more New Yorkers with what they need to thrive.

Brooklyn Community Pride Center is dedicated to meeting the community’s needs in many ways, including the provision of HIV self-test kits, mailed discreetly to your home at no cost. Condoms, as well as other safer sex and harm reduction supplies, are included upon request. When you report your test result back to the Pride Center, you’ll receive an electronic $20 Visa gift card. Pride Center staff can connect you with other sexual health services, too, such as PrEP, a medication used to prevent HIV. Reach out to them with questions by text at 347-943-4227 or via email at resources@lgbtbrooklyn.org.

As Pride Month continues, so do the celebrations! Check out this full listing of BCPC’s Pride programming.

Happy Pride Month, and remember that The Child Center and Brooklyn Community Pride Center are here for LGTQ+ community members year round!

Team Spotlight: 2024 Russell L. Carson Visionary Award Winner Simeon Pollydore

Listen to Simeon’s thank you speech upon receiving the Russell L. Carson Visionary Award.

Since 2015, the Russell L. Carson Visionary Award has been awarded every year to a Child Center of NY employee who performs above and beyond expectations, initiates creative solutions despite limited resources, and demonstrates entrepreneurship in increasing the accessibility to services and opportunities for children and families. The award recognizes employees who propel The Child Center forward—much like the contributions of Mr. Carson, a steadfast supporter of The Child Center, have advanced our work. Candidates are nominated by their colleagues, and any member of the Child Center team can nominate an employee for the honor.

This year’s award went to Simeon Pollydore, program director of Redfern Cornerstone Community Center.

Cornerstone Community Centers, supported by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development and operated by community-based organizations like The Child Center, are located in public housing developments and offer community members of all ages a place where they can engage in dynamic, enriching activities, including high-quality afterschool programs, so everyone can rise together.

Redfern Cornerstone Community Center epitomizes this concept, and it’s in no small measure because of Simeon’s deep dedication and hands-on leadership. Watch the above video to hear Simeon talk about what the Carson Award means to him, and read on for more about Simeon’s amazing story!

The Child Center of NY: Tell us about the journey that led you to The Child Center.

Simeon Pollydore: My literal journey began in a small town called Buxton in the country of Guyana in South America. I was 18 when I immigrated here. I came with my mother, straight to New York and lived right here in Far Rockaway. We already had some family living here.

My career journey started when I was a child. I always had a strong drawing to children and was doing this work even when I was a child myself! I played with my cousins after school in Guyana, and one of our favorite games was “school.” It was literally an afterschool program! We would come home and play school, and they would push me to be the teacher. I guess I had a natural knack for that, so I would always be the one teaching the class, and they were the students. It was so educational and fun, and we loved learning. Since I was blessed to go to a better school, I got more information than they would. It was a wonderful way I could share with them, and they shared with me what they learned and knew.

What did you study in college that prepared you for this work?

I double majored in dance and theater at Queensborough Community College. A year after graduating from QCC in 2012, I began working at Redfern, which was run by a different organization at the time. I started as an activity specialist for dance, so this position was a perfect melding of my two passions, dance and working with young people. I worked in various positions for the organization that previously ran Redfern before I became Redfern’s program coordinator, which is an assistant director position. That’s the position I held when The Child Center took over the operation of Redfern. I became program director in 2019.

Can you describe for us what you do as Program Director of Redfern Cornerstone Community Center—both big picture and day to day?

Big picture, I help provide quality, life-sustaining programs to the entire community. We serve from twinkles to wrinkles, from 5 years to if you’re 99, 109, we have something for you!

Adults gather at Redfern Cornerstone Community Center for a Sit and Paint event.

A Sit and Paint event at Redfern (see below)

Day to day, it’s about quality programming for elementary, middle, and high school participants during the week and teens and adults on evenings and weekends. We also have a senior program where older adults  share food, play cards. … It’s just the place where seniors come to fellowship and have a really good time!

Parents come in, stakeholders come in, and we partner with other community organizations who bring in workshops. We’ve had turkey giveaways, coat drives for the entire family, GED classes, and fun things, like during the winter holidays we have a sit and paint where participants create artwork. We have Saturday Night Lights, which focuses on our teens and offers sports programming from 5 o’clock to 9 o’clock weekly. A few weeks ago, we went on a trip to Dave and Busters. We’re open six days a week throughout the school year and seven days a week in the summer.

