Tag Archives: youth development

Media of the Month: Destination: Princeton University for WIOA Participants

By Michelle London
Program Director, WIOA Learn & Earn

On March 1, participants of The Child Center’s WIOA Learn & Earn Program had a wonderful opportunity to visit Princeton University, thanks to the generosity of Child Center supporter Ken Jones. The WIOA program works with youth from low-income families to strengthen their academic skills, as well as their readiness for higher education and the workforce.

In advance of the Princeton trip, we tasked each young person to maintain passing grades in their classes and 90% attendance in school and workshops all the way to February. We were impressed that 41 out of 68 WIOA participants met the requirements, signed up, and went on the trip.

Students were given a folder containing a pre-survey to complete before the trip and examples of questions to ask during the tour. The folder also included information about Princeton University and the different majors the school offers. The survey included questions such as “What are you hoping to learn from this tour?” and “What are your top priorities when choosing a college?”

By the time we arrived, the students were eager to learn about the school’s culture, history, academic programs, and campus life. They split into two groups to ensure all students could ask questions and get the full Princeton experience. The tour guides were warm and generous in their answers. They showed the students many aspects of the campus, including the libraries, dorms, classrooms, and athletic facilities. They also shared exciting stories about the school’s history, student life, sports, superstitions, and majors, which helped the students understand what college life would be like at Princeton. They also talked about the tuition fees and financial aid available.

In addition to a traditional tour, the students participated in a scavenger hunt, which gave them an exciting, fun, and hands-on way to learn more about university life. They took pictures in front of various buildings and completed challenges to learn more about the school. They also participated in an “interview 101” with current students. They had a great time and were excited to share their experiences with their peers!

After the tour, we stopped for lunch and talked about what they learned. It was heartening and inspiring to hear the excitement in their voices. Everything my team does at WIOA is to prepare our scholars for the next chapter. We want them to know that college is not just something other people do—it is something they can do. This visit to Princeton drove that message home for them, and I could see the sense of hope in their faces and hear it in their words. I hope that you see it, too, in this collage that has the honor of being this month’s Media of the Month!

A post-tour survey allowed scholars to reflect on their experiences and share their thoughts on the visit. They put a lot of thought into it and clearly left feeling inspired and motivated to pursue their academic goals.

On behalf of all of us at WIOA, I extend my deepest thanks to Ken Jones for sponsoring this trip and opening up a whole new world for our WIOA youth! Child Center supporters play an invaluable role in ensuring our students have access to the experience and opportunities all young people deserve.

January Photo of the Month: MLK Day Every Day

Participants of the Beacon Program at M.S. 226 celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service

Participants of the Beacon Program at M.S. 226 celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service (MLK Day) Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is an important day at The Child Center of NY. Programs across the organization mark the observance in unique ways that are meaningful to them.

One of those programs is our Beacon at M.S. 226 in South Ozone Park, Queens. The Child Center operates four Beacon programs, which are school-based community centers that offer year-round recreational and learning opportunities for children and adults. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, our Beacon M.S. 226 elementary school students created MLK portraits, which you can see them proudly hold up in this month’s photo of the month.

In an accompanying discussion with Group Leader Vare McNeil, participants talked about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech. They spoke about what the themes of the speech mean to them. Participants agreed that, as fourth-grade student Amisha said, “No one should be mistreated because of their skin color.” They also talked about another core part of Dr. King’s character, which was the importance of always making sure you are “doing for others,” which is a core principle of The Child Center.

“The ideals that Dr. King stood for are the ideals we strive for every day: equity, kindness, service, and excellence,” says M.S. 226 Beacon Director Ronell John.

Ronell says he strives both to impart these values to his students and to live them himself. Citing another famous quote by the great civil rights leader, Ronell says, “’If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ I walk into my program with this mindset because I want my participants and members of my team to know that I care about them and the work that I do. I try to model that dedication for our participants. They all have gifts and have so much to give to their communities. The participants and team members I am privileged to work with bring pride and honor to Dr. King’s memory.”

December Photo of the Month: Holiday Wishes Do Come True!

