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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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.

P.S. 15

A New Video for CFK, Starring P.S. 15

With Super Chefs only a week away (buy your tickets here), we thought you might like to meet the stars of the new CFK video. They’re tiny, but they pack a wallop of on-screen power as writers, artists, and budding literati.

Our film crew visited Story Pirates, an art class and tutoring sessions. In interviews with students, teachers, staff, as well as our own Executive Director, Colin Smith, and Principal Irene Sanchez, we captured CFK’s impact.

One 2nd grade student, Nancy, who immigrated to New York from Sudan, described reading in class when she first arrived as “too distracting, it was hard to concentrate.”  Working with her CFK tutor this year, she has been able to grow as a reader, and now she loves reading in class, as well as taking books home from the library to read on her own. “My parents are proud of me,” she said.

Edited together, the footage will not only tell P.S. 15’s story, but also the larger story of the difference Change for Kids is making in New York City public elementary schools.

Our thanks to Margie Millero and Leslie Long at Saatchi & Saatchi for managing our shoot and penning our script; our producer, Olivia Newman, and Laurie Thomas, our Director from Think/Feel; Axsel Stasny, our Director of Photography for the day; and our editor, Chris Denniston, over at HBO. We know you are going to love what you see on November 14!

P.S. 81

New Faces at P.S. 81

This year, as P.S. 81 teachers and staff welcomed back their students, they also welcomed a new face–CFK’s new School Manager, Zareta Ricks. Zareta coordinates CFK’s programs at P.S. 81 and builds relationships with students, teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers. She is also the School Manager for Brooklyn Landmark. Here at CFK, Zareta works with our brand new Education Director, Kayla Dove. For those of you who don’t get to sit across from Kayla in the office, or aren’t lucky enough to still be in grade school at P.S. 81, we thought you might like to hear a little bit about these two program dynamos, in their own words.

Abby Holstein: School has been in session for a few weeks now. Any highlights you can share from your days at P.S. 81 or our other partner schools so far?


Zareta Rickszareta:
I am really excited about both of the schools that I am working with. Meeting with Principal Ault and her team at P.S. 81 was truly inspiring.  It was great to hear teachers and administrators speak so highly of the impact CFK has made at the school and to see their determination to have a great year.

 

 

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Kayla Dove:
What immediately comes to mind is my recent visit to P.S. 15. I had a chance to take a tour and speak to a few of the classroom teachers. I was amazed that in the short time we’ve been partnered with the school (programs only started last January), the impact is so palpable–from the mural we helped create that greets you as you walk in, to the teachers, who asked, “When is the program starting again, we can’t wait.”

AH: What are you excited to do in your new position? What do you hope to achieve?

ZR: I am hoping to build upon the existing programs and increase CFK’s involvement at P.S. 81, and especially encourage more family involvement. At P.S. 81, I am hoping to take all of our existing programs to the next level by providing more volunteer opportunities and engaging families with cook shops, book clubs, and quarterly events.  I also want to make sure that CFK has a visible, tangible presence at P.S. 81.

KD: I am excited about starting a new team with Zareta and Alyxe [Lett, our School Manager for P.S. 73 and P.S. 15]. We each have specific strengths that are complementary to each other and we all have the same passion for the work. I hope to build on the idea of what it means to be a CFK school and develop a network between the schools for the sharing of ideas.

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AH: Tell me about the work you did before you came to Change for Kids.

ZR: Before joining CFK, I was the first Family Coordinator at a new elementary school in East New York, Brooklyn. I worked closely with the principal and administrative team to overcome the stereotype that poverty-stricken areas equal low-quality education.  Through open communication, relative research, and relentless efforts to engage families and the school community, we made a significant improvement in the school’s culture and overall moral.

KD: I started out as a dancer and a dance educator, developing a multidisciplinary approach to learning, and teaching in different venues, from pre-K to college. I then moved into museum education, working closely with schools to bring resources of the institutions to support learning in the classroom. Museums and organizations I’ve worked at are: Liberty Science Center, Young Audiences New York, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Long Island Children’s Museum. Most recently I worked as a research assistant at the Educational Development Center on project evaluating science learning in pre-school classrooms.

AH: What brought you to CFK?

ZR: My work in under-resourced schools made it increasingly clear to me every day that children needed a holistic education. And not only did the children need more support,  but the educators needed more support, as well. More resources, more educational outlets, and most important, more people on their side who would partner with them in helping  children learn and develop the necessary skills at an early age that would lay the foundation for higher education.

