Tag Archives: afterschool

The Elite Steppers of M.S. 289: from Afterschool to Gracie Mansion

Mayor Eric Adams and the Elite Steppers of M.S. 289

By Marissa Lutchman Dayaram
Program Director

Mayor Eric Adams and the Elite Steppers of M.S. 289

The Elite Steppers with NYC Mayor Eric Adams at his annual Youth Summit

The Elite Steppers dance team from the SONYC afterschool program at Queens United Middle School 289 began the last school year with hopes of entering and competing in the DYCD Step It Up NYC Competition. While the girls did enter and make it to the second round of the competition, what happened next was far more rewarding and valuable for the participants and their growth!

The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) created the Step It Up NYC initiative to leverage the performing arts to build community leadership capacity in young people ages 10-20. Dance and step teams not only compete, but also plan community service projects and develop citywide social campaigns to speak up about issues that impact their communities.

The teams were charged with exploring a topic related to their community as well as representing 50 years of hip-hop. The girls chose to focus on gun violence, as it is something that has been affecting them all. Gun violence in schools had become so prominent throughout the country, and the participants had peers who had been exposed to gun violence during and after school. Just within the community alone, there have been so many incidents and reports that the girls felt moved to represent this through their dance and step.

As part of the project, the team partnered with a community-based organization called 100 Suits  that helps prevent violence and promote unity and safety within the team’s community, and throughout New York City. With the help of 100 Suits staff, the Elite Steppers conducted outreach on the streets, spreading their message by interviewing and speaking to people, and performing for the community as well.

At the same time, the team members were equally dedicated to achieving excellence in their dance routines. They practiced and prepped from January to June for one hour three times a week!

In March, the team discovered that their hard work paid off and they had made it past the first round.

At their second-round performance, they did not know that a special guest, DYCD Commissioner Keith Howard, was observing in the background. He was so impressed by the Elite Steppers’ performance about gun violence that he decided to feature the team in a public service media campaign. A crew filmed them, and the video was posted on DYCD’s Instagram and YouTube accounts, which in turn caught the attention of NYC’s very own mayor, Eric Adams!

Watch the breathtaking Stop Gun Violence PSA video, created by DYCD and featuring the Elite Steppers.

Commissioner Howard and Mayor Adams were partnering on a campaign to “Stop Gun Violence,” and they invited our Elite Steppers to perform at Gracie Mansion as the opening act for the mayor’s youth summit. They hosted the team at the mansion, gave them a tour, and a private room with snacks and drinks for them to practice. After their performance, Mayor Adams met with the girls to tell them how much he appreciated what they were doing. He went on to speak to the audience about the message the girls relayed through their performance and how impactful it was.

The Elite Steppers with DYCD Commissioner Keith Howard at the Saturday Night Lights summer kickoff event at Basketball City

The Elite Steppers have since been called upon for a whirlwind of performances. Most recently they stepped at  a Saturday Night Lights summer kickoff event at Basketball City at Pier 36 in Manhattan and shared their message on ending gun violence. They performed for an array of guests, including Commissioner Howard, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, former NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, NBA stars John Starks from the NY Knicks and Albert King from the Brooklyn Nets, and all the youth from the basketball teams who were in attendance.

Thirteen-year-old Elite Stepper Ava spoke for all her teammates when she said, “Being on the team taught me life lessons: how to work together, be stronger, and have respect for my teammates and myself. It was fun to experience everything that we did, traveling to the city and stepping for not only our school, but for the mayor! I can’t wait to do it again. Being an Elite Stepper is one of the best things that has happened to me so far in my middle school years.”

August Photo of the Month: Ready for Back to School

Our 2023 Backpack Drive gets students ready and excited for their academic journey!

Sean and his sister receive stocked backpacks, courtesy of The Child Center's backpack drive, before they start school and afterschool at P.S. 56 in Richmond Hill, Queens

Sean, the smiling boy you see in this picture, is starting second grade this year at P.S. 56 in Richmond Hill, Queens. He’s also starting his third year at The Child Center of NY’s COMPASS afterschool program. Thanks to the generous supporters of our 2023 Backpack Drive, Sean is prepared and excited for the academic adventures to begin!