Can you describe a particularly memorable experience as Program Director of Redfern?

One of the most memorable that I still hold onto was in 2020, literally months after I was ordained as director, being able to give children of this community iPads. That was one of the biggest highlights of my career. I’ll never forget that. Through DYCD, we offered YMI [Youth Mentoring Initiative] every year. We had 12 middle school participants. The program focused on mentoring, who they want to be when they’re a little older, and preparing them for high school and life. They also got to do special things like cook and go on trips. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the things we felt a lot of participants did not have was advanced technology in their home. A lot of them were still waiting for Chromebooks from the school. I got the OK to use funding for iPads to give to the participants to continue their schooling and also as a token of the work they’d been doing in YMI because even after the pandemic hit, we were still meeting with them online and they were continuing to do the work. I remember personally when I was their age, I was so into computers, and that helped me because everything we do now is on computers. It’s how we navigate the world. They had never received such a gift like that. They were stunned. The fact that a program was giving them something so exceptional, it was really an abundant blessing for them and made them feel valued.

Simeon poses with two Redfern Cornerstone Community Center YMI participants upon receiving their iPads.

Simeon (center) with YMI participants Samira (left) and Samir (right) upon receiving their iPads

It was also memorable for the staff. Only I knew about it at first, and the higher-ups who had to approve it. But on the day of the event… oh, they were blown away. It’s something we all held onto for a long time in such gratitude. It’s something I still hold so dear and memorable just because of the impact, both personally and professionally.

What would you like to say about your team at Redfern? 

I definitely have to talk about my team because God blessed me with them! I still have three staff members I inherited from my early days. I have an amazing team, both people I inherited and those I found on my own … people who really want to do the work and care so much about the children and people in general. There’s Keith, our evening/weekend program coordinator, who is so invested in the well-being of our teens. Hunter, who works with middle schoolers, created an amazing vision board activity with them recently, and does workouts with K-2 participants. Shakia, who is now our office manager, started out as an arts specialist; she still does art and decorates the center so beautifully. Shakia worked diligently through the pandemic, even with the introduction of learning labs: For that year, we were this full-fledged school from 8 a.m. to 10:00 at night, Monday to Friday, and 10 to 5 on Saturdays, still serving twinkles to wrinkles, serving food and meals, distributing cleaning supplies and PPE [personal protective equipment], while still helping children, afterschool programming … all possible by my entire team. It took a huge team effort, even the people that are not here with us right now. I’m so thankful and appreciative of the time they spent with us, especially during that time. We are still doing amazing work!

One of our most dedicated staff members, Miss Loretta, passed away in December. She contributed so much to the center and to the lives of everyone who passed through our doors. She is dearly missed and still lives on in those who knew her.

I just count my blessings from God and know how blessed I am to be in a position to serve others and leave my mark on the world and make my corner of the world a better place. I’m very much grateful to God to be chosen as the vessel to do all that I do.

La Historia de Lorena

Lorena and her family. The three children have all been students at Escalera Head Start.

De izquierda a derecha: Cándido (padre); Jennifer, de 7 años; Ximena, de 9 años; Lorena; Alexis, de 4 años. Lorena sostiene el certificado de premio de Alexis por juegos de rompecabezas.

English Version

“Tengo tres hijos que han sido estudiantes en Escalera Early Childhood. Mis hijas estuvieron en el programa hace un par de años. Mi hijo comenzó en Early Head Start de Escalera cuando tenía dos años y ahora está en la clase UPK. Comenzará el jardín de infantes en el otoño.

Todos mis hijos no son tan tímidos como antes. Mejoraron en el aprendizaje de la escritura, en el aprendizaje del abecedario y en la participación en todos los libros que leyeron.  

Yo también mejoré como padre. Escalera me ayudó a hablar con mi hijo cuando estaba llorando, y pronto dejó de llorar. Me ayudaron a ayudar a mi hijo a compartir cosas, recoger el desorden, comer, vestirse, ir al baño y cruzar la calle cuando van al parque a divertirse, el equipo de Escalera me ayudó con todas estas cosas, me ayudó a ver cuánto podía ayudar a mis hijos a hacer.  