Bishop, 5, a participant in the afterschool program at Hammel Houses Cornerstone Community Center, is delighted to receive a plushy toy, courtesy of the Child Center holiday toy drive.

Bishop, 5, a participant in the afterschool program at Hammel Houses Cornerstone Community Center, is delighted to receive a plushy toy, courtesy of the Child Center holiday toy drive.Bishop, 5, just started his first year at Hammel Houses Cornerstone Community Center in Rockaway Beach, Queens. He was so excited to receive plushies as his gift through The Child Center of NY’s Holiday Toy Drive because “plushies are my favorite toy!”

Every year, The Child Center organizes a holiday toy drive for families for whom the holidays mean deciding between putting food on the table or providing a gift for their children. The Child Center Holiday Toy Drive aims to bridge the gap and bring unexpected joy to our families by offering new, unwrapped toys during this special time of year. Every dollar donated goes toward purchasing gifts. The impact of this generosity reaches beyond the tangible presents—it’s about restoring confidence and dignity to families who can create cherished memories for their children.

Krystle Raghubeer, the Hammel Houses Cornerstone Community Center’s director, states that all the kids were excited to receive the presents that they had wished for. Thank you to everyone who donated to the toy drive and made dreams come true this holiday season for children like Bishop!

While the toy drive made Bishop’s dream come true for the holidays, Krystle and her dedicated team at Hammel Houses Cornerstone Community Center work hard every day to ensure dreams that Bishop doesn’t even know he has yet can come true when he gets older. That’s because Cornerstone programs, funded by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and supported by our generous donors, offer children a safe and fun place, right in their own neighborhood, where they can continue to learn after the school bell rings and engage in enrichment opportunities, from STEM to the arts, that allow them to explore their strengths and discover all they are capable of. Cornerstones are open to the whole community so that members of any age can learn, grow, and build community. What a gift for the new year!

Editor’s Note: While our Holiday Toy Drive has ended, you still can support children like Bishop in making their dreams come true by donating to support our programming. Every dollar counts, and we will put all gifts right to work!

Photo of the Month: Lights On Afterschool and Mental Health at Roosevelt Island Beacon

During Lights On Afterschool, Roosevelt Island Beacon staff wore their Kinder, Braver Together hats

On October 26, two of The Child Center of NY’s founding principles came together in a beautiful way at our Roosevelt Island Beacon at P.S./I.S. 217 in Manhattan. Staff and students celebrated Lights On Afterschool to shine a spotlight on afterschool programs while participating in the “Kinder, Braver Together” campaign, a partnership between The Child Center and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to raise mental health awareness. This month’s Photo of the Month collage tells the story!

The Child Center began in 1953 as a single children’s counseling center, and a commitment to mental health remains at the heart of everything we do—from offering therapy at our wellness centers and at schools to embedding mental health in our early childhood education and afterschool programs.

That’s why we are so excited to announce that The Child Center is partnering with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and jack.org to make a profound impact on youth mental health. A key priority is to have as many people as possible obtain the Be There Certificate, which teaches the public to recognize when someone might be struggling with their mental health and how to safely support them while maintaining their own mental health. The Be There Certificate is a free, self-paced, interactive online course designed for young people but accessible to all.

The Child Center is committed to having all of our staff and community obtain the Be There Certificate. The Roosevelt Island Beacon team was among the first to earn their certificates, and we think they are rocking the “Kinder, Braver Together” hats they earned as a result!

The team proudly wore their hats during the program’s Lights On Afterschool event last Thursday (center photo in the collage above). Launched in 2000 by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool celebrates afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families, and communities. The Child Center operates more than 20 such programs, and each year they join the national Lights On Afterschool effort to draw attention to the many ways they support students by offering them opportunities to learn new things—such as dance, robotics, and community service—and discover new skills. The events send a powerful message that millions more kids need quality afterschool programs.

This year’s Lights On event at Roosevelt Island Beacon was a collaboration between The Child Center and Youth Center, another afterschool program on the island.

