P.S. 73 News Hot Off The Press

The latest issue of P.S. 73 News has landed! Written by the Honors Fourth and Fifth grade journalists in the Fordham Honors Enrichment Program with help from their college mentors, top stories in these pages are Katy Perry, Astronomy, Kitties versus Puppies and, of course, several opinion pieces on school lunch.


“I’m on the front page!”

Writers found their subjects in everything from hobbies to heroes to drama in the fifth grade. ”I just got inspired about how there’s been a lot of fighting lately and I wanted to let people [in my grade] know that it should stop. I actually made a survey and most people think that the fighting should stop,” said the author of “Stars Academy.”

Once they had chosen their topics, some students were overwhelmed with the amount of information they wanted to pack into their piece. The author of “Camp Homeward Bound” said, “I had such a good time and it was hard remembering all the details. I would put some details in and then when I was almost finished, I’d remember, ‘Hey this happened!’ now I have to start again.”

Others  ran into writer’s block and turned to their peers for guidance. The author of the Katy Perry piece said, “I didn’t know what Katy Perry song to pick. So I asked people and what they liked and they all chose ‘Roar’ so that’s why I started writing about it.”

Reviewing the final product

Reviewing the final product

On Wednesday, January 22, students and mentors alike braved 11 inches of snowfall to celebrate the newspaper’s publication with snacks and readings by classmates.  ”I love seeing the kids reach their full potential, which they might not be able to in the classroom,” said Fordham mentor Casmir Black at the party. “This [program] gives them the chance to show their talent and their writing skills. I also really love to see them get the idea of college in their heads. They get so excited about visiting Fordham. By the end of the year they say, I want to go to Fordham when I’m older.”

Following along while a classmate reads aloud

Following along while a classmate reads aloud

Toward the end of the party, the journalists had a surprise visit from Assistant Principal Craig Monteverde. “You need to celebrate your success!” he said, and told the class that he wanted to distribute the newspaper to all 300-plus members of the fourth and fifth grades. The announcement set off gasps and cheers in the class. Students raised their cups of Hi-C and CocaCola to toast P.S. 73 and Change for Kids.

As the party wound down, one student approached School Manager Alyxe Lett. With a big smile on her face, she said,  ”Thank you so much for bringing this program to us. It made a difference.”




A New Video for CFK, Starring P.S. 15

A young artist describes her cape to the film crew

With Super Chefs only a week away (buy your tickets here), we thought you might like to meet the stars of the new CFK video. They’re tiny, but they pack a wallop of on-screen power as writers, artists, and budding literati.

Our film crew visited Story Pirates, an art class and tutoring sessions. In interviews with students, teachers, staff, as well as our own Executive Director, Colin Smith, and Principal Irene Sanchez, we captured CFK’s impact.

A character in development in Story Pirates

One 2nd grade student, Nancy, who immigrated to New York from Sudan, described reading in class when she first arrived as “too distracting, it was hard to concentrate.”  Working with her CFK tutor this year, she has been able to grow as a reader, and now she loves reading in class, as well as taking books home from the library to read on her own. “My parents are proud of me,” she said.

Edited together, the footage will not only tell P.S. 15′s story, but also the larger story of the difference Change for Kids is making in New York City public elementary schools.

Hero poses for the final shots

Our thanks to Margie Millero and Leslie Long at Saatchi & Saatchi for managing our shoot and penning our script; our producer, Olivia Newman, and Laurie Thomas, our Director from Think/Feel; Axsel Stasny, our Director of Photography for the day; and our editor, Chris Denniston, over at HBO. We know you are going to love what you see on November 14!


I am legendary.

Around 2pm every Wednesday afternoon, the Fordham vans pull up to P.S. 73 and 10 incredible college students head off to pick up their 4th and 5th grade friends from class. Once our students see their Fordham mentors headed down the hallway, they immediately grab their stuff and run up five flights of stairs to the Change for Kids tutoring areas. They can’t wait to get to work. (Once they catch their breath of course!) For these kids, being a part of the P.S. 73 Fordham Writer’s Club is the best part of their week.

As the Director of Education, I am of course thrilled with the amount of writing that gets accomplished during their sessions. But I am even more encouraged by the bond that our kids end up forming with these college students. The Fordham mentors become teachers, role models, and friends, and the impact they make on our kids is obvious.

Each semester the group tackles a different style of writing. Last fall they worked on a school newspaper. They studied what it meant to write news briefs, feature articles (complete with proper interviews), and opinion pieces.