Escalera ofrece muchas maneras de apoyarnos con la crianza de los hijos, y yo aproveché muchas de ellas. Estoy en el Comité de Padres, lo cual decidí hacer para poder retribuir al programa, organizar eventos y tener experiencia en un comité como este. Participé en las excursiones de la clase Health Bucks al mercado de agricultores, donde podía elegir frutas y verduras saludables para mi familia, y en las actividades del aula. Disfruté participando en las actividades de la clase ayudando a hacer las piñatas para cada una de las clases.  

Una cosa que estoy muy contenta de haber hecho, fue asistir a ParentCorps, que Escalera ofrece en el centro. ParentCorps me ayudó a ser más paciente con mis hijos, a ayudarlos a controlar sus rabietas y su ira. Aprendes muchas maneras de criar a tu hijo de una manera diferente a cuando creciste. 

¡Mis hijas están en 2º y 3º grado ahora y les va muy bien! El programa los preparó para el jardín de infantes, y ahora sé que mi hijo estará preparado y listo para hacerlo bien. Los maestros ayudan hablando mucho con los niños, haciéndoles saber que son adultos y que van a cambiar de escuela y de maestro. Ayudan a los niños a escribir su nombre, a saber los números y el abecedario, y a compartir cosas.  

Escalera es una muy buena escuela, con buenos profesores que ayudan mucho a los niños. Son muy pacientes y no tienes que preocuparte de que te juzguen. Simplemente te ayudan a ser el mejor padre que puedes ser para tus hijos.”

Lorena’s Story

From left to right: Candido (dad); 7-year-old Jennifer; 9-year-old Ximena; Lorena; 4-year-old Alexis. Lorena is holding Alexis’ certificate of award for puzzle games.

“I have three children who have been students at Escalera Early Childhood. My daughters were in the program a couple of years ago. My son started in Escalera Early Head Start when he was two years old and now he is in the UPK [universal pre-kindergarten] class. He will be starting kindergarten in the fall.  

All my children are not as shy as they were. They improved in learning to write, learning their ABCs, and participating in every book they read.  

I improved as a parent too. Escalera helped me talk to my son when he was crying, and he soon stopped crying. They helped me to help my son share things, pick up clutter, eat, get dressed, go to the bathroom, and cross the street when they go to the park to enjoy themselves. The Escalera team helped me with all these things, helped me see how much I could help my children do.  

Escalera offers many ways to support us with parenting, and I took advantage of many of them. I am on the Parent Committee, which I decided to do so I could give back to the program, organize events, and have experience being on a committee like this. I participated in Health Bucks class field trips to the farmer’s market, where I could choose healthy fruits and vegetables for my family, and in the classroom activities. I enjoyed participating in the class activities of helping to make the piñatas for each of the classes.  

One thing I am really glad I did was attend ParentCorps, which Escalera offers at the center. ParentCorps helped me to be more patient with my children, to help them control their tantrums and their anger. You learn many ways to raise your child in a different way than when you grew up. 

My daughters are in second and third grade now and doing so well! The program prepared them for kindergarten, and now I know my son will be prepared and ready to do well. The teachers help by talking to the children a lot, letting them know that they are grown up, and that they are going to change schools and teachers. They help the children write their name, know the numbers and ABCs, and share things.  

Escalera is a very good school, with good teachers who help the children a lot. They are very patient and you don’t have to worry they will judge you. They just help you be the best parent you can be for your children.”  

Jismerlyn’s Story

Jismerlyn, a participant in The Child Cente'rs Literacy Leaders sight words program, is at her desk completing a worksheet.Jismerlyn is a first grader in The Child Center of NY’s COMPASS program at P.S. 56, in Richmond Hill, Queens. When Jismerlyn was in kindergarten, she was unable to read at grade level. She participated in our Literacy Leaders program. Now a first grader, Jismerlyn is reading above grade level and knows all 190 sight words. This is important because sight words provide the foundation for reading on grade level and keeps students on track toward reading proficiently by the end of third grade, which is an important predictor of academic success, high school graduation, and other long-term benefits. For more information, please read our “Literacy Leaders” blog post. We asked Jismerlyn about her experience in the sight word program. Here’s what she told us.  

The Child Center of NY: What do you like about the sight word program? 

Jismerlyn: What I like about sight words are all the new words that I am learning! It’s good for me, and if I read a lot of books, it helps me be better at reading.  

What is your favorite sight word game?  

