With the end of the year approaching, we at the New York City Mission Society want to wish all of you, your families, and communities a healthy and happy holiday season! It’s been an eventful year, and I’d like to take a moment to celebrate some of the work we accomplished with the help of friends like you.
As always, our educational programming has remained a top organizational priority. One of our accomplishments has been securing funding to strengthen the College Access component of our high school programming. Too many obstacles stand between disadvantaged youth and the college degrees that can change their lives. In addition to tuition, there are hidden “administrative” fees, the cost of travel, even dorm supplies. For students living at or below the poverty line, these “incidentals” costs can derail matriculation, even with a scholarship. Plus, if no family member has been to college, students may not realize how much financial aid they need. Sadly, too many end up deferring their dreams, or dropping out to take low-paying jobs that only perpetuate cycles of intergenerational poverty.
At the Mission Society, our dedicated staff in five transfer high schools across New York City provide at-risk students with the highest-quality academic support and college guidance, to ensure that they are truly prepared for the financial investment of secondary education. In addition to securing the supports at-risk students need to graduate high school, our dedicated college counselors guide and assist them throughout every step of the application process. Academic advising, visits to college campuses, mentorship, and ongoing financial aid workshops create a brighter future by making college an accessible, realistic goal for hundreds of low-income students each year.
At the elementary-school level, our Power Academy afterschool and summer camp programs serve over a thousand students annually throughout Harlem and the Bronx. Over this past year, we have been rolling out a new, academically rigorous curriculum full of hands-on projects and activities that encourage inquiry, stimulate critical thinking skills, and cultivate a lifelong love of learning. The monthly engineering “challenges” of Innovation Station strengthen critical STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills in older Power Academy students, while innovative and fun initiatives like Pages to Stages and LitUP! have strengthened literacy, teamwork, and communication skills for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
In other news, many of you know that in late 2014, we partnered with the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) to launch GRIOT – a free, afterschool music-education program held at Minisink. GRIOT teaches youth ages 10-16 to play an instrument by exploring the rich legacy of music from the African Diaspora. It also strengthens STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills as children learn to read music, engineer their own instruments, and explore music theory. This unique program has become a community favorite, bringing the gift of free, world-class, professional music instruction to over 60 students this year. This fall, ALJA Founder and multiple Grammy Award-winner Arturo O’Farrill recently visited the program to encourage their success, because their success is what it’s all about. By the end of this year, GRIOT students learned to read, sight-read, and notate music; use the scientific method to generate and test conjectures; compose and produce their own musical pieces on laptop computers using GarageBand software; and performed on their instruments solo and with an ensemble.
In addition to ALJA’s fruitful partnership, GRITO could not have launched without the support of our Board and committed donors. Its success is emblematic of the creativity, compassion, and commitment needed to yield meaningful change in the lives of those we serve each day.
We kicked off this holiday season with the Mission Society’s annual Thanksgiving Harvest Community Dinner, serving over 250 meals (a special “thank you” to Board members Jean Shafiroff and Jay Moorhead, who underwrote the event) to members of our Minisink community on November 17th. This past Saturday, December 10th, we concluded our annual Toy Drive, when well over 100 volunteers came to Minisink to wrap the nearly 1,000 gifts that were so generously donated this season. These gifts will be distributed the week of December 19th to the youth of all ages who participate in all of our programs—the generosity of friends and partners like you will make this holiday season a bright one for the youth and families we serve.
Though the upcoming year is certain to have its challenges, we intend to double-down on our efforts to serve even more disadvantaged New Yorkers with the highest-quality educational enrichment and community support. And we are grateful that, in uncertain times, we know we can count on the support of allies like you, who stand with us in our centuries-old commitment to creating a city where every child has the tools and opportunity to succeed. Please, be sure to remember the Mission Society as you plan for the New Year; every gift or contribution is an investment in a child’s future.
Warm wishes and all the best,
Elsie McCabe Thompson