“We came together to show the community the importance of afterschool programs and how integral they are to a young child. All the projects we showcased were created by the participants in both programs and featured the theme of lights,” Program Director Ricardo Turenne explains. “The students also spoke about how afterschool has helped them. They spoke eloquently and from the heart about how they have pursued their interests, formed friendships, got academic support to succeed in school, and discovered strengths they didn’t even know they had. It was inspiring. This is why we do what we do.”

September Photo of the Month: Community School M.S. 72 Celebrates Attendance Awareness

Seventh-Grader Leasia’s current year-to-date attendance is 100 percent.

September is Attendance Awareness Month, and there’s no better place to celebrate it than at Catherine and Count Basie Magnet School for Multimedia and Performing Arts M.S. 72.

The school’s theme this year is “Lights, Camera, Learn.” The bulletin board in this photo represents the Daily Homeroom Challenge, which involves classrooms competing for a place on the “Walk of Fame.” The homeroom class that receives the highest attendance percentage rate for the month is rewarded with a “Spin-the-Wheel” event to earn prizes such as Bluetooth headphones, free uniform attire, cosmetics, backpacks, snacks, and more.

M.S. 72 is what is known as a New York City Community School: a school defined by partnership between the school and an embedded community-based organization (CBO), like The Child Center of NY, that coordinates and delivers services to young people and their families—from mental health for students to adult education resources for parents and caregivers. Students, often known as “scholars,” receive high-quality academic instruction, and the CBO addresses barriers to academic success by collaborating with parents, teachers, community members, and, most importantly, students.

One of those barriers is absenteeism, especially chronic absenteeism, which New York City Department of Education defines as missing 20-37 days—a month or more of school—per academic year.

“If scholars aren’t in school, they can’t learn, they can’t be inspired, and they can’t be engaged. The more school they miss, the harder it becomes to catch up, and the more hopeless it all starts to seem. At the high school level, this cycle can cause dropping out to feel inevitable,” explains Saran Shields, Vice President of Youth Development here at The Child Center.

The Child Center works with its 18 Community Schools, from elementary to high school, including M.S. 72, to reverse this cycle so that scholars can be present and engaged in their learning—and see how much they are capable of.

Understanding that young people don’t exist as students in a vacuum, Community Schools support the whole child, their entire family, and their learning both inside and outside the classroom. For example, healthy young people attend more days of school, and so Community Schools offer services such as vision care, medical care, and mental health centers. The more time students spend at school, the more they learn, so Community Schools stay open after school and over the summer, offering enrichment activities such as arts, music lessons, and robotics.

With a strong school administration and support from our team, results are profound at The Child Center’s Community Schools. At August Martin High School in Jamaica, for example, the graduation rate rose from 24 percent in 2015, when The Child Center first became lead CBO, to a remarkable 73 percent three years later. The graduation rate now stands at 91.67 percent—higher than the NYC average of 83.7 percent.

At M.S. 72, the 2022-23 school year closed out with an attendance rate of 90 percent. It is currently at 91 percent with a goal of increasing that rate by 4 percent by June.

“The attendance team at M.S. 72 meets every week to continuously find ways to combat severely chronic absenteeism and chronic absenteeism,” says Nicole Johnson, community school director at M.S. 72. “These strategies include but are not limited to home visits, daily tardiness and absenteeism phone calls, parent meetings, and ongoing attendance incentive events throughout the year. Our team is extremely dedicated, and we are so proud of our scholars and their families for making education their priority.”

To learn more about how Community Schools help young people thrive, visit the NYC Department of Education’s Community Schools page, and to learn more about how The Child Center fosters increased attendance at its Community Schools, read Saran Shields’ 2018 blog post on the subject (yes, we have been working on this a long time!)

Program Spotlight: Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)

Summer Youth Employment (SYEP) participants
Summer Youth Employment (SYEP) participants

SYEP participants show off the t-shirts they created and sold as part of a social justice project-based lesson (PBL).

It’s back-to-school season, and 15-year-old Ethan (far left in the above photo) feels ready and full of a sense of confidence he built slowly but surely this past summer.