I like to play the word match game. It’s so fun, and I like it! It’s fun when you get a match.  

What do you think you might want to be when you grow up? 

A doctor because if somebody is sick, they can be better. 

Do you have a favorite book? 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

Literacy Leaders

Jismerlyn and Emma, participants in Literacy Leaders, sit at their desks and complete worksheets.

Spotlight on our sight word program, and a 6-year-old who shows its importance

Jismerlyn and Emma, participants in Literacy Leaders, sit at their desks and complete worksheets.

Six-year-old Jismerlyn (center) and fellow student Emma are participants in Literacy Leaders.

Did you know that 60 percent of all the words in print come down to the same 220 words? Those magical 220 words are known as sight words. They are common words that can be difficult to “sound out” (think “could” and “does”); but if children recognize them by the end of first grade, they are well on their way to fluency and being on grade level for literacy. 

That’s why The Child Center of NY piloted a sight word program for kindergartners and first graders at seven of our afterschool programs for elementary schoolers. Reaching 280 kindergarten and first grade students, the program helped 76 percent of participants improve their sight word skills, and 60 percent of participants were reading at grade level by the end of the program. This means they are on track to outperform the citywide average of 49 percent in third grade (the first year that standardized testing is administered).  

“These results are especially impressive considering our afterschool programs often serve children with the greatest learning barriers in the school,” says Senior Program Director Frances Keogan. “Barriers such as poverty or a family who lacks familiarity with the public school system frequently translate into children starting out their education already behind—and then it can snowball, making the child feel like it’s impossible to catch up. At Child Center afterschool programs, we counteract this by offering targeted academic and emotional support, measuring our results, and scaling up what works.”  

Keogan is thrilled that the sight word program is having such a positive effect on children just beginning their academic journeys. “Not only will this help them stay on track,” says Keogan, “but it will also give them a good feeling about school, and their own ability to succeed.”  

One first grader who is well on her way is six-year-old Jismerlyn, a student at P.S. 56 in Richmond Hill, Queens, and a participant in the sight words program at The Child Center’s COMPASS afterschool program there.  

“Jismerlyn was having a difficult time,” says Assistant Program Director Cesar Guzman. “She struggled with sight words in her first year in the program. She had a hard time advancing to the next level. It’s tough for students like Jismerlyn who may only speak Spanish in the home. But after working with her teacher, Ms. Stephanie, and Ms. Jamelia, our literacy specialist, Jismerlyn began to improve. Ms. Stephanie and Ms. Jamelia make learning fun with different games and by reading books with sight words in them with the students. Over the past few months, Jismerlyn has improved greatly! She knows all 190 sight words and has surpassed grade-level expectations for her sight word knowledge as a first grader. She is well on her way to being able to read at or above grade level by third grade, which is an important predictor of school success and high school graduation.”    

The sight word program is the first part of a suite of literacy initiatives The Child Center offers through our afterschool programs. Once sight word recognition has been achieved, our literacy initiative continues with Ready Readers for second and third graders. Ready Readers focuses on highly engaging grade-level texts and read-alouds that get students excited about reading. 

“We are so proud of our Literacy Leaders and Ready Readers teams, and all they are doing to help children begin their literacy journeys on the right foot,” says Nicholas Ferreira, Senior Vice President of Youth Development at The Child Center. “These programs and children like Jismerlyn stand as testament to the fact that with the right support, children of any background can achieve academic success and thrive.” 

Read this Q&A with Jismerlyn to see what she likes about the Literacy Leaders program and learning to read. 

Photo of the Month: Our Client Speaker at The Child Center of NY’s inaugural immersive play at Lincoln Center, “Outside In”

Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) client Jonah with Talia Banks, RTF creative arts coordinator, at Outside In at Lincoln Center
Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) client Jonah with Talia Banks, RTF creative arts coordinator, at Outside In at Lincoln Center

Photo credit: Anthony Artis

Meet Jonah, our brave, smart, funny, and insightful client who shared their story with more than 200 Child Center of NY friends and supporters on May 7—National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day—at “Outside In.”

Instead of celebrating with a traditional gala this year, The Child Center of NY joined forces with the Emmy award-winning minds at Giant Step and the Emmy-nominated team behind Disney’s “Growing Up” at SoulHouse to create “Outside In,” a unique immersive play at Lincoln Center that explored mental wellness with an engaging interactive performance. “Outside In” highlighted The Child Center’s progressive approach to mental well-being by inviting audience members to be an integral part of the experience.

