This week we have another special guest feature, this time from the Samuel Field Y's Coordinator of Workforce Initiatives, Shannon Cook. Shannon oversees the In School Youth Program, which will begin its sixth year of programming this Fall, and aims to help better prepare our community's high school students for future success academically and professionally. For more information about this great program, you can contact Shannon at (718)225-6750 extension 202, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Samuel Field Y’s In School Youth (I.S.Y.) program offers career and college readiness to high school juniors and seniors. Entering its sixth program year this Fall, ISY has taken on new goals and directions by incorporating leadership and team building, along with the typical work readiness curriculum and academic support. In addition, each teen that is enrolled receives a part-time job working in one of our Beacon or O.S.T. (Out of School Time) after school program where they become young leaders and role models. We have provided services for hundreds of teens since the program’s inception in 2009, and have been able to be a part of incredibly positive outcomes both during and after their involvement. The ISY program is supported by federal funding received from the Department of Youth and Community Development and the Workforce Investment Act.
Cynisha Johnson, known by her peers as CiCi, graduated from ISY in 2013. She has just completed her freshman year at SUNY Brockport, where she is pursuing a career in Nursing. CiCi enrolled in the ISY Program in September 2011 for the start of her Junior year as an incredibly quiet and self-contained teenager, even going as far as calling herself “a bit harsh” at times. Looking back now, we can laugh and joke about the shy and attitude driven teen that she used to be. Mid-way through her Junior year, Samuel Field Y staff and peers began to see a different side of CiCi that few had witnessed prior. CiCi began participating more, voicing her opinions, and best of all, smiling. CiCi said that because of the ISY Program she learned to be comfortable in her own skin and learned to advocate for herself. “I think I was able to adjust so quickly away at school because of the ISY Program. I learned how to get along with people quickly and how to become comfortable in new situations where I knew no one. Living in a dorm with a difficult roommate, my job as an after-school daycare counselor prepared me for that. I’ve worked with difficult supervisors, coworkers and children, ISY really taught me how to be patient and understanding of different situations.”
Over her two years as an ISY participant, CiCi learned to open up and engage with those around her, and eventually began to plan and facilitate her own activities working with children. “I used to be scared or nervous to talk to people, whether it was co-workers or a supervisor. Now, I feel much more comfortable speaking with my college professors because I spent so much time having to communicate with so many people in a given day.” CiCi also attended regular workshops in the course of her two years, where she learned how to prepare for interviews, make her resume stand out, and effectively manage her money. “I didn’t even know what a debit card was before ISY, or how to use it. I used to spend so much money on food each week. ISY taught me how to budget each paycheck I earned, and how to save for college.”
As a collective, the ISY graduating class of 2014 has had an incredible impact on the agency. They have initiated community service projects, participated in the first-ever ISY leadership retreat, and have proven to be some of the most amazing role models for children in our after school programs.
Timothy Blackwell, one of our recent graduates, attended our leadership retreat last November, and quickly demonstrated a natural ability to lead his peers through all activities while keeping them motivated with his natural calming demeanor. Upon the return from the weekend, Timothy’s fellow seniors nominated him as ‘Senior of the Month’ for his incredible leadership qualities, as well as his dedication and motivation to reach any goals he may set. “I feel I have really been able to develop my social skills. I used to be shy and afraid in large groups; now I feel like I can talk to anyone,” says Timothy. I don’t want to work a typical 9-5 job in my future, I want to be the one creating jobs for others. I’ve realized through ISY how important it is to communicate and network.”
Timothy will be starting college in the fall, where he will begin his journey in the field of business. For Timothy, college used to seem unattainable and scary, but after attending various college tours with his ISY peers, he has become more confident and has his sights set on opportunities he didn’t always consider realistic. “I feel like ISY has really taught me how to balance life in general. I feel very prepared for whatever comes next, and I feel I have really matured over the last two years. I’m just grateful that I had someone there to guide me through the process, and really help me make the difficult decisions regarding my academic future.”
Each year the staff of the ISY Program say a tearful goodbye to our seniors as they move on to accomplish bigger and better things, while our juniors advance to the madness of their senior year. Dekendra, one of our incoming seniors reflected back on her first year with ISY and what she envisions for the new program year, “I feel like I learned how to handle many different situations, whether it be with the kids at Beacon or with my friends.”
ISY case managers play a vital role in the success of our teens. They work daily to set attainable and realistic goals in every area of our teens lives; between work, school and coping mechanisms to handle the whirlwind of their teenage years. Sabirah & Afia, Abedah and Shanaiya all have the same case manager, Natalie. “I feel like she just is always there to support me,” says Abedah. “I feel like she really cares about what happens to me and is there to talk about school, family, friends, whatever I need,” says Sabirah. Shanaiya states, “I just feel really comfortable with Natalie, and I know that she cares and will always give me helpful advice.”
The upcoming school year will see the enrollment of a new group of juniors with a fresh set of goals, attitudes and initiatives. We are looking to expand our internship placements to provide opportunities in our teens desired career industries, in addition to our After School Program placements. You also can’t forget our 3rd Annual Career Fair, 2nd Annual Leadership Retreat, and numerous community service projects and team-building events that are on the horizon. We can’t wait for another great program year!"