I was impressed with the impact CFK was making  in their partner schools through their strategic and purposeful partnerships. Joining CFK was an opportunity to become a part of the solution. The School Manager position allows me the flexibility to work with children, educators, families and the community in creating partnerships with amazing people who believe that it takes a village to teach and raise educated, successful 21st century children.

KD: For the past 20 years I have worked in organizations that bring its resources to support learning in under-served schools.  What sets Change for Kids apart from other organizations is the work that’s done to individualize each partnership with the needs of the school and community. It is also an interesting time for CFK, reflecting on what is working and seeing how the model can be expanded, without compromising the quality of the partnerships.

I truly believe in CFK’s mission. My personal mission for my work is: knowing that each child learns differently, and that not every child learns best by reading a book at a desk, I want to help each child to develop skills that will help them succeed in school and life. And that is what CFK does.

AH: Do you have a favorite story from your work in education?

ZR: During my first year working in a school, I met a first grade student who struggled with behavior challenges. This young man had a habit of walking into my office and quietly placing himself under my desk. (Yes! Under my desk.) Initially, I found this to be quite disturbing – as did both of his teachers – but despite all of our efforts, he continued to do this at least twice a day.

I finally resolved to let him stay as long as he wanted. After a few weeks, he began to talk to me (from under the desk) and ask me for supplies (pencil and paper). To make a long story short, this young man was a phenomenal artist and he spent time on my office floor drawing the most amazing pictures and creating stories to go with them. He used his talent as a way to communicate his needs in and out of the classroom. I became his advocate in the school building.  With his family and the school’s permission, we kept this arrangement for the three years I was at the school.

KD: This goes under the category of multidisciplinary learning, I was doing a professional development workshop for school administrators (principals and superintendents) and I had them all up and doing the “bee dance.” I am sure they will never look at a bee the same way again.

AH: Do you have a favorite memory from your elementary school days?

ZR: My favorite memory from elementary school was winning the spelling bee in the 5th grade. My teacher had encouraged me to participate, and when I won the first round, she congratulated me. Then she told me in a stern voice that there was a second round of competition and that I would compete against the winners from other schools in my district. She explained that every round would get tougher and tougher, but if I studied hard and believed in my ability then I could do it. She reminded me that I already was a winner, and not to focus on being one of the finalists or the last one standing, but to remember that every time I spelled a word correctly I was closer to the gold. I made it to the semi-finals and didn’t win the trophy or title, but her words helped me understand that winning is more than a moment, it is a confidence in myself to achieve.

KD: It’s too many years ago…but I do remember being able to spend one day a term in elementary school painting a picture of anything I wanted to in the back of the classroom and not having to participate in the day’s lessons. I can’t imagine elementary school without art, music or recess.

AH: Thank you, Kayla and Zareta, and welcome to Change for Kids!

 

P.S. 15

New Faces at P.S. 15

This year, as P.S. 15 teachers and staff welcomed back their students, they also welcomed a new face–CFK’s new School Manager, Alyxe Lett. Alyxe coordinates CFK’s programs at P.S. 15 and builds relationships with students, teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers.  Here at CFK, Alyxe works with our brand new Education Director, Kayla Dove. For those of you who don’t get to sit across from Kayla in the office, or aren’t lucky enough to still be in grade school at P.S. 15, we thought you might like to hear a little bit about these two program dynamos, in their own words.

Abby Holstein: School has been in session for a few weeks now. Any highlights you can share from your days at P.S. 15 or our other partner schools so far?

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Alyxe Lett:
I’ve really enjoyed meeting the principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and parent coordinators in both of my schools.  I also attended a back-to-school night at P.S. 15, which was a great opportunity to meet parents, teachers and to network with other organizations. Everyone has been super friendly and helpful.

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Kayla Dove: What immediately comes to mind is my recent visit to P.S. 15. I had a chance to take a tour and speak to a few of the classroom teachers. I was amazed that in the short time we’ve been partnered with the school (programs only started last January), the impact is so palpable–from the mural we helped create that greets you as you walk in, to the teachers, who asked, “When is the program starting again, we can’t wait.”

AH: What are you excited to do in your new position? What do you hope to achieve?

