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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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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H is for Hollywood – P.S. 81 Pre-K Walks the Red Carpet for ABC Book Day

On March 12, P.S. 81’s two PreK classes worked the red carpet for an audience of adoring fans—their parents, teachers, and P.S. 81 staff.  School Manager Zareta Ricks and the amazing team at P.S. 81 put a new spin on the classic Pearson ABC Book photo day, transforming two classrooms into Hollywood backdrops.



For those of you unfamiliar with this program, using a template book, pre-K students create their own ABC reader.  On the first day of the program, students are photographed holding colorful props that illustrate different letters in the alphabet—for example, a ball for the letter B, and a flower for the letter F. Parents are invited to join in the fun and be photographed with their children.  Once photos are done for each child, we print them out on stickers.  On the second day of the program, students stick their stickers into their template book and, P is for presto!, each student goes home with their own ABC book.

Over at P.S. 81, our starlets posed (and played shy) with their zebras and ice cream cones.  While waiting for their turn in front of the camera, students read on their own and with volunteers. Asked about her favorite books, Sydney, age 4, said, “Books about Curious George. He’s a monkey. He does bad things and gets in trouble.” Her classmate, Aidan, age 5, preferred Itchy Itchy Chicken Pox and stories about Llama Llama. 

On hand to help were a group of international undergraduate and graduate students from Virginia Commonwealth University who had come up for a winter trip to NYC. Eager to add a service component to their trip, they joined in as talent wranglers, photographers and production assistants.  While students waited for their turn in front of the camera, they made new friends from Iraq, Columbia, Poland and elsewhere. When everyone had been photographed, the volunteers taught the classes how to say goodbye in their languages. Many thanks to our new friends at VCU!