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. With the support of Change for Kids, 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

#WhyCFK, CFK Volunteers

How to Support New York City Public Schools

All children deserve to go to quality public schools. Unfortunately, many NYC public schools in low-income communities cannot provide their students with the resources that support achievement. These schools don’t have the budget to match their needs. In more affluent communities, a school’s parent association is often able to bridge this gap by raising $100,000 or more in a given year.

Change for Kids partners with incredible elementary schools throughout NYC—93% of the students enrolled in our partner schools live in poverty. Our partner principals work tirelessly to provide a quality education for our students, but there are still gaps to fill.  Here’s how you can help.

Volunteer at a Change for Kids partner school. You’ll expose students to a new, engaging opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t be possible without volunteer support. Change for Kids offers a variety of volunteer opportunities – from weekdays, weeknights to weekends – at our partner schools throughout NYC. Activities include school beautification days, field days, career days, guest reading to a classroom and more!

Donate essential items. Do you have children’s books, games or clothing that your family no longer uses? Change for Kids will find the best use for your item, whether it’s a board game or a winter coat, by matching the item with the appropriate school in need.

Donate money. Want to make a difference, but don’t have enough time in the day to volunteer? You can donate to Change for Kids to invest in our public schools and the future of New York City. Your donation will support essential programming that boosts academic achievement such as music, art, fitness and nutrition education—the programs that are often cut first when a school’s budget shrinks.

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#WhyCFK, CFK Events, P.S. 277

Aspiring Fashion Designer and P.S. 277 Alum Naiomi Chacon Visits New York Fashion Week

Naiomi Chacon, a proud graduate of Change for Kids partner school P.S. 277, won the hearts of guests at CFK’s 4th annual Super Chefs as the night’s keynote student speaker. Naiomi spoke about her experiences at P.S. 277 and how an eyeopening CFK field trip to BlackRock got her thinking about her future career as a fashion designer.

“I have a passion for fashion. I sketch looks all the time in my notebook. I like to draw the people around me and add fashion details to their outfits,” Naiomi said at Super Chefs. “One day, I could be a model with her own clothing line. I could design evening wear for the red carpet and walk the catwalk at Fashion Week.”

Although she’s only a 6th grade student, Naiomi is already getting to work. And that inspired many Super Chefs guests.

Eager to encourage this Fashionista to pursue her dreams, Change for Kids Board Member Louise Phillips Forbes coordinated a memorable day for Naiomi: a trip to the February MILLY New York Fashion Week show and backstage access to interview MILLY designer Michelle Smith.

This past February, Naiomi and Louise embarked on their girls day out. The day started off with a special birthday lunch for Naiomi at Del Posto and then onto the MILLY fashion show. Naiomi watched the show in awe, as models gracefully passed by and colorful lights flashed. The sparkly outfits were her favorite! (Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little sparkle?!)

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Naiomi and Louise Phillips Forbes enjoy a lunch at Del Posto before heading to New York Fashion Week
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Naiomi ready for the show to start!

After the show, Naiomi and Louise went backstage to interview MILLY designer Michelle Smith. Naiomi asked Michelle Smith how she comes up with her t-shirt designs, what family members share the same passion as her, and more. Naiomi learned about all the planning that goes into a fashion show and selling a clothing line. Michelle Smith even suggested that her and Naiomi work together to design dress and a “really cool t-shirt.” We can’t wait to see the designs!

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Louise Phillips Forbes, Naiomi, and MILLY designer Michelle Smith backstage at New York Fashion Week

Thank you Louise Phillips Forbes and Michelle Smith for making this amazing opportunity possible for Naiomi. Now we’re counting down until Naiomi takes on New York Fashion Week in 2030!

Watch Naiomi and Louise’s spectacular day and Naiomi’s interview with Michelle Smith below.

CFK Events

Run the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon with Change for Kids

Change for Kids is recruiting a team for the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon! Join Team CFK and get a guaranteed spot in the race of a lifetime.

On November 5th, run 26.2 miles alongside thousands of athletes from across the globe while making a huge difference for kids right here in NYC. You’ll help bring essential resources in fitness, nutrition, art, music and literacy to nearly 4,000 public elementary school students in low-income communities.

Each mile of running you put behind you will pave the path for our students to reach a bright future. Sign up here!

CFK Program Partners, P.S. 81

Record Crowds of Parents Gather for Family Fitness Fun Day at P.S. 81 – VIDEO

This spring, P.S. 81 students and their families rounded out their school year with a hugely successful Family Fitness Fun Day! The event typically draws 50 or so parents from the community and their children; this year, a record-breaking 300 kids and 122 parents jumped, ran and danced their way to physical fitness. Teachers revealed secret skills as they led activities–our own School Manager Zareta Rick turned out to be a Zumba master!

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Family Fitness Fun Day is part of the Fan4Kids curriculum, CFK’s health and fitness program provider at P.S. 81. As parents visited different stations with their kids, teachers and leaders encouraged them to think about how they might incorporate more physical fitness into their daily routine.

With such a record number of parents in attendance, it was an opportunity for Principal Cheryl Ault-Barker to follow up with those parents in the community who are harder to reach, and touch base with them about their children’s progress.

At the end of the day, parents were eager to share how much fun they had, and said they couldn’t wait for next year! Check out this local news coverage of the event here (featuring our own Zareta Ricks in the background).