AL:  I’m really excited to meet more of the P.S. 15 community and to see CFK’s programs in action, particularly Story Pirates performances and our music classes. I hope to achieve increased communication between teachers, staff and program partners and more engagement among parents and families at P.S. 15 and P.S. 73.  Both are challenges at my schools.

KD: I am excited about starting a new team with Alyxe and Zareta [Ricks, our School Manager for P.S. 81 and Brooklyn Landmark]. We each have specific strengths that are complementary to each other and we all have the same passion for the work. I hope to build on the idea of what it means to be a CFK school and develop a network between the schools for the sharing of ideas.

AH: Tell me about the work you did before you came to Change for Kids.

AL: Immediately before coming to CFK, I was an English teacher in Bogota, Colombia.  As much as I liked teaching, I became more interested in taking on more of a community coordinator role which would allow me to continue to work in a school setting but also allow me to do more program work and project management.  I think my role in the Peace Corps, working in multiple schools as an environmental educator and program coordinator, really was the starting point of my love for education and inspired me to pursue similar roles.

KD: I started out as a dancer and a dance educator, developing a multidisciplinary approach to learning, and teaching in different venues, from pre-K to college. I then moved into museum education, working closely with schools to bring resources of the institutions to support learning in the classroom. Museums and organizations I’ve worked at are: Liberty Science Center, Young Audiences New York, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Long Island Children’s Museum. Most recently I worked as a research assistant at the Educational Development Center on project evaluating science learning in pre-school classrooms.

AH: What brought you to CFK?

AL: I actually initially applied for a Communications Manager position at Change for Kids, but in the middle of my first interview, the team at CFK suggested I check out the School Manager position. As soon as I read the description, I thought, “Wow, yeah. That is totally me!”  And the rest is history.

What really appealed to me about being a School Manager at CFK was the broad range of responsibilities that would put me in contact with so many different people at the schools and in so many different capacities. Working with staff, parents, teachers and, of course, the students–I’m a people person so this part of the job is the best! And it’s this one-on-one time that sets CFK apart for me, because it really allows our organization to tailor our programming to a school’s needs, rather than applying a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that is the pitfall of other organizations.

KD: For the past 20 years I have worked in organizations that bring its resources to support learning in underserved schools.  What sets Change for Kids apart from other organizations is the work that’s done to individualize each partnership with the needs of the school and community. It is also an interesting time for CFK, reflecting on what is working and seeing how the model can be expanded, without compromising the quality of the partnerships.

I truly believe in CFK’s mission. My personal mission for my work is: knowing that each child learns differently, and that not every child learns best by reading a book at a desk, I want to help each child to develop skills that will help them succeed in school and life. And that is what CFK does.

AH: Do you have a favorite story from your work in education?

AL: During my time in Peace Corps in Guatemala, one of the many projects that I started there was a radio show that I had on the town’s radio station. The show was called  “Amigos del Ambiente” (“Friends of the Environment”) and it was about environmental issues. For one show, I had a few of my third grade students come on the air to talk about things you could do at home to conserve electricity.  They sang a song and read a short, funny play, too.  It was so cute!  Later, complete strangers from around town would come up to me and ask, “You’re the one from the radio, right?  I’ve learned so much from your show and when you have the kids on there it’s even better!”  That made my heart smile.

ps-15-studentKD: This goes under the category of multidisciplinary learning, I was doing a professional development workshop for school administrators (principals and superintendents) and I had them all up and doing the “bee dance.” I am sure they will never look at a bee the same way again.

AH: Do you have a favorite memory from your elementary school days?

AL: As an elementary school and middle school kid, I never stopped talking (okay, that hasn’t changed much!), so I was always being sent outside the classroom or being moved away from my friends.  One day, I was absent because I was sick.The next day, my best friend told me that someone had been talking and  making everyone laugh and our teacher automatically yelled out, “Alyxe, go outside!” but then immediately realized I wasn’t there.  That had everyone laughing even more. I was always a great student and my teachers liked me, but I was always running my mouth, jajajaja!

KD: It’s too many years ago…but I do remember being able to spend one day a term in elementary school painting a picture of anything I wanted to in the back of the classroom and not having to participate in the day’s lessons. I can’t imagine elementary school without art, music or recess.

AH: Thank you, Kayla and Alyxe, and welcome to Change for Kids!

CFK Program Partners, CFK Volunteers

Story Love!

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.

One of CFK’s students thanks the Story Pirates

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 “Story Love!”