This winter and spring was all about creativity. First they studied poetry. They wrote touching self reflections, silly bits about their favorite food, and Melanie even wrote about how much she loves the CFK group! After everyone had tried their hand at poetry, the group moved on to short stories. There were tales of best friends at sleepovers, one super fan’s run-in with the boy band sensation “One Direction”, and many, many super heroes. We’re so proud of their work and impressed by their imaginations. Click on the images below to read the full publications!

Fordham Newspaper 2012_Page_01          PS 73 Spring 2013 Fordham Literary Journal_Page_01

As a cap to their amazing year together, the tables will be turned and instead of the college students traveling to PS 73, the mentors will be hosting the writers club members on the Fordham campus next week. A few of the many activities will include a concert by the college glee club, a poetry slam with one of the English professors, a tour of the football facilities, and of course a trip to the campus cafeteria. We can’t wait to share pictures from the day, and we know our students will leave inspired to work hard in school and reach for their dreams.


Excerpts from the P.S. 73 Fordham Writers Club Spring 2013 Journal:


I am smart and fast.
I wonder how people were created.
I hear fire.
I see a fire sword.
I want a Wii.
I am smart and fast.
I pretend to be a ninja.
I feel legendary.
I touch air.
I worry about school.
I cry for video games.
I am fast and smart.

I like fire
But I like the desire
To be a ninja
And pinch ya.
But I am getting tired.

Yes that’s me
Look and you’ll see
My hair is backwards
My eyes are dark brown
My arms are strong
My hands are soft
My heart is full of love.

- Joel


Utterly Fun

- Josue

NookFordham 15

I wanted to buy a new book
So I downloaded some on my Nook
It cost a lot of money
But the book had a bunny
When my Mom saw the price she shook

- Neichel


Crazy good
Hazel-y brown
Obsessively seen
Can be other colors too
Only the best food
Looks like a bar
Also can have nuts
Trapped in my stomach
Especially on Halloween

- Fadelah

Change for KidsFordham 9

Change For Kids is awesome
Hey it is fun
At 2:00pm they pick us up
Now in the program we are writing poems
Going with friends to the program
Every Wednesday they come

Friends come and share their ideas
Oh it is fun to be in there
Really awesome my Caz is awesome too

Kids talk about what they are doing
I always play around in there
Do all my work there
Some times we get stuff, too.
I love Change For Kids, do you?

- Melanie


It was a bright and shiny day.  I was planning to go shopping for my sister’s birthday party. Then, I sat at the table to eat my cereal when I heard a voice.  I went to check and see where it was coming from.  It was coming from the news on the TV.  The news reporter said an asteroid was heading to the earth.  I knew I had to do something to save the world.  I am the only hero in the world.

Oh, I’m sorry.  Let me introduce myself.  My name is Super J.L. and my sidekick is Sparrow de la Cruz.

I called my sister and told her that the party was off.  Then, I called Sparrow immediately to tell him what was happening.  We quickly made a plan.  I would go to space using my ponytails and put a bomb on the asteroid.  I would come back to earth as it exploded in space.  Sparrow prepared my launching spot and I went to get the bomb.  The day had come.  On April 3, 2013, a Wednesday, I launched to space with my ponytails and put the bomb on the asteroid.   Then I hurried back down to earth without getting hurt.  As I was going down…boom!!

To be continued…

- Jessica

Fordham 10

Learning to Love Literature at P.S. 73

Click here to go directly to the video.

SONY DSCFor the last eight weeks, 18 incredible volunteers and over 40 students in our literacy tutoring program have journeyed along the Hudson River, adventured with the heroic dog Balto, and discovered far-off parts of the globe. After these weeks of learning, our hard-working students are on spring break, with the state tests they’ve worked so hard to prepare for around the corner.

When we caught up with our P.S. 73 tutors after their last day, almost all of them reported that their students are feeling ready for those state exams. Even better, they told us that the students had not only improved their literacy skills, but also started to develop a lifelong love of reading and writing.

The students are just as happy with their progress as we are, and their progress has been enormous! Take Kayla, one of tutor Samantha’s students. “Kayla has made such great progress! In the beginning, she was very timid and nervous to read…Now she is reading all by herself – she even told me, ‘don’t say it, I want to say it!’ She then read the whole book!”

SONY DSCKayla and her classmates aren’t only cultivating their reading skills. CFK literacy tutors are helping these children develop pride and confidence in their schoolwork and themselves. Our tutors see this development every week as they build a relationship with their students. Like tutor Jane says, “Having worked with Alisha since the fall, I have really been able to see her progress, which of course is a highlight for me. She also mentioned today that she’s really getting good at reading, which is so great!”

