Celebrity Sightings: Education Style

Set your DVR’s! TED Talks Education will premiere May 7th at 10/9 CST on PBS.


Take it from someone who was sitting front row center during the taping, this is something you don’t want to miss. The CFK team was offered tickets based on our participation in last fall’s WNYC broadcast of American Graduate, and we couldn’t agree more with the sentiments shared throughout the day.

“Re-imagining education is the key to a more hopeful future”  - TED and TED Talks Education curator Chris Anderson.

“America’s local public media stations share a deep commitment to educational achievement for all students.  We know that completing high school is a significant step with lifelong impact for the student, his family and the community, ‘TED Talks Education’ brings together thought leaders who know how we can engage, teach and inspire a generation born digital and identify the paths to their school success.” - Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB.

My favorite highlights? All-star teachers Pearl Arredondo and Rita Pierson reignited everyone’s passion for teaching. Bill Gates (yes, the Bill Gates) introduced a teacher evaluation system that builds teacher confidence strengthening every aspect of the classroom experience, while providing administrators with the data they desire. Harlem Children’s Zone CEO Geoffrey Canada rallied the crowd with his straight forward answers for how we can close the achievement gap. And (my personal crush) Sir Ken Robinson closed the program with an incredibly moving call to action: Our job as educators is to ignite curiosity and creativity, for with those two things actively in place, children will naturally soar.

Tune in next week, and join the national conversation on what we can all be doing to ensure our kids are prepared for the future!

Watch TED Talks Education Preview on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

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

The Inaugural “Holiday Wish” Coloring Contest

P.S. 73 Winner Bernie Marte with his 4th grade teacher Ms. Reynoso

I’ve been very lucky to not only intern in the CFK office, but to oversee our Brooklyn Tech tutoring program at partner school P.S. 243 in Crown Heights. Brooklyn Tech’s Change Club travels to the Weeksville School every Thursday to provide homework help to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. I get the pleasure of working specifically with a vibrant bunch of 3rd graders and their tutors.

One of my favorite Thursdays was spent helping them visualize and draw their “Holiday Wish.” This season, CFK created a festival coloring contest – the winning image from each school would be featured on our inaugural holiday cards. When I told my students that they would get to draw during their tutoring session, I was met with great enthusiasm.

P.S. 243 Purple Snow-girl

I had great fun observing the students eagerly brainstorming with their tutors. I circled the tables, landing first at Angel’s table. He proudly reviewed his masterpiece with me, “This is my family at our Christmas meal, and that’s my grandpa. I have a big Dominican family.” Over at Nubia and Maya’s table, the best friends were also drawing family scenes, along with elaborate holiday presents. At Anthony and Elvin’s table, they were having their own coloring contest of who could draw the better picture. While Anthony drew a towering electric blue building, Elvin was drawing an impressive Christmas tree with Santa approaching in his sleigh. I spy an artist in the making here. Finally, my personal favorite was Elena’s drawing of a “Purple Snow-girl.” So I have to admit I’m a bit partial to purple, it’s my favorite color. But regardless, who doesn’t like a nice twist on a classic holiday character? As always, I left P.S. 243 with a smile that day.

The holiday coloring contest was an excellent way to begin the new season at our schools. I hope all the kids had as much fun participating as the office did in going through the entries. It was a great way to see quick snapshots of the students through their holiday wishes and their artistic talents. Congratulations to all the winners. Pick up your pack today!100% of proceeds benefit our programs.


P.S. 243 Artist: Brittany Kennedy, Ms. Davis’ 4th Grade, Age 8
P.S. 15 Artist: Steven Ponce, Mr. Laliberte’s 3rd Grade, Age 8
P.S. 73 Artist: Bernie Marte, Ms. Reynoso’s 4th Grade, Age 10
P.S. 81 Artist: Rogelio Vargas, Ms. Fraser’s 2nd Grade, Age 7
P.S. 160 Artist: Sharon Sukhu, Ms. Reill’s 4th Grade, Age 10

Meet the CFK 2012 Summer Interns!

When they’re not busy locking us out of the office, the CFK Team is putting us to work. We’ve traipsed around NYC for silent auction items, videotaped P.S. 73’s year-end violin performance, and served up signature cocktails at the Change Team Launch Party. Needless to say, we’ve been busy. So stay tuned – we’ll keep you updated on our unforgettable experiences here with the team!


Dylan Maag

College/University: New York University (New York, NY) class of 2014, majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies and Law and Society.

Relevant Background: She has worked in an elementary school as a Teacher’s Aid, and has extensive volunteering experience through her high school, college, and cheerleading teams. Dylan is excited to learn more about New York City’s public school system, as well as to broaden her volunteering knowledge and experience.

Fun Fact: Dylan is a NYU cheerleader.

Favorite thing about NYC: Dylan enjoys taking walks and exploring Downtown Manhattan.


