#WhyCFK

Ready for Our Next Great Leader

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Today, we announce an exciting new chapter in the Change for Kids journey. After an incredible eight­-year tenure, our Executive Director, Colin Smith, has decided to hand over the reins of Change for Kids this summer.

“It has been an exceptional honor to guide CFK’s development. I am so proud of the difference we are making every day at our partner schools, and am confident the best is yet to come,” says Colin. “CFK will always be one of the most important parts of my life and I look forward to playing a different role in its bright future.”

Colin will be handing off an organization that is flourishing: CFK has grown to serve 10 partner schools and benefit over 3,700 NYC students. With an annual budget of nearly $2,000,000, an outstanding staff and Board of Directors, and a community of more than 10,000 dedicated supporters, CFK is poised to continue growing its impact for years to come.

Colin took on the role of Executive Director amidst the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis – a period when CFK, like many other small nonprofits, was on the brink of collapse. A Vice President at Atlantic­-Pacific Capital, he elected to put his investment banking career on hold to help.

“Colin has led with remarkable vision and drive, transforming CFK into the thriving organization it is today,” says Nicolas Koechlin, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “It is no surprise that he has made this decision only now, when CFK is stronger than ever.”

The CFK Board of Directors has formed a transition team to guide the search for CFK’s next Executive Director. “The Change for Kids mission is more crucial than ever,” says Koechlin. “We are looking for another exceptional leader who will guide CFK into its next phase of growth.”

The entire Change for Kids team, its leadership and school communities are grateful for Colin’s years of service. We wish him the best in his next endeavors, and look forward to introducing everyone to our new Executive Director later this summer.

#WhyCFK, CFK Program Partners

Third Grade Students Destined for the New York Times Bestseller List

Hundreds of Change for Kids students this year had the opportunity this school year to participate in Story Pirates workshops where they let their imaginations run wild. Change for Kids partners with Story Pirates to promote creativity at our partner schools. Story Pirates hosts a series of creative writing workshops, where students learn that there are no bad ideas! After students finish their works of art, the Story Pirates bring to life select stories by acting them out at an all-school wide assembly. Change for Kids volunteers also read the students’ work and provide them with positive, hand-written feedback–aka a lil’ bit of “Story Love.”

Now meet the up-and-coming New York Times bestseller authors!

The Walking Pizza Who Became a Robot

“Once there was a pizza walking in the woods. Then a mean wizard turned him into a robot. Then he saw his body and it was metal. When he was a robot he named himself Robot Pizza Star. Then he loved being a robot.”

Looks like one happy piece of pizza!

Robot Pizza

Scarm the Alien (Who, By the Way, Loves Chess)

“Once an alien time there was a kid alien named Scarm. He liked to play chess, strategist, play with its horns, to wiggle its tentacles, and learn new things. Scarm lives on a planet called Tar. One day when Scarm was digging, some humans were investigating planet Tar. He was very scared of the humans. He thought they came from the sun. But the humans had sleeping darts. Scarm started to dig faster. Scarm was 5 yards away from getting to the core of Planet Tar. Then a loud sound went, “pew, pew, pew, pew!”

Scarm was frightened. The humans got closer and closer. Scarm had stumbled in his hole. Scarm tried to gather all of his chess pieces, but it was too late. When Scarm woke up he had been glued to paper. The people asked, “Who are you alien?” Scarm replied in an alien way, “squigily, squiggly, X doo.” The humans did not understand.

What do you think happens next? (We hope they became friends and played chess together.)

Scarm the alien

The Carrot Who Has Banana Arms, an Orange Head, and Eight Eyes and Plays Soccer

“Once there was a carrot named Mr. B.J. He has banana arms and an orange head. He also has eight eyes. He likes to play soccer with the team he made up. But one time he accidentally ate his arm when he was playing. He said, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh! I can’t believe I ate my arm! Ahhhhhh! My arm really burns!” So he said, “I’m going to go to the doctor.”  Once he got there they were out of banana arms, so they went to the forest to get some. Unfortunately there were no banana arms in the forest. So they had to get plum arms. But plums don’t grow in carrot land, so they had to go to plum land. But the plum arms didn’t fit.”

How do you think Mr. B.J. solved the banana arm problem?

Mr. B.T.

We don’t know about you, but we’d love to meet these characters in real life!

CFK Program Partners, P.S. 142

Change for Kids Program Partner Highlight: Third Street Music Settlement

At P.S. 142’s most recent music showcase, 3rd-5th graders showed off their newfound skills in West African drumming and the recorder. Families (and selfie sticks) packed the auditorium and proudly watched their little musicians perform.

While the memories captured by the selfie sticks will be a nice family keepsake 10 years from now, the value of music and arts education for these students 10 years from now is infinite.

Research shows that music education and arts education boosts attendance, academic achievement, and graduation rates; increases self-confidence and even promotes lifelong engagement with the arts.

