#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!

P.S. 81

P.S. 81 Graduates Get a Jump on Middle School

Middle school is tough for almost everyone. It’s hard to find a single person who would look back on seventh grade and say, “That was the best time of my life!”

Imagine if, when you were in the fifth or sixth grade, someone could have given you a heads-up, a little more insight, a boost of confidence and self-respect, before you left your cozy elementary school for the unfamiliar halls of the middle school. It would have made that first year a lot better.

For years, Principal Cheryl Ault-Barker has wanted to send her fifth graders off with just such an extra dose of wisdom and love, and this spring, she will.  School Manager Zareta Ricks tapped four fantastic volunteers from the local community to speak to the graduating class.

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In two two-part workshops–“It’s a Girl Thing” and “Grooming for Greatness”–volunteers Ms. Angela, Ms. Katrina, and Ms. Tennille led the girls and Mr. Russell and Mr. Arthur led the boys in discussions that opened a safe space for students to voice their fears about leaving elementary school. They encouraged students to think about what it meant to have confidence, self-respect, and character when they faced situations that might intimidate them.

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The workshops also addressed gender stereotypes, peer pressure, dressing for success and personal hygiene. To help bring their discussions to life, boys received a lesson in how to tie a tie and a free haircut, and girls received full manicures.

When the conversation turned to what it meant to be a girl and what it meant to be a boy, the focus was on standing together and respecting each other, and that made it possible for students to ask personal questions they hadn’t been able to ask anyone before.

Of course there was plenty of giggling and blushing, not to mention lots of gaping mouths and gobsmacked expressions in that portion of the workshop, but as one girl explained, “It’s too much, but I have to know what’s happening!” Cupcakes and treats definitely helped make it much more bearable. And what these fifth graders learned will make their transition to a new school smoother and safer.

Many, many thanks to our stellar volunteer workshop leaders, who made such an impact on our students!

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CFK Program Partners

Behind the Scenes at Story Pirates HQ – VIDEO

One of CFK’s most beloved volunteer opportunities, Story Love puts our students’ whimsical stories in the hands of grown-up readers. Readers provide our budding authors with crucial positive feedback, while our students share unforgettable heroes, villains, plots twists and one-liners, like this winner from a recent session in May: “If life gives you disco balls, just disco.” Excellent advice, future Tolstoy!

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But attending a Story Love session at the Story Pirates HQ in the Drama Book Shop on West 40th, volunteers get a glimpse at the madcap creative engine behind the stories they are commenting on.  Just before Memorial Day, a group of readers from the Junior League gathered there to offer feedback on stories from 4th and 5th graders at P.S. 160 in Queens. They worked in a space packed with props from past shows–dolphins, a giant Hello Kitty doll, and masks that would give Jim Henson a run for his money.  Behind the readers was a wall of kid authors whose stories have been performed at Saturday shows.

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In the room next door, the Story Pirates were rehearsing at full tilt, and readers couldn’t help but laugh at overheard lines. We caught a sneak peak of the Story Pirates’ amazing creativity at work–check out this video of a few select scenes from a story about a muscle-obsessed lonely cow. Many thanks for this insider’s view, and to our friends in the Junior League for volunteering for Story Love!

Behind the Scenes with the Story Pirates for CFK from Change for Kids on Vimeo.

P.S. 81

P.S. 81 Learns to De-Stress before Tests – VIDEO

Nothing creates stress in the classroom quite like state tests; and nothing gets in the way of a clear head like stress. With that in mind, School Manager Zareta Ricks and Fitness Director Justin Jones from our partner program, Fan4Kids, put together a special class to help students tackle their exams. We know they’re going to do great–last year, P.S. 81 achieved an “A” rating, in part because of student success!

For the first half of the class, students had a lesson in meditation. Listening to nature sounds, they learned how to calm their minds and open their senses to the world around them. Then, after a stretch at their desks, it was outside into one of the first warm spring days to burn off any nervous energy–and have some fun!

Here are the P.S. 81 champions, showing us how its done:

P.S. 81 Stress-Busting Champs! from Change for Kids on Vimeo.

P.S. 15

From Playing Video Games to Making Them, Meet Jubi from P.S. 15 – VIDEO

“My name is Jubahed (Jubi for short) and I’m ten years old in fifth grade at P.S. 15…. I am really excited to go to the computer camp!”

Thanks to a generous donation, Jubi will be attending idTech Camp at Columbia University this summer. For Jubi, playing video games wasn’t enough–he wanted to make his own. He’s tried by himself and in school, but with a summer at idTech Camp, Jubi will be able to learn the programs he needs to make the games he loves.

I spoke with Jubi about his favorite kinds of games and his plans for camp. Following the interview, Jubi will take you on a tour of one of his games. We can’t wait to see what Jubi creates next!

AH: How did you get interested in computers?

JQ: Well, it all started when I was six. My brother found out about video games so after he finished his homework he would start playing them. They looked fun, so I tried them. Later, I was looking on the Internet about creating games. I was super interested in that so I tried it at home. I thought it was really amazing–I guess that’s why I wanted to learn more about computers

AH:What kind of games do you like the best?

JQ: I like RPG-style games, but I don’t always have free time, so when I do that’s what I like to play. I have a pretty decent amount of homework.

AH: What is an RPG, for someone who doesn’t know?

JQ: An RPG game is a role-playing game, so you are a character in the game and there are usually monsters in it. For instance, there’s Pokemon–and depending on your choices, the game changes.

AH: What are you hoping to do this summer at idTech Camp?

JQ: I’m hoping to create my own RPG game.  I’ve tried it before but I didn’t think what I made was good. I didn’t know how to use the program–RPG Maker–that well, but I am hoping to learn how to use it better.

AH: Do you have some ideas for characters you’d like to put in your game?

JQ: Not yet, but I was thinking of making a game similar to Pokemon, with monsters. I think the best part of playing games is defeating someone who is evil at the end of the game.  I was thinking I would start off in a little town, in the character’s room. But maybe then something bad happens.

AH: And then you have to be the hero in the game?

JQ: Yeah.

In this video, Jubi walks you through a game he created at school.

Jubi Explains His Video Game Design from Change for Kids on Vimeo.

P.S. 81

P.S. 81 Students Find New Friends at The Hackley School – VIDEO

Earlier this year, our students at P.S. 81 enjoyed a Saturday of arts, sports, music and fun with a group of fantastic ninth graders from The Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. What started off as a volunteer opportunity for the Hackley students quickly turned into new friendships and an important relationship between two very different schools.

“I had such a great day at P.S. 81 because we were able to make the kids’ day that much better,” offered one Hackley student. “We didn’t just brighten their day, they made us laugh, too and helped us enjoy the day even more. Everybody taught the kids something and helped them to enjoy the idea of school which is an important part of their young lives.”

We can’t wait for the Hackley students to come back, and hope to replicate this relationship in our other partner schools. Click here to read more of the students’ reflections on their day at P.S. 81.

Check out this video of the day these students spent together:

Hackley Helps PS 81 Edit 2a from Change for Kids on Vimeo.