Kayley McLaughlin

College/University: Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) class of 2013, majoring in Finance

Duties with CFK: Kayley is working to execute CFK’s new “Change Team” initiative, a one school at a time approach to improve the quality of education for underprivileged students. She helped receive donations for the Change Team Launch party that occurred in June, and is now helping prepare for the 4th Annual Bowl for Kids event this October.

Relevant Background: Kayley has had experience fundraising and participating in various events such as a 5K and flag football tournament in her college town that raised money for Breast Cancer Education and Awareness. She has also volunteered at Jack and Jill Children’s Center in Broward County, which provides low-income, working families a place where their children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old can grow, learn, and thrive. Kayley loves interacting with young children and understands the importance of extracurricular activities.

Fun Fact: Kayley loves to travel. She has visited Europe and hopes to someday travel to all seven of the continents. Growing up a South Florida girl, she might reconsider visiting Antarctica.

Favorite Thing about NYC: Kayley loves reading and laying out in any of the local parks while sipping on Starbucks, which is conveniently available on almost every block.


Abhi Elisetty

College/University: New York University class of 2015, double majoring in Political Science and Philosophy, with a minor in Social and Cultural Analysis.

Duties with CFK: Abhi is working with ED, Colin Smith on building out CFK’s communications platform. This entails enhancing CFK’s online presence on several external channels, as well as improving overall communications by creating talking points, memos etc… He is also helping Director of Education Sarah Stevens with community needs research.

Relevant background: As an assistant debate coach at The Bronx High School of Science, Abhi has learned the importance of robust enrichment programs in NYC public schools by witnessing firsthand the impact they have on students. The opportunity to carry over that work at Change for Kids has proved to be a highly rewarding experience.

Fun Fact: As the only other guy on team CFK, Abhi helps keep Colin’s sanity intact in the office.

Favorite thing about NYC: Abhi loves the NYC water, as well as the multitude of fascinating characters the city has to offer.


Chelsea Wagner 

College/University: Florida State (Tallahassee, FL) class of 2012, majoring in Social Sciences

Duties with CFK: Chelsea is working with the Director of Development, Ashley Faison, to plan their Change team party to gain more corporate and individual sponsors. She is also helping set up their main event, Bowl for Kids, which will be in October.

Background: Chelsea comes to New York as a member of the Dream Careers internship program. Previous summers she was a camp counselor for Mentally Challenged children in South Florida. She is also on the survivor committee of Relay for Life up at her school; which was what interested her in the non-profit business. Her entire life Chelsea has known she wants to work with children and help better their childhood. Change for Kids was the perfect fit to help further her goal.

Fun Fact: In Chelsea’s spare time she likes to take as many dance classes as possible. She grew up as a competitive dancer, starting at the age of 2.

Favorite Thing About NYC: Chelsea really enjoys all the random talent that performs down in the subway and all over the streets. She has seen some really amazing hip hop dancers.

Sarah’s Chalkboard: Critical Thinking for the 21st Century

Every program that we provide at CFK is guided by a set of competencies we recognize as essential 21st Century Skills. Before the holidays we discussed the importance of creativity for long-term success and happiness, this week we’re turning our attention to the next item on the chalkboard: critical thinking.

Somewhere in the fourth grade at P.S. 243, the next Steve Jobs or Robert Johnston has just been voted class president, and at P.S. 73 a budding Maya Angelou is turning in her latest book report. In a Kindergarten class at P.S. 160, the next Sonia Sotomayor is putting together her favorite puzzle, and at P.S. 154 the next Tina Fey and Winton Marsalis are preparing for the spring talent show. At CFK we are committed to helping each of these future superstars develop the confidence to achieve their fullest potential.

Although it may not seem inherently obvious, Steve, Robert, Maya, Sonia, Tina, and Winton all share a very valuable skill… they are excellent critical thinkers. They are problem solvers and analysts. They are capable of making complex choices and decisions. They ask meaningful questions. And they understand how seemingly diverse ideas relate to one another and are interconnected. If our kids really are going to grow up to fulfill their destinies and influence the world, they too are going to need all of these skills.

Here’s how the national Partnership for 21st Century Skills defines it. Students who demonstrate high levels of critical thinking can….

  • Exercise sound reasoning in understanding
  • Make complex choices and decisions
  • Understand the interconnections among systems
  • Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions
  • Frame, analyze and synthesize information in order to solve problems and answer questions

All of our programs at CFK help to develop our students’ critical thinking abilities in one way or another. Here are a few examples.

Arts – The visual art students describe, analyze, interpret, and evaluate the museum’s works of art as well as their own. When learning to read music our violinists and pianists are decoding complex systems of symbols and translating them into beautiful sounds.

Literacy – In order to write their articles, students in our newspaper club are learning to analyze and evaluate alternating points of view, and they are interpreting information and drawing conclusions based on the best analysis.

Healthy Living – During FAN4Kids, students are drawing inferences between eating healthier and living a longer happier life. And even at recess, when they are playing games to keep up their fitness levels, they are quickly solving problems and making decisions that affect their performance.