Understanding the importance of such programming, CFK partner principals consistently identify music and arts as a need for their students. That’s #WhyCFK partners with Third Street Music Settlement—to meet that need.

Third Street Music Settlement is the nation’s longest-running community music school and offers guitar, percussion, dance and chorus classes at four Change for Kids partner schools. The Assistant Director of Third Street Partners, James Hall says a highlight of the Change for Kids and Third Street Settlement partnership is CFK’s holistic approach to serving schools.

“It’s not about providing one stand-alone service. It’s about a constellation of literacy, health, and arts programs working with school principals to address their students’ needs,” Hall says.

“This allows Third Street to do what it does best: provide quality music and dance instruction.”

We’re thrilled to work with this fantastic partner to ensure all our students have access to music education!

Check out how P.S. 142 students rocked the music showcase below.

Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School

#WTHack2017 at Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School

Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School, a Change for Kids partner school, hosted the first-ever elementary/middle school Hackathon in District 23- the local school district that encompasses Brownsville. What The is a Hackathon, you ask?

#WTHack2017 brought scholars and parents from all over Brownsville to Brooklyn Landmark for full Saturday of coding, critical thinking, discovery and fun.

Lydia Smith, the parent coordinator at Brooklyn Landmark, spearheaded the event to show students that no matter where they come from, they can create their own futures through coding and technology.

Notably, there is a lack of diversity in STEM-related fields in the U.S. It’s increasingly important to get students from underrepresented communities interested in coding and technology even as early as 1st grade.

The task of the day required students to develop with an application that could solve a problem in Brownsville through innovation and entrepreneurship. Every scholar had the opportunity to sit and try a new platform – Scratch Jr. and MIT App Inventor – and learn about entrepreneurship.

Once the projects were completed, the scholars presented their projects on stage to a panel of three judges – a Brooklyn Landmark parent who works in the foundations department at Verizon, a high school student who works on coding projects with ScriptEd, and a District 23 representative.

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Scholars present their project to the panel of judges

Some of the incredibly innovative projects included:

  • A digital advertisement for a pool, made by a team of students from 1st to 3rd grade, to show that “Brownsville is a good place to be and lots of fun.”
  • A digital representation of how parks are in Brownsville look now and how they could be improved.
  • A tutoring app to helps students with math.
  • An app that shows users where different forms of art are- aka the “cool things in Brownsville.”
  • “Brownsville’s Little Taskers”– a community-based app to provide transportation to events and help community members (especially the elderly) with every day errands. The app also remind users about educational and recreational opportunities.

While the judges were beyond impressed with all these creative projects, there can only be one winner! And then winner is….

The two 4th grade scholars who developed “Brownsville Trading” – an app that allows people to trade items they don’t want any more for an item they need.

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Brooklyn Landmark Elementary School Parent Coordinator Lydia Smith with the Hackathon Winners- two 4th grade students

Listen to the brilliant developers discuss their app and their experience at the Hackathon!

Scholars left the Hackathon with newfound skills and a passion for coding. But what’s just as important as the experience?

The understanding that anything is possible.

Congratulations to Brooklyn Landmark for hosting such a fabulous event with collaboration from Change for Kids School Manager Zareta Ricks, Digital Girl Inc., ScriptEd, and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship!

Brighter Choice Community School, CFK Volunteers

Volunteer Spotlight: TEAK Fellowship and The Virginia Club of New York Bring Brighter Choice Community School’s Motto to Life

When you walk into Change for Kids partner school Brighter Choice Community School, the college theme is hard to miss. Bulletin boards are decked out with college flags, graduation garb, and feature interviews with teachers about their alma maters. Each classroom is named after a college and students are always encouraged by staff that they can achieve anything.

That’s because every child, every day, is college bound at Brighter Choice Community School.

This past weekend, Change for Kids hosted the first school beautification day at Brighter Choice with some incredible volunteers from the TEAK Fellowship and The Virginia Club of New York. Volunteers spent Saturday morning painting canvases with college logos to hang outside the classroom doors and represent each class.

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A TEAK fellow kicks off the project by carefully painting a graduation cap

The TEAK Fellowship, a program that helps talented students from low-income families achieve their potential, has volunteered with CFK for the past two years for an annual service day for mentors and fellows. Vanessa Greer, TEAK’s Director of  College Success, said school beautification days give TEAK fellows the opportunity to give back to neighborhoods they may have grown up in. (One TEAK fellow who volunteered grew up a few blocks from Brighter Choice!)

Greer mentioned that supporting public schools is important and aligns with TEAK’s goals. She said she hopes that this project will show Brighter Choice students that so many people support them, even outside the school community.

“The school space is really important to feel part of a community and feel safe and loved,” Greer said.

“It means a lot [for a student] to go to school and see beautiful paintings and feel like [he or she] belongs there.”