Our students see their own transformations too. Destiny, a fifth grader at 73, told us all about how CFK tutoring has prepared her for middle school and helped build her self-confidence.

We’re thrilled that kids like Kayla, Alisha, Destiny, and their peers are so excited about their developing reading skills. Thanks to the teachers at P.S. 73, CFK tutors, and CFK supporters like you, we’re able to help these children cultivate their reading, writing, and communication skills, while boosting their confidence as readers and students. Just look at one tutor’s story about her partner student, Angel: “He got so excited one day after he completed a book and a worksheet, he begged me to tell his teacher. It was nice to see him so proud of himself!”

iLog: P.S. 15 Library Project

P.S. 15 Hurricane Sandy Supply Drive and Drop-Off

P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente!

On Monday I started my project in the library of P.S. 15. Let me start off by saying- P.S. 15 has a beautiful library. It’s large, there’s a big colorful carpet for the students to sit on, and, most importantly, there are books everywhere. Unfortunately, the school has not had a full time librarian for about three years now, so when I say there are books everywhere, I mean they are everywhere. Piled on top of shelves, stuffed into tight spaces…the check-in receptacle is literally overflowing with books. So in some ways, these mountains of books entrusted to my care are the fulfillment of my childhood dream. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a nightmare that night about drowning in a pile of picture books.

Basically, my responsibility with this library project is to get the library organized enough that the students can easily locate the books they need and are able to check them out in an efficient way. Also, there are a lot of books that are ready to be put on the shelves, but aren’t entered into the catalog yet. This seems like it should be simple enough, until you actually go to re-shelve the books. You will then quickly learn that the last three years has wreaked havoc on this library’s organizational system. Imagine hundreds of kids enthusiastically pulling out books and then haphazardly putting them back into place, with no one running behind them to fix the misplacement. For instance, as I was alphabetizing a portion of picture books on Monday, a little girl was reading a picture book with one of her teachers (there are always kids in there reading something). When she finished, she walked right up and stuck the book on the shelf next to the “A’s” that I had just finished. I pulled it right back out to find a book written by Patricia Polacco.

reading rosa parks

We’ll be reorganizing P.S. 15′s library throughout the semester.

One of the most interesting things about the way P.S. 15’s library is set up is that not only is it organized to help students easily find books, but also to help them know how to use a library in the future. There are arrows pointing perusers in the correct alphabetical direction, plus all the non-fiction books use the Dewey Decimal System. This might seem like a trivial skill, but I’ve wasted countless amounts of time wandering aimlessly around my college library looking for books- and I know the Dewey Decimal System. So it’s really important that we help get this library back into it’s original order, not only for what the library can physically give the students, but also what it can teach them on its own.

Maybe it’s the book lover in me coming out in full swing, but I am really excited about the remainder of my project. Hopefully the library will soon be organized and clutter free and then we’ll be able to put up pictures of the kids at P.S. 15 with their exciting new books. Until then, you can find me at P.S. 15, piled under my mountain of books. -Julia Cunningham, Spring 2013 Intern

Community Spotlight: Meet Joshua Holmes

Meet Joshua Holmes, the Detroit native with a master’s in public administration, a love for all things sports-related, and a special fondness for NYC food culture. When he’s not on his long-standing quest to find the best burgers and beer in the city, you can find him on the sports field. Any sports field will do. “I play softball, racquetball, football, tennis, and basketball. Also golf and snowboarding. I enjoy reading, though I always fear I don’t do it enough.” Prod him a little though, and he’ll admit that his favorite books are pretty diverse – Freakonomics, all seven Harry Potters, Cornel West’s Race Matters, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I’ve also heard from a very reliable source that he’s consistently voted the best dressed at the annual UVa alumni holiday party – perhaps not so hard to believe of a guy who manages to pull off a red plaid bow tie.

Josh Homes, Best Dressed and Tutor Extroadinaire

The best thing about Joshua, however, is that he spends every Tuesday reading with two very special second graders at P.S. 243 – Rubayet and Trinity (Weird factoid of the day: two of Joshua’s aunts actually attended P.S. 243). Given the recent standards push for nonfiction reading skills, they’ve been working all fall on a slew of animal books, says Joshua. “I’ve gotten a sense of their reading level at this point, so we always start by picking something out that looks really interesting…There’ve been lots of snakes, birds, and birds’ nests,” he adds.

