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Prevention in Action

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Education Stories

Intervention to Support School-Day Learning

Sometimes a child’s emotional needs interrupt classroom learning. When a child acts out, the schools where New York City Mission Society operates after-school programs often rely on our program staff to help assess and intervene. This partnership is so strong, and children so trust our programs, that sometimes children will only open up to our staff members.

Juliana is one such child. A second-grade student at PS 85 in the Bronx, Juliana began throwing temper tantrums during school hours. She would act aggressively and throw books, distracting other children in class. A well-behaved child in the after-school program, Juliana posed a conundrum for her school-day teachers. The assistant principal called in the after-school program for help.

When Aida Maldonado, program manager, and Waleska Salcedo, program coordinator, responded to the school’s request, they met Juliana in the office of the school safety agent. Juliana wasn’t talking. Having no luck getting through to her either, Ms. Maldonado and Ms. Salcedo invited Juliana to fill a special job in the office at lunchtime–stapling enrollment forms. This gave them an opportunity to keep an eye on her, and gave Juliana attention she clearly needed. Within days, Juliana began talking.

Through observations of and conversations with Juliana, Ms. Maldonado and Ms. Salcedo determined that she needed tools to help her feel in control, and to help channel her energy positively. They helped her develop a “stop, relax, and think” technique. This included deep breathing, bringing awareness to her feelings of anger, asking herself what the issue is, and identifying solutions she could try.

The staff shared this technique with the assistant principal so Juliana could receive consistent messages and support throughout the day. With all the adults around her helping her develop ways to understand and control her anger, Juliana’s behavior during the school day improved markedly.

For this school, and this child, the partnership with New York City Mission Society’s after-school program meant that learning could once again take precedence.

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Prevention in Action

lisandraA Young Woman Rises Above

Lisandra could have succumbed to the ills of the inner city. The odds were not in her favor. But with strong personal determination, and support from New York City Mission Society, she graduated high school this year.

Here is her story.

Lisandra is the oldest and only girl among her siblings. With a single mother who cannot read, Lisandra often plays a parental role—to her siblings and herself. “My mother couldn’t help me with my homework, so it was always me by myself,” she explains. “I worked hard to help my little brothers, because I knew it was going to be tough on them.”

Despite her commitment to her education, Lisandra found herself in an underperforming public high school in the Bronx. “I was surrounded by negative energy in that school,” she says. “People were always putting you down. They didn’t believe you could get anywhere.”

She looked up a childhood mentor, who she met when she attended an after-school program. The mentor was Amanda Perez, who then worked as an advocate counselor at New York City Mission Society’s Learning to Work (LTW) program at Harlem Renaissance High School (HRHS). Ms. Perez encouraged her to enroll in the school.

“Ms. Perez said it would be a fresh start,” Lisandra says. “She gave me hope.” With characteristic determination, Lisandra completed the paperwork and interviews by herself. Once enrolled, Lisandra committed to her studies and got an internship within the LTW program.

LTW staff members helped her make doctor appointments, assisted with enrolling her mother in a literacy program, and regularly provided her and her peers with food and school supplies. Throughout her time in the program, Lisandra grew to see the LTW staff as a second kind of family. “I don’t think I would be here if it weren’t from Ms. Amanda,” she says. “Because of her I made it this far.”
Lisandra made it, in fact, graduating this past June, and earning the honor of being the HRHS prom queen. Next up? College, to become a nurse. Says Lisandra, “I’m excited about going to college and the new life it is going to bring me.”

Lisandra Morales, second to left, with brother Omar. Lisandra credits her mother’s love—and New York City Mission Society’s Learning to Work program—with helping her make it through.

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Workforce Development in Action

Displaced by the Earthquake in Haiti, and Thriving with New York City Mission Society’s Help

Dear New York City Mission Society:

I am a performing artist, native to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  I came to the United States after surviving the earthquake on January 12, 2010.  I love and appreciate the gift of life.

After arriving in the U.S. on January 26, 2010, I enrolled in Emma Lazarus High School for English Language Learners.  Here, I have had met and made friends with students from around the world.  Although the earthquake was a big challenge, the language barrier became the biggest one for me in the United States.