The Child Center operates more than 20 afterschool programs, either on site at children’s schools or in community centers close to where they live. All of them provide a meaningful connection to what they learn during the school day. Activities are based on each school’s and community’s needs, as well as students’ interests; however, all our afterschool programs maintain a mix of homework help and menu of enrichment activities in the areas of literacy, STEM, visual arts (Sean’s favorite!), performing arts, sports, health and nutrition, leadership, and community service. A full 100% of our COMPASS programs received a DYCD rating of “Meets Standard” or above during the 2022-2023 school year.

Our P.S. 56 program also has a robust Ready Readers curriculum for second graders like Sean. It’s part of our literacy strategy that works to ensure all our students can read at grade level. This includes our Literacy Leaders sight-word program, which has extraordinary results: By spring, 87 percent of participating students had improved their sight-word skills, and 72 percent were reading at grade level (compared to the participating schools’ average of 49 percent reading at grade level in third grade, the first year of school testing).

Wondering about the girl in the photo? That’s Sean’s sister, who is starting kindergarten and our afterschool program this year with her brother. She’s not so sure what it’s all about yet. But once she begins kindergarten with her stocked backpack and discovers new activities and friends at afterschool, we know her smile will be as big as her brother’s!

As our young scholars head back to the classroom, our backpack drive is still going. Through this annual campaign, funded exclusively by generous supporters, The Child Center provides backpacks filled with grade-appropriate supplies to 4,000 young people in Child Center programs. The goal is to ease the financial burden on struggling families and empower children to focus on their education. Please visit our backpack drive webpage for more information on how you can help children like Sean and his sister start the school year right. Every dollar you donate goes directly toward purchasing fully stocked backpacks, and it takes less than minute.

It’s not too late to spread those smiles!

Keim’s Story

Keim and his dance team at basie beacon m.s. 72

Keim and his fellow B2 Dancerettes performed in the M.S. 72 Basie Beacon program’s Black History Showcase. Back row from left to right: Crystal, Jaylah, Jalayah, Brianna, Leah, and Savannah. Front row: Keim and Nevaeh

My name is Keim, and I’m 14 years old. I started M.S. 72 in September 2019 when I was in sixth grade. I joined The Child Center of NY Beacon afterschool program as well.

I can admit that I was not the best student in school or afterschool, and I can admit that I made a lot of bad decisions. I used to feel that fighting people was cool because it made me fit in, and people accepted me. I would bully people, instigate, and provoke others. I maintained failing grades, but I didn’t care.

Then in 2021, I developed a love for dance with The Child Center of NY afterschool dance program. All the things I didn’t care about suddenly meant the world to me. It was during this time that I realized that I was now in the eighth grade and I needed to care more about myself and my future. Several people helped me reach this decision. All of a sudden, I realized how so many people in my life who were giving me guidance were so right about everything. My sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Cannon, would always tell me how I was worth more than fighting someone every day. My dance instructor in afterschool, Daquan Harris, really opened my eyes more than anyone.

I still struggle with my school work and attendance; my grades were still failing from the beginning of this school year. My dance instructor learned about this problem and worked with me to resolve the issues. For the first time in the history of my middle school experience, I passed all of my classes on my last report card. Funny but true, if I didn’t pass, my dance instructor told me that I would not be able to be on the dance team. Not being on the team was not an option because I love to dance. It’s the only way I feel that I can express myself.

Abigail’s Story

Abigail and Ms. Barkan from Parsons SONYC program at Q252, The Queens School of Inquiry

Abigail (right) with Youth Advocate Ms. Barkan

When I first got to middle school, I was super quiet and didn’t have the confidence to talk to anyone, unless they spoke to me first.

This lack of confidence affected my attitude toward my schoolwork. I came into school hating ELA. But Ms. Barkan, who started off as my 6th grade ELA teacher, took her time with me and helped me understand everything.