This week we have a special guest entry from Anita Swerdin, one of our volunteer peer advocates for our CAPE Mental Health Clinic and for Connect To Care. Anita was presented with a City Council Award for volunteer work, along with three other volunteers, on June 25th.
"I wondered what I would do for the rest of my life after having worked full-time for 28 years at Leviton Manufacturing, which was across the street from Samuel Field Y on Little Neck Parkway.
And then it hit me, all I had to do was remember the wonderful times that our sons had both as campers and counselors and the many after school programs they participated in with the Samuel Field Y. I wanted to give back to our community, and where better to do that than a place that played such a positive role in our son’s lives, not to mention that some of our grandchildren have been going to Camp Poyntelle for a few years now.
I met with Jeri Mendelsohn back in 2009, and she shared with me the need for volunteers in our early childhood program, which I did for two years and what a joy it was for me to see these precious happy faces every time I walked into the room.
My husband and I are currently volunteers at Sam’s Senior Café and we get the pleasure of working with Karen, Ilene, Heather from the Senior Center, as we continue to meet so many wonderful people who put smiles on both our faces on a daily basis. What a great feeling it is when someone thanks you for serving them a meal when it is such a win/win situation. Burt and I hope we make their day because they certainly make ours!
On June 25, the SFY held its Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon and Burt and I were amongst four to receive the City Council Award for our volunteer work along with Conrad and Linda. We are humbled and proud to receive this recognition.
I speak for both of us when I say; we are privileged to work with a group of people who give so graciously of their time and of themselves in giving back to our community."
As I walked into the gym at P.S./I.S. 178, I could’ve sworn I was walking into the Knicks practice facility mid-season.
With five players standing in a circle around the top of the key, and the rest of the players standing on the baseline watching and listening intently, I walked in amidst a lesson on floor spacing, and making the right decision on when to split the defense.
If you’re sitting there asking yourself “what does that even mean?” think about how impressive it is that about 35 children ages 8-13, who have never played any form of organized basketball before, ate up every second of this.
For the next half hour the middle school students who were in this practice session were taught how to make cross court passes and how to get into the triple threat, not a single shot was taken.
“Do not shoot!” is shouted as a reminder from a deep, but calming voice. Coach Wilfred Kirkaldy only joined the team several weeks ago, as he just began working at the O.S.T. Program at 178 in April, but the presence he’s had on the team has been amazing so far.
“He teaches me new stuff every day,” says Christian, huffing and puffing. When I walked into the gym Christian was working on getting into triple threat position, and wasn’t having the easiest time. Coach K, as he’s referred to by the kids and fellow staff members, was reinforcing what he had been teaching Christian over and over to the point that it might have gotten a wee bit frustrating. But what really stood out to me was the way the sixth grader later on chased down a ball that went out of bounds, and out of the gym, running full speed back into the gym with the ball to continue drills as if it had never happened.
“I know I’m getting better with his coaching, and I want to get better.”
Christian’s attitude and hustle seems to be shared by the rest of his teammates and fellow aspiring ball players, and that’s exactly why Coach K is in the position he’s in. A former Division 1 college basketball player at West Virginia, Coach K also has experience working for the NBA, and wants to give back some of his greatest life lessons to the youth in our community.
“I’m here to help get their minds right for the future,” starts Kirkaldy. “I’m teaching them basketball concepts and skills, but in reality these are skills that translate to the rest of their lives. If you hustle on the court, you’ll hustle in life, and the way you practice is the way you play.”
While Coach K is instilling a winning attitude, the kids he’s coaching aren’t doing too shabby on the hardwood. Through the first week of June, the hardworking staff at 178 had scheduled six games between the elementary and middle school teams, in which the students have traveled to other Beacon and O.S.T. sites like M.S. 216, M.S. 172, and P.S. 115, and they’ve also played against the children in the Samuel Field Y’s Speisball program. Through these games they're sporting a 3-3 record.
These co-ed teams are obviously focused on winning their games, but win, lose, or draw, they’re having a blast.
“I’ve been playing basketball forever, and I’m having fun playing more often with my friends,” says Irene, an eighth grader who admits she’s learning more from this experience than she’s ever learned about the sport.
As I mentioned, Coach K’s only been around since April, so it’s not fair to give him all of the credit for the basketball culture being celebrated in this after school program. Program Director Ricky Gunzel and his two assistant directors David DiTrapani and Mike Tepper have been major advocates for the basketball program being as active and growing as rapidly as it has, and have enlisted a coaching team consisting of counselors Demetrius, Devon, and Wesley, who did a great job before the addition of the seasoned Coach K.
“I’m not going to be able to play forever, I have to give my talents off to someone,” says Devon, jokingly. “It’s awesome just watching how much these kids are growing, and how much more they want to learn. It’s inspiring.”
DiTrapani shared plans with me for the children who are in the program during the summer to be able to continue to practice every day, with hopes for a JV and Varsity team for next school year.
In the meantime, just seeing basketball develop from an afterschool activity into a mini hoops clinic with accompanying travel teams has given the children in this O.S.T. program as unique of an experience as you’ll find in any of the Samuel Field Y’s after school programs.
And this is just the beginning.