Posts Tagged ‘Washington Heights’

Struggling Students; Struggling Schools

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

IMG_8532-smBy Alice Kenny

How do we reach children and families at risk effectively and fast?  Community schools that incorporate social service and support are the solution offered by Mayor Bill de Blasio.  And it’s a solution Catholic Charities is bringing to life in the poverty and crime-ridden neighborhood of Washington Heights.

The principle behind it is simple.  Bring services to where the children and their families already are – at school.  The new community schools program pairs year-round social services with education in high-need neighborhoods.  Services range mental health support to homework help and family counseling.

The city will use $52 million to launch 40 Community Schools.  This includes the High School for Media & Communications in Washington Heights that chose Catholic Charities Community Services Alianza Division as its community partner.

The program will work in  collaboration with the principal, the school leadership team and parents.  To ensure that new programs answer real needs more than 80 students, parents, community leaders, school administrators, counselors and teachers teamed up to share their vision for the newly established Community School program at the High School for Media & Communications on Saturday, May 16, 2015.

Funds will be used to increase attendance, credit accumulation, graduation rates and family engagement.

Interested in Community Schools? Read more in Capital New York.

Share Your Career Tips with Teens

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Catholic Charities, Career day. photo by Stefano GiovanniniBy Alice Kenny

Share your career tips with struggling teens yearning for success.

Join us at our annual Career Day in Washington Heights.

Catholic Charities Alianza Division offers its annual Career Day on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

  • Speak with teens about your career and what it takes to make it work.
  • Help us introduce teens to the world of professional opportunities open to them.

Career Day is part of our Learning to Work program, an in-depth job readiness and career exploration program at the Innovation Diploma Plus High School.

Whatever your vocation, from personal trainer to doctor or chef, you will find an interested audience.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Click to register now.

 

Unpacking Tons of Food to Feed the Hungry

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

goya fonFox News Latino spotlighted the massive collective effort kicked off yesterday by Catholic Charities staff, volunteers and Goya Foods to feed our hungry neighbors.  Working together, they unloaded a total of 35,000 pounds of food from Goya trucks, heaving it out box by box to pack, restock inventory and prepare bags for distribution to support a vast network of food pantries and emergency food programs throughout the archdiocese.

The colossal event included staff and volunteers simultaneously unloading tons of food at five Catholic Charities sites in Harlem, Washington Heights, the South Bronx, Staten Island and Kingston and a UJA Federation site in Brooklyn.  Thanks to Catholic Charities NY support and Goya donations, food is also being trucked to other areas across the country including Miami, Texas and California to feed unaccompanied minors arriving from Latin America.

“Unfortunately, we have to just look in the media to see that we have tension (around the world),” Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan tells Fox News. “This project is an opportunity to bridge gaps.”

Read the full story in Fox News Latino

Watch this slideshow of the volunteer effort. 

Share your comments here.

Feeding Our Neighbors is an archdiocesan-wide effort to raise food and funds to replenish food pantries and soup kitchens that feed hungry neighbors during the most critical time of year when need is high and giving is low.  Together, Catholic Charities in partnership with Goya aims to maximize impact to realize a goal of collecting 1 million meals to feed the hungry across New York. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Asked “What Are You Doing For Others?”

Monday, January 19th, 2015

mlk2015
By Alice Kenny

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’”

At Catholic Charities, we have an answer.  Our Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Day of Service pulls together a small army of volunteers and staff to help feed the hungry.  Today we are unloading 30,000 pounds of food donated by Goya to stock food pantries in Harlem, Washington Heights, the South Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Kingston.

With 1 out of 5 New Yorkers now depending on aid for food, our food pantries have never been so strained.  This donation of food by Goya and time by volunteers makes a huge difference helping us feed our hungry neighbors.

“What are you doing for others?” Rev. King asked.

Join us in answering this urgent question.

City Teens Tour College and Dream Big

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

By Alice Kenny
Shepard_Hall_1Underprivileged teens from Washington Heights received a guided tour of City College of New York last week, thanks to La Plaza Beacon After-School Program.

Fifteen students learned the history of this college, founded in 1847, in the Howard E. Willie Administration Building. Momentum and interest grew as they next toured the Grove School of Engineering, the North Academic Building, the book store, the library, the computer labs and the Marshak Science building. Finally, they toured stone-hewn Shepard Hall, the castle-like building where students graduate and dreams become reality.