When I arrived at Emma Lazarus, I was disappointed to learn that the school had no classes in the arts.  Music and dance have always been a way that I express myself.  I shared my feelings with the staff at the Learning to Work (LTW) program.  In response, they offered me the opportunity to participate in an African Dance Class workshop during school vacation.  I was honored that they not only listened to me, but they responded to my desire.

The LTW team then encouraged me to perform in the school Cultural Festival.  Since then, I have collaborated with students from such countries as China, Uzbekistan, Columbia, Mali, and Gabon among others to choreograph and perform dance routines.  There is an expression, “Music starts where language ends.”  Music and dance bridged the language gap for me when interacting with my peers.

Because I do not have all my documents, I cannot work in the United States.  This means I cannot participate in the LTW internship program.  The staff leaves no one out, however.  Last summer they offered me the chance to study hip hop dance with choreographer and dancer, Victor Sho.  It was one of the best summers of my life.

This summer, my advisor helped me apply for an internship at the Museum of African Art.  I was accepted to the program and I love it!

I want to thank New York City Mission Society for always listening to me and helping me to see myself as more than I could imagine.

Thankfully yours,

Chesna Gelin

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From Failure to Success
By the time Luanda arrived at Brownsville Academy High School, she had determined that she wanted better things in her life. Previously, she had gotten involved with the wrong crowd and engaged in self-destructive behavior. Now she was older than most other high school students, a bit more serious, and ready to focus on her school work.

The Learning to Work program at Brownsville Academy would give Luanda structure and resources to help her succeed in her studies, and it would give her experience in the job market. Not long after enrolling, she was off to her internship.

Soon enough, however, Luanda’s old patterns resurfaced: she stopped attending her internship. Program Manager Daks Armstrong confronted Luanda about her absenteeism, and she lied to him, claiming she had been at her job. Mr. Armstrong had no choice but to suspend her.

“My hope was to teach her responsibility and accountability,” he says. “I continued to support her in her goals of graduating, and once her suspension was served I reinstated her internship.” His support made all the difference for Luanda.

By June of this year, Luanda had completed her internship, Regents, and portfolio, and had accumulated enough credits to graduate—with honors! She received her diploma that month.

After graduation, in the course of helping Luanda with her resume and job search, Mr. Armstrong and Luanda discovered that she had been accepted to the Borough of Manhattan Community College—her first choice. He then helped her develop a plan of action for the steps she would need to take to enroll, including gathering documents, sitting for tests, scheduling appointments, and so on.

“By the time she left the program, she was college bound,” Mr. Armstrong says. “I enjoyed the special pleasure of seeing another student turn failure into success.”

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Youth Development and Community in Action

Young Black Men Use Media to Tell Their Stories

Imagine a world in which the media portrays black men positively, accurately, and without bias. Imagine an opportunity in which young black men used media to tell their story. That is a world that young men at the Beacon Community Center have been envisioning, talking about, and working to create.

This spring, Columbia University invited the Minisink Beacon Community Center to participate in a media course that is part of the Beyond the Bricks Project. The Produce! Create! Innovate! Media Literacy and Community Producer Program invites young black males to investigate and interrogate how they are represented through broad media culture.

Manuel Colón, the Minisink Beacon Community Center’s program manager, chose the young men in the boxing program to participate. “They were the best candidates because they are high school students who are heavily involved in media on a daily basis,” Mr. Colón says.

The project equipped students with hand-held video recorders so they could record and take pictures of positive black male interactions in the community. Students learned the basics of film: how to create a script; editing a film; how to speak will in front of a camera; lighting techniques; self-reflection; and critical thinking. Their recordings were edited and used in the Beyond the Bricks film.

As part of their involvement, the young men met with directors and producers of the film to explore how black men are portrayed in media and in the larger world. They explored the origin of slavery, racially charged words, and the power of language, along with how to be more thoughtful about the words young men use in their daily conversations.

The young men who participated in this project have seen their work appear in the completed feature film. “This was such an incredible opportunity for the young men of the Beacon Community Center,” Mr. Colón says. “They got a chance to see young black men positively reflected in media, and to shape that message. It will have a lasting impact in terms of the skills and education gained, and in what they have learned about themselves.”

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