Now that the U.S. federal government is expected to end the COVID-19 state of emergency on May 11 and New Yorkers have learned to better manage the realities of the pandemic, Children’s Aid has decided to retire this project. But we couldn’t do so without taking this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to you. We wanted to take a moment to look back at all the incredible work you so generously enabled us to do.
In the beginning of the pandemic, we started this project with a goal of raising $2,500 to help provide a little extra support to our families. Then, when New York City became the epicenter and the world’s eyes turned toward us, more and more generosity poured in. This kindness from both longtime and newer supporters allowed us to continue increasing our goal — and in turn, our impact. We increased the goal to $5,000, then eventually to $50,000 and $100,000. In total, we have delivered over $210,000 worth of COVID-19 relief. That increased amount meant that more children received COVID-19 tests and treatments, more families had access to produce during food shortages, and more parents had someone to turn to when they lost work. Thank you.
As we look back, we want to let you know how touched we were, especially by the outpouring of support from all corners of the world, stretching across the New York City metropolitan area and as far as Australia. It really opened our eyes to what a “global community” means — and how this community helps strangers far away during a crisis. In addition to raising money, this project created countless incredible gestures, including:
As we continue to respond to the most pressing challenges facing New York City’s young people, we hope you will keep us in mind and join us in our other future projects. Thank you again for standing with us during a time of unprecedented changes. It meant so much to us.
Kevin loves to be number one. During the beginning of the pandemic when we had to stay indoors, Kevin relied on this competitive drive — and his skills he honed with Children’s Aid — to flourish in incredible ways.
In 2018 he started attending Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, a Children’s Aid community school in the South Bronx. At home, he faced the financial pressures of living in a single-parent, lower-income household. Determined to be successful as an adult, he joined our NYU EXCEL college prep program to prepare for a postsecondary education. He also joined our Educational Video Center and CareerCLUE programs, which help youth develop multimedia technical skills, such as video editing and production, and provide vital workforce development opportunities and experiences working collaboratively as a team. These programs, which were offered virtually at the start of the pandemic, would not have been possible without the support of generous friends like you.
Kevin eventually joined an online community of video game enthusiasts on discord.com, which was a vital outlet for him during pandemic lockdowns. As a part of this community, Kevin entered into gaming tournaments, one of which he won first place in. Then, through this community, another opportunity that built upon his experience in his Children’s Aid programs presented itself, which turned into something bigger than Kevin could have ever imagined: graphic design.
Kevin recounted, “The first image that I created as a logo was of a black horned dragon against a maroon background. It was simple but memorable, as logos should be. A friend from my Discord community had asked me to design it for his social media brand. Once he implemented it, other social media entrepreneurs noticed it and began commissioning logos from me. A business was born.”
During his senior year of high school in 2021-2022, Kevin had his sights set on attending the New York Institute of Technology to study graphic design with the pride of being two “firsts”: a first-generation college student, and a first-generation American. Impressed by all of his incredible accomplishments, Children’s Aid awarded Kevin a scholarship to help him earn his degree.
“I love the creative process and hope to contribute artistically to the world, adding visual joy,” said Kevin about his future career ambitions. “It is my dream to go to college so that I can enter into a professional career where I can provide for my family without worrying how I will make ends meet.”
Your incredible support toward our COVID-19 relief efforts has equipped us with the tools necessary to promote COVID-19 vaccines — especially to parents of children. With your generosity, we have been able to perform outreach to vaccine-hesitant communities who are at greater health risk, provide them with information about vaccines, and administer the shots.
Children’s Aid’s VP of Health and Wellness Rhonda Braxton sat down with BronxNet Host Daren Jaime to discuss what we’re doing to get New Yorkers vaccinated, with a focus children. You can watch it here, or read a section of the conversation transcribed below:
DAREN: “When we talk about children getting vaccinated we know that it’s been an uphill battle, how have things been looking on your end?”
RHONDA: “Well thank you so much for having me. Yes, it has been a little bit of an uphill battle, but Children’s Aid is very dedicated to the community and ensuring the health and wellness of the children and families that we serve. So we really at the beginning of the pandemic, we took to heart the idea that we have to go out and provide accurate medical information to our clients and their families, and to do our best to provide the best services to the community.”
DAREN: “And you’re not just waiting for people to come through your doors, obviously you have some mechanisms that you’re actively actually reaching people. You’ve got testing buses right in the borough of the Bronx. Talk to us about your buses and the work that it’s doing there.”
RHONDA: “Sure, well we first started with health education. We wanted to make sure that everyone had medically accurate information, so we had webinars, we had flyers, other campaigns, and then we partnered with other community organizations, even before we were able to provide vaccines at our sites, but testing was paramount to the success of the initiative. We partnered with the Health + Hospitals Corporation – the Test and Trace organization to get testing mobile vans/buses at our sites, primarily in the Bronx. That’s where we started, because we wanted to address the higher risk needs of our community. We advertised those services, partnered, had the vans there seven days a week on a weekly basis and we’re really proud to say that through that partnership we were able to provide 7,000 tests altogether; 5,000 tests in the Bronx. And later when the vaccine became available, we were also able to use those same resources for vaccination.”