Participants peppered tour guides and teachers with questions about careers choices and about the bottom line, the availability of scholarships and financial aid.

La Plaza Beacon is part of Catholic Charities’ Alianza Division. During after-school hours, La Plaza Beacon’s school-based community center transforms a local school into a thriving neighborhood center. It provides a safe, supervised place where youth go for recreation, cultural activities, homework help and tutoring.

“We accomplished the main goal of our visit,” La Plaza Beacon  Director Leonardo Ivan Dominguez  said, “that with education the sky is the limit.”

Free Film Festival for Children and Families

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

KidCinemaFest Film Festival returns to New York October 22 – October 31 with more than 50 of the most exciting, smart and reflective movies of this decade  for children and adults produced in Europe, Latin American, North America, Asia and Africa.

The film festival takes place at Catholic Charities Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center (530 West 166th Street and Amsterdam), Casita Maria, an affiliate of Catholic Charities in the South Bronx (928 Simpson St at 163rd Street), The United Palace (4140 Broadway at 175th Street), and public schools throughout Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the Bronx.

Films include kid-friendly highlights such as Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature Film Ernest and Celestine,  Dominican film Los Super (The Superheroes), Argentinian comedy Caido del mapa and Japanese animation Welcome to trhe Space Show.  

Back for its sixth installment, KidCinemaFest aims to enrich children’s appreciation for filmmaking and cultural diversity through its excellent line up of programs.

Cine Art Entertainment Productions is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, its Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center division and Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez.

The event is free and open to anyone and everyone who wishes to attend!

For a complete list of films and show times visit www.kidcinemafest.com.

Haircuts, Pizza and Socks: Back-to-School Basics for These Bronx Boys

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

haircutBy Alice Kenny

Led by Catholic Charities staff, boys from the low-income Highbridge Gardens neighborhood in the Bronx crossed the East River, hiking over the Madison Avenue bridge that separates them by income, race and expectations from affluent Manhattan.

Their back-to-school adventure included free haircuts — high tops, Mohawks and zigzag parts, whatever they wanted — at the All Star Barbershop in Washington Heights.  It also included pizza and ice cream, t-shirts and socks and tips from barbers who remember what it’s like to struggle.

For many of their Manhattan peers, this may seem like only the basics for expensive back-to-school prep that extends to designer clothing, tutors and college-planning consultants.  But for these Bronx boys, ages 10-18 who mostly hail from single-parent families in a local housing project, it was essential.

The day’s adventure was one of many children participating in Catholic Charities Highbridge Gardens Cornerstone Alianza Division took part in during its free, seven-day-per week summer program. Catholic Charities Alianza Division provides a variety of services for youth ages 5 to 21 years old, promoting a world view that extends far beyond the streets where they live.

Trading Places: From Food Pantry Recipient to Volunteer

Friday, August 29th, 2014

IMG_6725smBy Alice Kenny

Once a food bank recipient, today a volunteer at the same food bank, Margarita Peralta knows firsthand how much better it is to give than to receive.

Evolving from recipient to volunteer, she offers a special perspective on the benefits and challenges related to each role.

She likes it so much, she added, that she plans to transfer to a city college so she can continue volunteering for Catholic Charities, complete her studies and care for her dad.

“I remember as far back as when I was eight, when my mom would take me to the Catholic Charities food pantry in Washington Heights and, unlike at the store, they’d give us all this stuff for free. Then we’d go home and my mom would line everything up on the table – tuna, chicken, rice, beans.

“We were happy but still it felt weird. I wondered what it would be like to be on the other side, to be the one giving the food instead of getting it.”

Now she knows.

The first in her family to go to college, Margarita took time off from her junior year at SUNY Potsdam to nurse her dad whose health has been eaten away by diabetes.

To fill out her days, she volunteered at the same food pantry she and her mom used to visit.

Evolving from recipient to volunteer she offers a special perspective on the benefits and challenges related to each role.

Her parents were hard working immigrants from the Dominican Republic who never wanted to ask for help, she says. But illness diverted their race towards the American dream.