That’s because Ethan spent July and August busily working his summer job at Benjamin Franklin High School, where he joined in team-building activities, participated in restorative justice circles, and developed work readiness skills. He even took an academic course for credit to boot! His days consisted of challenges to solve, people to greet, and a never-ending stream of important work to be done—and Ethan wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Ethan is a participant of The Child Center of NY’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). An initiative of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, SYEP is the nation’s largest youth employment program, connecting NYC youth between the ages of 14 and 24 with career exploration opportunities and paid work experience. Through SYEP, participants explore different interests and career pathways, develop workplace habits and know-how, and engage in learning experiences that strengthen their social, civic, and leadership skills.

Brittany Dailey is the SYEP director at The Child Center, where she oversees SYEP programs at 10 schools. “When I started in 2019, we had 200 youths enrolled in our SYEP programs,” Brittany says. “This summer, we had 914 young people participating in SYEP.”

That figure includes 94 teens who are from asylum-seeking families. This is important, Brittany says, because these kids do not have Social Security cards, making it hard for them to find employment elsewhere. They often struggle financially and have faced hardships no child—or adult, for that matter—should have to face.

All 914 Child Center SYEP participants are between the ages of 14 and 21 and attend schools that The Child Center supports throughout the year. Those who are 14-15 years old, like Ethan, work on project-based lessons (PBLs) that focus on career readiness. For example, this summer they engaged in a Shark Tank-inspired PBL, through which they pitched products addressing social injustice. One participant created what he called “Bundles of Joy,” distributing baskets for people experiencing homelessness. Students learned how to pitch their ideas, write business proposals, and produce commercials. They made T-shirts with logos they created and explored social justice issues that ranged from climate change to LGBTQ+ rights to immigration and sold the t-shirts to support their cause.

Participants ages 16-21 were ready for real-world work experience. Through community partnerships, Brittany and her team placed participants with an array of local employers. Youth worked at restaurants and barber shops to get a feel for small business operations; the JFK Redevelopment Community Information Center to learn about careers in aviation; and the offices of New York State Senator Leroy Comrie and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman to get  an inside look at careers in public service.

New this year was an academic component to SYEP: Students had the opportunity to take an academic course for credit. This allowed teens to advance their scholastic goals while gaining important work readiness skills.

When the summer ends, participants are eligible for The Child Center’s Work, Learn & Grow programs, which help students make a smooth transition from high school to college and the “real” world by building college readiness, earning college credit, learning essential job readiness skills, and completing a paid internship.

“SYEP is important for so many reasons,” Brittany says. “It’s important because we don’t know why they need the money; some participants are supporting their families. We might think 100 dollars a week isn’t much, but it’s huge for an undocumented family, who may not be treated fairly by other employers who can take advantage of their vulnerable status. At 14 years old, these are the problems they have.

“It’s also important because now they’re not leaving high school not knowing what the work world is like. Through the internships, participants learn what they like, and even what they don’t like. They may discover they don’t ever want to work in a restaurant! They understand how taxes work. Teens like Ethan now know that they are capable of learning valuable skills and doing a job at a level of excellence that makes them proud. This is as crucial a part of their education as anything, and I love being a part of it.”

July Photo of the Month: Undefeated!

Members of the Parsons FC

Scoring Big at Parsons Summer Programs

Members of the Parsons FC

The Parsons Football Club (FC), including eighth-grader Abdul, holding the Moroccan flag out of pride for his home country. The Child Center of NY serves large immigrant populations throughout the city.

Meet the fearless, friendly, and (nearly) undefeated participants of our first-ever Parsons FC! Continue reading

Team Spotlight: Q&A with Linet Peña, Assistant Program Director, Flushing YABC

Linet Pena, LTW coordinator at Flushing YABC (Young Adult Borough Center)

Linet Pena, LTW coordinator at Flushing YABC (Young Adult Borough Center)Linet Peña’s official title is Assistant Program Director/Learning to Work (LTW) Coordinator. But that doesn’t even begin to convey the enormity of Linet’s undertakings, the intensity of her responsibilities, and the impact she makes, every single day.

Linet is what’s known as a primary contact at a transfer high school, Flushing Young Adult Borough Center (YABC), a school for over-age and under-credited students who are at risk of dropping out or previously had done so. A primary contact is a caring and qualified individual whom students can count on for guidance and support.