There were three shows during the night, and each was filled to capacity. Each one was a dynamic adventure where guests influenced the narrative, making each performance a unique reflection of its audience. The night offered an intimate look at the challenges facing our youth, in no small part because of clients like Jonah, who chose to tell their story.

Jonah is a client at The Child Center Residential Treatment Facility (RTF), a place where youth who have had multiple psychiatric hospital stays, as well as juvenile justice-involved youth with psychiatric disorders, can get the support and fresh start they need to address their mental health challenges and begin to build the lives they see for themselves. At “Outside In,” Jonah spoke candidly and movingly about their mental health journey. They ended with wisdom beyond their years by saying to the audience, “There’s a lot I would like you to know, but because of time I can give you this one thing: Be kind, be sensitive, and try to listen.

Link to the RTF creative arts video

See the RTF creative arts program in action in this powerful video.

This Photo of the Month features Jonah with Child Center team member Talia Banks, the RTF’s creative and therapeutic arts coordinator. As Jonah confided in the audience, Jonah finds their glimmer in being able to express themselves through art, writing, and drawing. Jonah has even merged these passions into a comic book they are creating. You can see in this photo the rapport that Talia has developed with Jonah, who is building confidence in their own abilities every day with the help of Talia and the rest of the team at the RTF.

Also featured in this photo is the night’s vocal talent, FCBC Worship Ensemble Choir of Hope Center Harlem, led by Tamish Bates, and Nina Grae, musical director and composer for “Outside In.”

Jonah is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do here at The Child Center: provide more than 58,000 New Yorkers each year with the support they need to build the healthy, fulfilling lives they are capable of.

“There are many things ‘Outside In’ meant to me,” Jonah said. “One thing it meant to me was that it was insightful and it was uplifting. I hope that the audience took from the experience that whatever demons you’re facing inside are not stronger than the light outside.”

While “Outside In” was a one-night-only experience, there is still ample opportunity for people to join us in making mental health history. The Child Center began in 1953 as a children’s counseling center, and a commitment to mental health remains at the heart of everything we do. In our post-COVID reality, this commitment has never been more important, and the need for innovative solutions has never been more urgent. That is why The Child Center is launching the groundbreaking Innovation Collaborative, which will convene the brightest minds in mental health, technology, art, community work, and science and serve as an incubator for a new paradigm in mental well-being solutions—one that is dynamic, inclusive, and revolutionary.

Learn more in our press release, and see all the fabulous photos from the event in our Facebook album.

Photo of the Month: Supporting Young Children and Their Families

CEO Traci Donnelly with a client of our Perintal Intensive Outpatient Program for families with postpartum depression and other challenges

Child Center of NY CEO Traci Donnelly with a client of the Macari Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program for families with postpartum depression and other challengesWe can’t get enough of the engagement, connection, and plain old cuteness in this photo! Pictured here are Child Center Chief Executive Officer Traci Donnelly with 19-month-old Lula.

Lula and her mom are clients of The Child Center of NY’s Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program, which supports parents who are pregnant or have recently given birth and may be experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, more commonly known as Postpartum Depression.

“Nearly 80 percent of people who have recently given birth experience what we commonly call the ‘baby blues.’ This is a temporary condition that can cause the new parent to feel sad, exhausted, and stressed, even as they are filled with love for their baby,” explains Beverly Gould, director of the perinatal program. “In some cases, time and the support of family and friends can help a new mom through this transitional period. But sometimes what a mom is experiencing is actually a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. This is more intense, serious, long-lasting, and can cause the parent to feel hopeless and disconnected from their baby. In these cases, more help is needed.”

Our perinatal and early childhood mental health teams know that the love these parents have for their babies is deep and enduring, and that with the right skills and support, parents with postpartum depression and other challenges can become the confident, healthy, and loving parents they want to be for their babies.

In honor of the Week of the Young Child earlier this month, The Child Center is proud to support young children like Lula and their families with programs like the perinatal program, as well as in our early childhood education programs, and throughout the organization.

For more information on any of our programs that support young children and their families, give us a call! We tailor our services to each family’s needs and help children and parents learn, grow, and support each other together.

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