Whether they’re sounding out words, identifying main ideas, or separating fact from opinion, the most exciting part of the process for Joshua has been watching Rubayet and Trinity grow more confident in their reading. “Rubayet was more shy and bashful when we first met, but now sometimes I have a difficult time keeping him on task because he wants to talk about all kinds of things. Trinity is very bubbly and warm. She’s really kind of adorable – like a little cousin.”
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Sarah Stevens Goes Medieval on Back to School Projects

On any given day this fall, CFK teachers, partner organizations, and volunteers are hard at work providing engaging educational programs to our students, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! Mr. Justin is teaching kindergarten through 3rd graders fun games to keep them active and healthy. Mr. Majid is quizzing his returning violin students on their scales. Ms. Kathleen is introducing the work of Emilio Sanchez to students at the Bronx Museum. And volunteers are exploring the adventures of Curious George, Arthur, and Babar with new second graders during tutoring. Every day new doors are being opened and opportunities are provided to eager kids ready to learn.

Sarah Stevens gets it done.

One of the most exciting program developments this fall has been the exponential growth of our volunteer tutoring efforts. In its third year, the one-on-one literacy tutoring program at PS 243 has tripled and we are continuing to train new volunteers. The school has come to rely on CFK tutors for their dedication to the students and invaluable classroom support. Once a week tutors meet with 2nd and 3rd grade students to work on critical writing and reading comprehension skills. With characters like the Bernstein Bears and Madeline to keep them busy, though, it doesn’t seem fair to call their studying “work.”

We have also seen our partnership with Fordham University at PS 73 more than triple since last spring. Fordham students drive their “Ram Vans” a few blocks south every Wednesday to pair up with 4th and 5th grade kids to write the PS 73 school newspaper. If last year’s paper is any indicator, those budding journalists will be prime to steal our jobs writing for the CFK newsletter and blog!

After only a few weeks, we can already tell this year us going to be even more exciting than last, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

The P.S. 73 Poetry and Newspaper Project: A Chat with Education Director Sarah Stevens

Every week five fabulous tutors from Fordham’s Center for American Catholic Studies arrive at P.S. 73 to mentor a select group of 5th graders in the joys of writing. Together they create projects that encourage community service and academic excellence, including this year’s school newspaper and a book of original poetry. In a feat of educational alchemy, our hip and enthusiastic tutors have managed to make persuasive writing and poetic form the preferred topics of conversation on Friday afternoons. Even better, our tutors’ general awesomeness and the group’s annual field trip to the Fordham campus have inspired our 11-year-olds to set their sights on college.

Read the original poetry book!

Read the P.S. 73 Newspaper!

Last year when we checked in with Jenny Portillo, founder of the Fordham group, she
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Community Spotlight: Meet Jenny Portillo

Currently finishing her senior year at Fordham University, Jenny Portillo is the founding member of our P.S. 73 literacy tutoring program and a brand new Teach for America recruit!

Jenny Portillo (center) with P.S. 73 students on a visit to the Fordham campus

When she graduates this spring she’ll have a double-major in English and history and a completed senior thesis on the shared constructs and themes of traditional poetry and hip-hop music. She counts Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree among her favorite books. “I think his message of selfless love is meaningful for any person at any age,” she says.

In this month’s Community Spotlight, Jenny updates us on the P.S. 73 tutoring program and provides a first-person account of teaching and learning from students.

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Scenes from Saturday Tutoring

On Saturdays at 10am, our dedicated bunch of literacy tutors arrives in Bedford-Stuyvesant to work with the 3rd graders of P.S. 243. They fold themselves into undersized chairs and sit amid stacks of books and baskets of school supplies while their students work through the week’s curriculum of reading, writing and math exercises. It’s an inspiring thing to see nine-year-olds curled intently over their desks, and we like to think it’s the coolness factor of their tutors that can make arithmetic and language arts the preferred activities on a Saturday morning.

Saturday tutoring pairs pause for a quick group photo

These sessions are all about literacy—both in terms of reading comprehension and in terms of applying language to other concepts in school. If you hated math because of word problems, you know exactly the kind of paralysis some of our students experience when they read, “Two trains leave the station at the same time heading in different directions…”

It’s not all serious, though. In between Duck for President and multiplication, our tutoring pairs have found plenty of moments to look forward to from week to week. Whether they’re skipping down the halls or discussing the merits of apple juice over soda, they’re making light work of often heavy subjects.

Finally, big thanks to the contingent from Brooklyn Technical College, whose turnout has been hugely responsible for the success of this new venture. You guys are awesome.

And with that, meet a few of the folks who’ve settled into P.S. 243 for the semester:

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