DAREN: “We know within the African American community and communities of color there is a huge vaccine hesitancy, when it comes to testing, even that as well. Did you find that you were able to break down some walls if you will, to be able to get people to become more receptive given the fact that so many people still have some questions, even though we’re making some progress but still have a way to go?”
RHONDA: “Absolutely, again it was our goal to chip away — well, really first acknowledge the hesitancy and the reason behind it. Acknowledge the background that communities of color have had negative experiences historically with the medical field. And just address that head on. Have informational sessions, have trusted people of color and pediatricians who are known to be trusted resources in the community, to have one-on-one conversations, to educate first our staff, from the front desk on, as to accurate information — how to speak to clients. Again, webinars, one-on-one-conversations, you know, any kind of outreach that we could provide. Partnering with New York City Health + Hospitals Corporation, with the Department of Health, other community-based organizations to get accurate information out to the community. And to be able to provide a forum for people to ask questions and really to ask, ‘Did you get that vaccine Rhonda? Would you give it to your children?’ ‘Absolutely.’ So, serve as a resource for the community.”
As foster care social worker and therapist Yvonne Amarh (pictured above) prepared for the holiday season, she reflected on the past year and wanted to share her meaningful memories she has with the ones who help make her work possible — each and every one of you.
This past year, there was a sharp rise in mental health care needs as youth grappled with changes, isolation, loss, and other pandemic hardship. That made your support of Yvonne’s work more critical than ever before.
When Yvonne received a call that a 16-year-old client was arrested and admitted to the ER to detox from drug use, she immediately rushed to be by his side. When he was released from the ER, the relative he was living with wouldn’t allow him to return to her home. The young man had nowhere to go, so Yvonne spent the whole day with him, taking him to lunch and then the park until we found him a new home.
“We had a really nice talk, we discussed his goals in life and I learned so much about him that day,” Yvonne said. She didn’t leave his side during the whole ordeal. Once we did find a new home for him, she moved all of his belongings from his former foster home to his new one. “I was willing to stay with him for as long as it took,” she said. Now he is in a stable and secure foster home placement.
For many other foster youth, the opportunity to take a simple outing or field trip — something many of us take for granted — is a special treat. There is one youth Yvonne works with who is an animal lover, so Yvonne arranged a special trip to visit a pet store with her. They spent the day petting the cats, and the youth found the experience to be extremely therapeutic. “By the end of our trip she could not stop saying how much her day was made and how much she enjoys our outings,” Yvonne said. “I appreciated hearing that I was able to do that for her.”
When other youth are mapping out their careers, Yvonne is able to access a host of college and career resources to help them achieve their goals. This year, Yvonne worked with 17-year-old Ashanti, who has continued to stay on track to earn her high school diploma and is preparing for cosmetology school. She has big dreams to open up her own salon, and with access to the right opportunities, nothing will get in the way of her success.
In the year ahead, thanks to the continued generosity of so many friends like you, Yvonne can continue to support our youth in foster care. Thanks for being a friend of New York City’s children.
Of the many impacts COVID-19 has had on youth, academic and mental health challenges have been particularly pronounced. For young adults considering secondary education while grappling with these hardships, the data revealed this past spring was rather stark: college enrollment sank by 25%.
Maame is a 17-year-old Bronx native who has always been a stellar student, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while juggling commitments to a variety of extracurricular activities throughout high school. When finishing up her junior year of high school, she had her eyes set on college, but wasn’t completely sure what she wanted to study and how she would even afford it. Then, the pandemic ransacked New York City, limiting her ability to explore jobs and internships or make money to pay for college. As the months of quarantine went on, the social isolation caused Maame to become depressed.
In June 2020, Maame wanted to get involved in a program that would help her choose her path in life, and provide a healthy social outlet. With all of the COVID-19 restrictions, options were limited, but she turned to her mentors at our Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem who offered her a great solution. They introduced her to our “Just Ask Me” (JAM) Peer Education paid internship program, which at the time was operating remotely. Maame applied and was accepted to work as a health educator for teens on topics such as birth control, HIV/STI prevention, and gender identity. Through this program, Maame found her calling.
“Being able to answer my peers’ questions with confidence further motivates me to become an educator. The JAM Peer Health Education Program has continuously reminded me of my future goals and pushes me to become a teacher,” Maame said.
The program also helped Maame combat the feelings of isolation, and stay focused on her goals and maintain her wellness. She said it “…was a helpful outlet because it gave me something to look forward to during my days…even if it was on Zoom." Maame also shared that she took advantage of Hope’s mindfulness and meditation classes.
During her senior year of high school, Maame’s hard work paid off after she was accepted to her dream school — New York University. She received a scholarship from the school, but the remaining balance was still a financial squeeze. She knew she absolutely wanted to go there, but was overwhelmed by the prospect of accumulating so much debt.
Then, she heard about the Children’s Aid scholarship program.
“By receiving the Children’s Aid scholarship, I would be able to pursue my dream career,” Maame said in her application. Children’s Aid recognized her potential and knew her goal should not be a dream deferred, nor a dream denied. She won an $8,000 scholarship, which gave her the financial backing needed to pursue her higher education goals at her dream school.
Thank you for supporting students just like Maame. By staying engaged and focused on her goals through the help of her mentors and programs at Children’s Aid, students like Maame are able to continue their education and start their careers — despite these challenging times.
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