A core principle of The Child Center of NY is that children learn best from relatable role models. Sometimes that takes the form of alumni sharing their journeys with current students.
In April, teen singer Brianna (Bree) McDonough visited our COMPASS afterschool program at P.S. 223 in South Jamaica, which she used to attend. She started at the program for the same reason many students do: for supervision. But as she found out, The Child Center’s extended day programs offer much more.
“Each day, we’d have a snack, then a homework session, and then there were different classes we could choose from,” Bree recalls. “I chose music.” She was delighted that Ms. Bailey, the music teacher in day school, taught at the afterschool program, too. With instruction from “Ms. B” and a lot of hard work, Bree learned music was something at which she could excel, and that it had a healing and unifying power she didn’t expect: “I often felt like I didn’t fit in. But in music class, other kids got to know me. We bonded as a community.”
Today, Bree uses music to benefit others. Just in 11th grade, Bree has begun a professional singing career and is a student at the Rosalind Joel Conservatory for Music and Theatre (named for the mother of singer-songwriter Billy Joel, a supporter of the school). But you can most often find her singing for charitable causes, such as autism and LGBTQ issues — and, especially, bullying. She’s registered the #JustKeepSinging hashtag on Twitter and speaks to youth about bullying, as she did during her visit to P.S. 223. Bree and the students sang Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” together, and by the end, even the shyest children joined her on the stage. When Bree asked, “How many of you have been bullied?” every child raised a hand. She told the students, “There will always be people who tell you to be quiet. Don’t listen to those people. Just keep being you.”
The children took the lesson to heart. “I like how Bree talked about speaking up for yourself,” said third-grader Tailar. “So I now speak up for myself.”