It took some time, but I began to look forward to Ms. Barkan’s class. We built a strong bond, and when she asked me to participate in the Steps to Success* SONYC-QSI program, I accepted, knowing I would have time to talk with Ms. Barkan.

At first, I was scared to open up to Ms. Barkan and everyone in the group, but I saw that she and the group wouldn’t judge me for expressing my feelings and stating my opinions. They gave me the confidence to speak up and even provide others with advice.

Whenever I experienced any hardships, like others talking badly to me or about me, Ms. Barkan would be the first person I would go to because I didn’t feel judged by her and I knew she would listen and provide guidance. With Steps to Success, I felt that I always had someone to talk to about my feelings, and I knew they were listening to me, wanting to help me and not judge me.

Without Steps to Success and Ms. Barkan, I would still be this shy person, instead of the confident and outgoing person I have become through the program. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Abigail’s Story: Ms. Barkan’s Perspective

By Jessica Barkan, Youth Advocate, the Parsons SONYC program at Q252, The Queens School of Inquiry

Abigail’s story is one that is extra special to me because she started off as my sixth-grade student, right before the pandemic hit, and then Abigail became my mentee in the Steps to Success* program the next school year.

I want you to picture a shy girl who can’t make eye contact, who tries to hide in her hoodie, and who has the lowest of confidence socially and academically. A girl who doesn’t believe she is smart enough to answer questions or as good of a writer as other students.

Due to feeling this way, her grades were lower than they should have been. Abigail was in danger of failing and having to go to summer school. Regarding the social aspect, Abigail didn’t have friends in her class, and it took her a long time to socialize and feel comfortable enough to talk to other students.

This was Abigail when I first met her. My goal was to get her out of her hard shell and build her confidence.

I somehow convinced Abigail to join Steps to Success, promising that it would help her with her social skills and confidence. I even told her that I would make time for one-on-one sessions where she could tell me what she needed support in, and I would walk her through it all.

The process wasn’t easy or quick, but Abigail put in the work. She showed up every day to Steps to Success (remotely at the time, which was an even bigger deal) and participated. I made sure the topics would be of interest to her and relatable. She loved debating and talking about controversial topics, whether those topics had to do with gender, culture, bias, or even just basic communication skills. I had Abigail lead conversations, and this led her to be more confident in sharing her feelings about different topics of discussion.

Over time, Abigail would be the first one to show up to the Steps to Success Google Meet, ready for the next topic. She would confidently participate in conversations and then listen attentively to the day’s discussion.

I started to notice positive changes in other aspects of Abigail’s life. She was completing all of her assignments and receiving passing grades in subjects in which she had struggled previously. She was initiating conversation with other students who were on the “quieter” side, like she herself was. In so doing, she began to come out of her shell, which provided her with more confidence to get her work done. It was as if the social aspect were motivating her to care more about her academics.

Abigail, too, noticed the change. She told me she felt proud of herself because she was doing better in school, felt more confident communicating her feelings to teachers and friends, and finally could appreciate what she brought to the table.

Although Steps to Success was not the easiest or most comfortable process for Abigail, she no longer hides. She is now able to make eye contact, express herself without pause, and feel proud of herself. She has put herself out there socially and has tried harder academically. Is Abigail’s shell still there? Of course, but it is a lot softer now.

*Steps to Success is made possible at The Child Center of NY with funding from Sterling National Bank Charitable Foundation.

Chobani, Visionary Sponsor of Our 2021 Backpack Drive, Spoons Out Happiness in Queens

Chobani & The Child Center of NY
Chobani spoons out happiness in Queens.

Chobani brought a truck full of drinkable yogurt and other products for students and parents to enjoy during dismissal.

As NYC students returned to classrooms this September, The Child Center of NY provided backpacks for families in need through our 2021 Backpack Drive. This year, with the help of our visionary sponsor, Chobani, we raised more than $84,000 and provided backpacks and school supplies for 4,000 students.