We say at The Child Center that it’s never too early or too late to change the trajectory of a life. That saying is true only because of people like Linet. Read this Q&A with Linet to find out how she does it and why. Continue reading

Christopher’s Story

Christopher, a graduate of Flushing Young Adult Borough Center (YABC)

During COVID, I worked construction during the day and did my schoolwork online in the nights.

When it was time to go back to regular [in-person] school, I didn’t want to go back. I was a senior, but I didn’t have enough credits to graduate on time. I wanted to drop out. But my guidance counselor, Mr. Baglio, told me, hey, would you like to join this program that helps you get your credits? He explained to me about Flushing YABC [Young Adult Borough Center at Flushing High School], which is a school for students like me.

At first, I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I was already working and didn’t want to do school anymore. But Mr. Baglio convinced me. He said they [the YABC staff] would support me and work with my schedule. I took the offer and went to YABC.

I’d get up at 5 a.m., go to my construction job, and then go to YABC right after at 3 p.m. It was killing me because I also had a night shift job. Eventually I got a job at a bagel shop—went in to work at 5 [a.m.], out by 2 [p.m.], went to school from 3-8:30. But I was struggling to pay my bills. I had a lot of difficulty around that time. I got kicked out of my house. In my culture, parents are often quick to judge and not really listen. I was going to give up on school. I was done.

The only thing that stopped me was Ms. Peña. Ms. Peña was my primary contact at YABC. Every single time I thought about dropping out, she’d remind me I was almost done. She’d say, Chris, you got this, don’t give up; you are going to finish high school. She was always there to listen and help me with solutions. When I told her about my job situation, she helped me find a job at FHS [Flushing High School] that fit into my schedule. It was a paid internship through the Learning to Work program. I worked with Mr. Max in the IT department of FHS doing inventory. He helped me develop business wise. I didn’t know how to communicate, how to speak to someone in an office. Now I’ve worked with a lot of staff at FHS. Teachers know me very well. I got a lot of respect from them, and they told me that they would help me with getting a job if I ever needed it.

Ms. Peña also helped me figure out what I wanted to do after high school. She had people come in to talk to us about different jobs, what they do day to day. There were people who had jobs in business, real estate … and a police officer. Becoming a police officer kind of hit me as something I want to do. He said that it’s always good just to help the community. A lot of Hispanic people don’t understand English very well, they need help sometimes, and it’s good to help the community. That’s something that interested me. He gave me ideas to organize myself a little better, talked about college. I took his advice. I decided to go to Queensborough Community College to study criminal justice. I’m starting my first semester now. I’m doing that!

I am where I am because of Ms. Peña. I cried to her when I graduated. I couldn’t believe I really did it!

I also want to thank Mr. Max. When I started in the technology room with Mr. Max, I was used to carpentry, not computers. I told him, I’m slow, you’re going to get frustrated with me. But he taught me everything. I took inventory on 500 computers! He taught me new things every day. It feels good to learn! I always thought, I’ll stick to construction, but you know what? It’s always good to learn.

To read more about Flushing YABC, see this Q&A with Program Director Jaimee Diehl and this spotlight on YABC’s career fair.

Update, October 2023: Christopher is now a first-year student at Queensborough Community College, and he sent us this update:

“My first semester of college was fun, but, at the same time, very stressful trying to fit in with a lot of new people. Most of my professors were nice and great at teaching. I just didn’t pass algebra and will have to retake it next semester. It’s fine. .. I think I learned [better] this semester! I got good grades aside from that. My second semester was much better. I met a lot of people, thanks to the soccer team.

I was able to represent the Tigers (Queensborough community college men’s soccer team) with number 23 this year, becoming QCC’s center back. Being part of this team really showed me a lot of things, from celebrating wins to also knowing how to lose as a team. There are many things that still must get fixed within the team, but we can work on that next semester. Honestly speaking, college can be fun when you make it fun, but it can also be a pain when you’re not doing what must be done. There’s a lot of things that need to be learned and worked on, one step at a time. My goal is finishing school with a criminology degree and to be able to join the NYPD. There’s still many steps to get there, but as long as it’s rolling towards that direction, I’m fine. Good things take a long time to make.”


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