Uncategorized

Welcoming Our New Executive Director

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On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am thrilled to share exciting news. After an extensive search, we have named Katrina Huffman as Change for Kids’ new Executive Director! Katrina will officially join CFK at the end of this month.

Katrina brings a wealth of expertise, enthusiasm, and vision to lead Change for Kids into our next stage of growth. She is currently the Chief Program Officer of Youth INC, a venture philanthropy organization that provides leadership development programs and grants to 75 NYC youth-serving nonprofits. Prior to Youth INC, she served as a Program Director at Harlem Children’s Zone and Groundwork.

As a native New Yorker, Katrina is passionate about ensuring that all NYC students receive a quality education. We firmly believe that she will inspire the CFK community to achieve even greater impact in the years to come.

I look forward to introducing you to Katrina soon, and to Change for Kids’ bright future under her leadership.

– Nicolas Koechlin, Board Chair

#WhyCFK, P.S. 81, Uncategorized

P.S. 81 Students Get Moving

In NYC, 1 in 5 kindergarten students are obese, and almost three quarters of elementary school children did not receive the state-mandated minimum amount of exercise last school year. That’s #WhyCFK hosts family fitness events at our partner schools—to get even our youngest students into a habit of physical activity.

P.S. 81 in Brooklyn recently held the school’s Community Wellness Fair. While parents scoured the auditorium and met with multiple community organizations that offer health and wellness services, students participated in fitness activities to get their bodies moving. Some students tried yoga for the first time, while others tested their backward jump roping skills. CFK Board Member Laura Farah joined in on the fun and encouraged students to test their limits!

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CFK in the News

Executive Director Colin Smith reflects on 8-year tenure at Change for Kids

You have been the Executive Director at Change for Kids since 2009. What was your first year like?

Tough, Colin-Smith_1 (1)but surprisingly fun. Raising money in 2009, during the heart of the Great Recession, was difficult to say the least. We were essentially building a donor base from scratch at a time when everyone was seeing their disposable income and wealth collapse – particularly in NYC. They were looking for ways to cut donations, the needs at our partner schools were getting even more challenging, and we had minimal infrastructure in place to address either challenge. Three things made it “surprisingly fun.” First, starting over allowed us to rethink every aspect of the organization. Second, we could envision a brighter future and I think people were really looking for that brightness in those pretty dark days. And third, the sheer extent of the challenge made the small group that signed on (for the Board, Junior Council, and staff) as tight as any team I’ve been a part of. The staff at the time were two folks, both of whom were some of my favorite co-workers: Mike Quinzio, a great friend from college; and my little sister, Caitlin (it doesn’t get much more grassroots than that). We had a blast together every day. It felt like we were all in this together, working toward a crazy, ambitious goal. I’m proud that those ethos have been maintained ever since.

What are you most proud of accomplishing as Executive Director?

That’s hard. I’m proud of all of the last 8 years – not only he good times, but how we’ve responded to a lot of times when we were on the ropes. But if I’m forced to pick one, it’s Super Chefs 2015. That year, we brought our annual gala to a new level. We were closing in on ten schools- it seemed as though the organization was light-years ahead if where it had been, even just the year before.  We hosted 600+ supporters and the night was capped off with a speech by an amazing student, Leonard, who sparked tears of joy from an inspired crowd as he talked eloquently about the impact we had made in his life. Then and there I saw just how far Change for Kids had come over the years. The picture of Leonard, his principal and I at the event still adorns my office as my single fondest CFK memory.

Kids say the darndest things. Tell us about one of your favorite moments with a student or group of students.

It’s hard to beat one of my first experiences with Change for Kids, almost ten years ago. I had just joined the Junior Council and volunteered to chaperone a field trip to the Central Park Zoo. When I hopped on the bus from the school to the Zoo, I noticed one student sitting by himself and staring off to the distance outside of his window. I sat next to him and struggled to chat with him on the ride down. It turns out he was in the special education program and had a particularly difficult time socially. When we arrived at the Zoo, my primary job was to keep up with that particular student for the entire trip. The task severely stretched my limited fitness. He darted around the Zoo, pointing out different animals and asking me 100 questions along every stop in our obstacle course. When the trip ended, I rode back with him and didn’t feel like either of us paused our conversation for a breath. The next week, I received a letter from the student’s teacher saying that she had never seen him more engaged in school (and happier) than in the days following that trip. I was hooked from that point on.

What advice would you give the incoming Executive Director?

Bring your A game because we have a staff, Board, principals and supporters who don’t miss a beat. We just held our April Board meeting, focused on next year’s strategic goals, and the depth of the engagement and conversation was inspiring. Our team wants to do big things, and it has the horsepower to achieve those goals. I feel the same when I speak with sponsors, pushing for their next volunteer activity; or schools, driving us to provide greater service. Our community is an impressive collection of talent and drive. Enjoy it because that’s a real, and unique, privilege.

What’s next for you after CFK?

First, I never want there to be an “after CFK.” I’m planning on taking a different leadership role here, but this place will always be a central passion in my life. I see us becoming a national organization, helping hundreds of thousands of students. And I want to do my part in the years ahead to help make that happen. But to directly answer the question… I want to make the largest impact I can. What that looks like next is TBD. I’m looking forward to exploring industries and opportunities where I feel like I can leverage my time and leadership to make a difference – whether that’s a for-profit, nonprofit or in public service. This is an exciting time for my wife and me as we look to our next chapter.

#WhyCFK

Thank You, Teachers!

Teachers at Change for Kids partner schools go above and beyond…

By encouraging critical thinking in students:

Strive for student engagement

By putting in the extra hours after school for awesome family engagement events- like Books and Pajamas Night:

The teachers who put in the extra hours

By exposing students to new activities and experiences:

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By creating a welcoming environment with creative decorations:

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By ensuring that lessons are interactive and hands-on:

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By creating a love for literacy:

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By fostering creativity in students:

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And lastly, by creating lifelong learners.

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Thank you teachers

#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.