In addition to generously donating $25,000, Chobani visited our afterschool program in Elmhurst to distribute backpacks, school supplies, and snacks to local families. Continue reading

Logan’s Story

My name is Logan, and I’m in sixth grade. I live in Flushing with my grandmother and my mom, who is a Utilization Management Nurse. While she works, I go to the Beacon afterschool program at Parsons Community School.

Logan, a participant at Parsons Beacon afterschool program in Flushing, Queens

Logan with the Surface laptop he received from The Child Center after completing a coding class

At first I liked Parsons just because most of the kids from my school were in it. I also made new friends, and the staff are so nice and have given us so much. For example, they have a lot of events like the game truck, paint nights, and food giveaways. They are easy to talk to, and a challenge they helped me with was talking to some of the other kids. The staff help us with any problems we have. For example, when someone is hurt they would take care of it. Ms. Jayme helps me with my homework, like math, which is my favorite subject. She was very patient and helped me a lot. I know I can go to any of them with any problems I need help with.

I’ve been going to Parsons for two and half years. I still like going to Parsons because of my friends and the staff, and I also like going because the activities are a lot of fun. I do activities like graphic design, color theory, and coding. Color theory teaches me different things like the color categories and types. Graphic design is a program that helps me make pictures on the computer. Coding taught me how to make characters to build videos and other programs on the computer. All of these can help me reach my goal of becoming a heart surgeon because everything uses computers. I also play basketball when we go in person!

Parsons Beacon always has something special going on, in addition to our regular activities. One of my favorites was the Just a Kid from Queens speaker series. I got to see how people like me, from my neighborhood, grew up and went on to do interesting things. What I liked about the series was the information they had to say and the lesson I learned every time. My favorite speaker was Jean-Wesley because he is disciplined and has a passion for becoming a wine sommelier even though not a lot of Black men do that job. He went to school and worked at the same time. He also comes from a diverse background and has worked in different kinds of jobs. He let me know I can do whatever I want in life.


Note from Logan’s mom, Bianca: “I love the Parsons Beacon Program because it affords the participants opportunities to learn about so many things that are integral to succeeding in the world of technology and arts we live in today. Not only do they provide skills training, they also provide role models to show the kids where and how far their skills will take them. Parsons’ staff puts great effort into the success of their program and exude their love for the kids and community every step of the way. They are a true example of excellence in community service and development!”

School Tips: How to Help Children Struggling with Remote Learning

Girl at a laptop Chromebook engaged in remote learning during COVID pandemic

screenshot of distance learning, remote learning, virtual learning

As NYC schools shift between in-person and hybrid learning models during the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is for sure: Remote learning will be around in some fashion for at least a few more months.

Parents across the city remain understandably anxious about how to help their children adjust to full-time remote learning or blended-education options. The Child Center of NY, a community-based organization that works to close the gap for New York City’s under-served communities through afterschool programs, counseling, and many other services, has been helping parents in need with related issues since before the pandemic hit New York City.

Nicholas Ferreira, one of The Child Center’s Senior Vice Presidents of Youth Development, offers up the following tips that he and his staff provide to parents in under-served communities. Continue reading

Dads Come to P.S. 89 Afterschool

Working on a STEM project at P.S. 89 afterschool

Last Tuesday, third-grader Tania couldn’t stop smiling — or dancing or building or engineering. That’s because it was the day of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD)’s first city-wide Bring Your Dad to Afterschool celebration — and The Child Center’s COMPASS afterschool program at P.S. 89 in Elmhurst, where Tania is a daily participant, was selected by DYCD as a model site to implement the event.

It was the first time Tania got to show her dad what afterschool, where she spends 15 hours a week, is really like. “I was happy my Papi was with me because I love him so much,” Tania said. “We danced and made a little robot car.”

Working on a STEM project at P.S. 89 afterschool.
Second-grader Joshua M. and his dad are working on a STEM project together: creating a car.

For years, schools across New York State have participated in the national Dads Take Your Children to School Day, but as children like Tania can tell you, afterschool is as much a part of their daily life as the regular school day is. It’s where children receive quality homework help, build friendships, interact with relatable role models, and engage in enrichment activities (like STEM or performing arts) that encourage their strengths.

Continue reading

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