Tag Archives: youth development

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.

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. 

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.”

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