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Vanessa Greer, TEAK Director of College Success, (right) with TEAK volunteers

The Virginia Club of New York, an alumni association for the University of Virginia, is also a returning CFK volunteer group. The canvases were actually sketched and designed by Lorna Zhen, a board member at the Virginia Club of New York and CFK muralist extraordinaire! The Virginia Club volunteers saw the school beautification day as an opportunity to inspire Brighter Choice students to go to college. (University of Virginia, maybe?!)

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Members from the Virginia Club painting the morning away!

Thank you, TEAK Fellowship and The Virginia Club of New York, for bringing Brighter Choice Community School’s motto to life in each classroom!

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Final product for every classroom! The two PreK classes will get canvases representing their class names- the Butterflies and Bumble Bees.

 

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P.S. 15, P.S. 314

Meet Change for Kids’ School Manager at P.S. 15 and P.S. 314: Rakia Wells

We are thrilled to welcoFullSizeRender (18)me Rakia Wells to the Change for Kids Team! Rakia is the School Manager at P.S. 15 in Manhattan and P.S. 314 in the Bronx. Learn more about Rakia, as she shares with us her passion for service, volunteerism, and her favorite memories from elementary school!

What drew you to Change for Kids? What are you most excited about doing in your role as a Change for Kids School Manager?

I am a strong believer in the power of service and youth enrichment. I saw in the School Manager role the opportunity to combine these two ideals together and build strong communities within our schools. I’m excited to work alongside teachers, staff, and coordinators to create a community where students can thrive and continue to love learning in all its aspects.

What do you hope to achieve at P.S. 15 and P.S. 314?

I hope to be a rich source of support for P.S. 15 and P.S. 314 to continue to grow, build, and develop community engagement initiatives and student experience opportunities. With a strong background in volunteer management, I’m extremely motivated to provide an enriching volunteer experience where volunteers not only give back to a community but witness the impact of their service and feel valued — and hopefully want to volunteer again! Our parents and volunteers make our programs come alive and I hope to cultivate sustainable engagement initiatives that will continue to inspire our students.

What did you do before you joined the Change for Kids team?

Prior to joining Change for Kids, I was a Senior Volunteer Manager at Reading Partners where I onboarded all of our volunteers and lead our community building events. I have worked in the education sector for both corporate and nonprofit entities, working as a Study Abroad Recruiter for college students as well as having a lead role in volunteer management.

When you were in elementary school, who made the biggest impact on you?

When I was in elementary school, the teacher that had the largest impact on me was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Yamamoto. Mrs. Yamamoto was the biggest believer in supporting the imagination and brought teaching to life in the classroom. Whether I was learning how to write my name in Korean, practicing speed-reading techniques, joining “worm club,” or enthusiastically singing about math, she never stifled the excitement to learn, and I’ll always remember her for that.

Do you have a favorite memory from your elementary school days?

One of my favorite elementary school memories was in the 4th grade during our science period. I wasn’t particularly interested in the sciences; however, my 4th grade teacher Mr. Faris was an expert in engaging children on subjects they believed to be boring. One day, Mr. Faris brought a huge jar of dill pickles to the front of the class and sat the jar next to an electric contraption. Each pickle looked like an oversized cucumber floating in a sea of green. Mr. Faris announced we would be learning about electricity today and he would demonstrate the power of an electric current by attaching one of the pickles to his homemade contraption. This stunt was known as the “Electric Pickle”. Mr. Faris would then proceed to attach a pickle, to what can only be described as a mini car battery, and showed us the effects of electrocuting my favorite vegetable. The pickle would light up from the inside, a fantastic lime green, with steam pouring out from the top.

All the students were mesmerized by the eerie glow emulating from the middle of the pickle and jumped as sparks began to fly from the clamps. Interestingly enough, Mr. Faris continued with the experiment, while I sat in the corner covering my face thinking at any moment the pickle would explode and we would all be sprayed with pickle juice.

I’ll never forget Mr. Faris or his many science experiments. By the end of the year, science became one of the least boring subjects imaginable.

Most of us learn to read–and love reading!–in elementary school. What was your favorite book? 

My favorite book in elementary school was Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar. I loved reading out loud in the classroom, especially books that used a lot of characters, because this really gave me a chance to show off my acting skills. With all of the wacky characters and weird story lines, I always felt right at home!

CFK Volunteers, Grant Avenue Elementary School

#PSILoveMySchool: Multi-Cultural Celebration at Grant Avenue Elementary School

The Morrisania section of the Bronx, where Grant Avenue Elementary School is located, is home to a diverse group of families that reflect the cultural fabric of NYC. Grant Avenue hosted its annual Multi-Cultural Celebration this winter. Families traveled around the world in just one day by partaking in arts and crafts and international food tastings, all while spending quality time together. The Multi-Cultural Celebration was such a success that the New York City Department of Education featured it in the citywide #PSILoveMySchool campaign.

Thanks to Change for Kids volunteers who supported the event and helped students and their families celebrate their own cultures and learn about ones that are different from their own!

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Photos courtesy of Grant Avenue Elementary School