Her mother, a home health aide, had to quit her just-above minimum wage job to regularly rush Margarita as a child to the E.R. for treatment for sickle cell anemia, a chronic disease shared by one out of every 20 Dominican New Yorkers.

Her father, meanwhile, once a supermarket delivery driver, had his vision and much of his kidney function stolen by diabetes, another illness that strikes 10-percent of New York state’s population.

“He was always a working man but lost his license because he can barely see,” Margarita says, grabbing a napkin to cover her tears. “It’s a shock to see him go from being so active to just lying in bed.”

She inherited her parents’ work ethic, donating more than 100 hours to the food pantry during the winter months.

“I like the environment, the way staff and people served are so close and friendly,” she says. “It feels like a big family.”

She likes it so much, she added, that she plans to transfer to a city college so she can continue volunteer for Catholic Charities, complete her studies and care for her dad.

“It brings joy when I know that I’m feeding someone that can’t feed themselves. Because my mom, dad and I have been in that position, it’s interesting to now see how for others, also, a bag of food can make someone so happy.”

It Takes A lot to Humble Yourself

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Lizzie  Sister ShyneBy Alice Kenny

Moms and children hungry, struggling and embarrassed by their need: these are some of Lizaura German’s earliest memories.

Lizzie practically grew up at the Catholic Charities food pantry  in Washington Heights.   Her mother, the site’s longest volunteer – 36 years and counting – brought Lizzie along when she was just past kindergarten age to help out in their neighborhood center.

Those served felt comfortable sharing their fears and tears with the then-little girl.

“It takes a lot to humble yourself to let people what know what you’re going through,” Lizzie says, recalling what she learned from an early age.  “There is a lot of pride involved because people want to fix things themselves.  When people finally express their need you don’t want them to lose hope.

“A food pantry,” she adds,  “is not just a bag of food, it’s a doorway for helping clients.”

As program manager for Catholic Charities Feeding Our Neighbors program, Lizzie enters this doorway daily, sometimes seven days a week.  She oversees nearly half of Catholic Charities food pantries plus three soup kitchens – more than 30 all told – commuting from the Catskill mountains to Staten Island along with the Bronx, Manhattan and, of course, Washington Heights.

The job, she says, relies nearly as much on diplomacy as it does on knowledge.  Most food pantry staff are volunteers including retirees from Wall Street. So while they are committed to helping their community, these volunteers are also accustomed to taking charge.  Lizzie makes sure volunteers feel appreciated while guiding them to listen to those on food pantry lines and make sure they connect them to the breadth of services Catholic Charities offers.

“Clients come in for a bag of food,” Lizzie says as she exchanges smiles with an elderly woman entering the food pantry.  “But meanwhile, their lights are being turned off or they’re being evicted.  We need to make sure the client feels comfortable enough to express that to the volunteer.”

With a masters degree  in public administration from Baruch College, a background that includes a stint at the United Nations, and a dad who works as executive sous chef at the famed Carmine’s restaurant in Greenwich Village, Lizzie could likely land a job almost anywhere.

But her commitment, she says, is to those she serves at Catholic Charities.

“My job is to be the voice of the client,” she say, “because there is nothing worse than losing a client or knowing that a client was not fully helped.”

Lean In

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

impactdaycollageBy Alice Kenny

On June 6, one hundred and sixty volunteers from the national consulting firm Deloitte ventured away from their offices and fanned out to more than a dozen separate site locations affiliated with Catholic Charities and its social service programs. Below is the last installment in a series about their adventures. It offers a glimpse at the large amount that together we can accomplish.

At Catholic Charities Alianza Division in Washington Heights where per–capita income is half the New York average, Deloitte volunteers staged mock interviews with students, provided resume-writing one-on-ones and offered personalized job skills training. Meanwhile, low-income women who study at Grace Institute, a Catholic Charities affiliate that provides tuition-free job training took advantage of similar mock-interviews, career panels and networking opportunities thanks to Deloitte volunteers stationed there. “I volunteered here today because this is something I’m passionate about,” said Deloitte Consulting LLP Director Oliver Siodmak in the once grand but now aging George Washington High School auditorium where the student program was held.

“Everyone has potential.” Help people meet their potential. Share your talents, time or voice.