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!
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.
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.”
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?!)
Thank you, TEAK Fellowship and The Virginia Club of New York, for bringing Brighter Choice Community School’s motto to life in each classroom!
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!
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.
On March 22, volunteers from school sponsors Apollo, Schreck Rose, and Change Team members took to the halls of P.S. 15 for the second annual CFK Beautification Day. “It was a delight to see our parents and teachers working alongside CFK sponsors and volunteers,” said Laura Salmon, the school’s literacy coach. “It’s amazing to me to see so many people give up their Saturday—it’s corny to say, but—out of the goodness of their hearts.”
There were two groups of painters this year—one revitalizing the third floor hallway with a fresh coat of paint and another creating a new mural on the second floor. Hour by hour, the second floor was transformed into different animal habitats: safari, ocean, and forest, complete with native animals.
CFK Board Chairman Nicolas Koechlin, wife Catherine, their two sons and a friend were all on hand to help with the painting, too.
Another group helped give beloved classroom toys a good spring cleaning, while a final group built a cityscape out of milk cartons, inspired by students’ drawings. Their milk carton creations will be placed in the school garden where they will serve as imaginative planters.
Reflecting on the day, Janet, a volunteer from Apollo who had brought her son along, said, “It’s very rewarding to do a project like this, especially when it pertains to kids. I love kids. So, I love it. It’s been great. And my five-year-old enjoyed it as well.”
“There wasn’t one project that didn’t give me a sense of joy,” said Laura Salmon, “because when the staff comes in and the students come in on Monday they will feel so cared for. It makes a huge difference to everyone in the building. It’s amazing.”
And here’s the reaction on Monday morning–pure joy. Thanks again to all our awesome volunteers, and a special shout out to our wonderful school sponsors, Apollo and Schreck Rose.
Last week about 20 volunteers, including myself, braved some nasty New York weather to participate in Story Love! at the CFK office after hours. These sessions, which occur three times a semester, provide an essential and direct connection between CFK’s supporters and the kids we serve. Not every story written can be performed by the Story Pirates before the schools, but every one should certainly be acknowledged. That part was up to us.
Our instructions were to do the following: let the kids know that they did a great job, comment on a particular detail, and mention what we might want to see more of next time. The more specific our comments the better, as it gave a personal touch. That wasn’t very difficult, of course. Who wouldn’t comment on a dark blue monkey that shoots bananas? Or a game of cheese chess? I want to know more!
The experience was really a blast. In fact, judging by the amount of laughter and animated conversation emanating from the room, one would think that the activity was more for the adult participants than the kids. However, the comments written on the stories are priceless to those who receive them. I know that as a child in school I hung on every word of feedback from teachers on things that I wrote—and some of those comments have stuck with me my entire life. Mike Quinzio says it well: “The Story Pirates Program encourages our students to harness their creativity and develop a love for writing. With Story Love, every kid sees that his or her story was read by an adult who cares about their writing and values their ideas.” Continue reading →