#WhyCFK, CFK Partner Schools

New Year, New School: CFK Expands to Staten Island!

You heard right!

CFK is breaking new ground in 2018 by officially serving all five boroughs! We’re thrilled to welcome P.S. 21 in Staten Island to our network. In a borough where there’s a lack of nonprofit offerings and only 51% of third graders are proficient in reading, CFK has a tremendous opportunity to make an impact. Principal Anthony Cosentino is joining forces with CFK to enhance P.S. 21’s STEM offerings and community engagement. CFK believes every elementary school student–no matter their zip code–deserves a quality education that will prepare them for success in middle school and beyond.


#WhyCFK, CFK Volunteers, Grant Avenue Elementary School

A Principal’s Vision Becomes a Reality at Grant Avenue

Teachers at Grant Avenue are kicking off this semester with a brand new space to collaborate and recharge. A year ago, Principal Kristin Erat shared a vision with CFK: What if we could turn a storage room into a teacher collaboration space?  CFK saw an opportunity to establish a relationship between the school, Gensler Design and Hillmann Consulting LLC to donate their time and design and construct the space. Recently, Grant Avenue hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the room, which is featured in the Bronx Times. Now, teachers can use this space to continue to inspire students and each other. Many thanks to Gensler Design and Hillmann Consulting LLC for making Principal Erat’s dream come true!


#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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

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.

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.

2017-03-18 11.13.58
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.”

2017-03-18 12.09.46
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?!)

2017-03-18 12.08.42
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!

2017-03-18 14.15.03
Final product for every classroom! The two PreK classes will get canvases representing their class names- the Butterflies and Bumble Bees.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!