We believe in little Steve, Robert, Maya, Sonia, Tina, and Winton, and we are committed to providing them with every opportunity we can to help them reach their fullest potentials. Their futures are absolutely (prepare yourself, now) critical.

Sarah’s Chalkboard: 21st Century Skills

Welcome to The Chalkboard, a column devoted to the ins and outs of CFK’s education programs. For the next few months, Education Director Sarah Stevens will be tackling a five-part mini-series on 21st Century Skills – a set of competencies that guide CFK’s program development. First up…Creativity!


Our mission at CFK is to help students develop the confidence to achieve their fullest potential by offering a wide range of opportunities where they can discover their unique talents. An inquisitive brain will constantly want more, and we know developing that thirst for knowledge is the first hurdle in preventing future drop outs. We also want to be sure our students are developing the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century – Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Commitment.
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Kona’s Picks: This Month, Marketing Materials!

The office was a little crowded this week (though we weren’t complaining at all – and neither was Kona) with the arrival of the long-awaited, much-discussed, guaranteed-to-make-you-smile CFK BROCHURES!

Kona in RR Donnelley Boxes

Kona gets comfy in RR Donnelley boxes

If you’ve run into any of the staff or marketing committee in the last few months, you’ve no doubt noticed the crazed look in their eyes or heard them mumbling incoherently about photo layouts and headlines. This week made every moment worth it–not only because we got to see Kona popping in and out of boxes and mountain-climbing the stacks of materials–but also because the brochures themselves turned out so beautifully.

Special thanks to the heroes that made it happen- from Luke Hayman at Pentagram for our new logo and branding, Andrij Borys and Alicia Kubista for the design and layout, Nick Koechlin at  RR Donnelley for printing all the goods and to everyone on the marketing committee. You’ll be seeing these little babies at all our events, but if you want a special, exclusive sneak peek at the layouts, you can click through the photo album below. Enjoy (we sure did)!

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Community Spotlight: Meet Alicia Jayo

As some of you may know (because you took a look at our spiffy 2010-2011 stats, of course), this is the year we more than tripled our volunteer numbers and very nearly doubled the number of individual donors—fabulous news that nearly rolled us over as we were crunching the numbers here at the end of the summer.

Alicia Jayo CFK

Alicia, our new Director of Community Engagement (on the right!)

Luckily we also had a great year in terms of board additions, which meant we were able to bring on Alicia Jayo, our new Director of Community Engagement, veteran e-warrior, and unabashed sushi addict (“I order sushi probably 4 nights out of the week,” she says). When she’s not chowing down on spicy crunchy tuna or eel avocado rolls, she’ll be cracking the whip on our contacts database, rounding up volunteers, and making our digital media go. You’ll be seeing a lot of her over the next several months, and that means we’ll be seeing a more of you!

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iLog: A Final Good-bye

The primary goal of Change for Kids is to provide opportunities for children who otherwise would not be given the chance. For me, growing up in a suburban neighborhood in North Carolina,  I wasn’t directly exposed to high poverty and the issues of inner-city education. While I knew there were many areas in our country with high poverty rates and children with limited access to valuable resources, I had never witnessed it first hand.

Kate and students at lunch

Coming to work with Change for Kids this summer provided me with the opportunity to gain exposure to schools at risk while exploring my passion working with underprivileged kids. On top of all of this, I was getting the chance of a lifetime to live  in the Big Apple. I could not have asked for a better summer internship- I had to pinch myself every now and then.

The cherry on top of everything was my exit from the school Thursday afternoon. For my last day with the kids, I bought each student writing notebooks with personal letters and writing prompts.  After my (almost teary) good-byes to the students and faculty of the school, I made my way out the front door, onto the streets, and trudged back to the subway. I was outside when I heard “Miss Mary Beth! Wait!” I turned around to see one of my students, Jacob, chasing me down the street. With the widest smile across his face he said to me “My grandmother wants to meet you.” Continue reading

iLog: The Children’s Stories

After every life changing experience you have, you feel the dire need to tell someone your story. However, I do not want to tell you my story I want to tell you their story- the stories of the children I worked with in a 2nd grade summer school class in Brooklyn. The children can not tell you their own stories, therefore; I feel the need to share them with you myself.

(For the children’s privacy, the names below have been changed, and the pictures are not students from this summer school class.)

Change for Kids

Sameera and her family are from India. Sameera clearly struggles with a language barrier. She is very quiet, soft spoken, and fairly shy. She rarely speaks but she always listens. The other children in the class do not understand what Sameera is going through and on their own they came to the conclusion that she could not speak. Sameera is a very good writer, but she is slower when she has to listen and interpret what to write. Sameera and I wrote a story about a king who ruled a land but had trouble speaking. We wrote about how it was important to his country that he speak, so he practiced speaking everyday. At the end of the story, Sameera wrote that he made a grand speech at his wedding ball. Once Sameera finished writing the short story, she read it out loud to her classmates. They all agreed that the story was good and that Sameera could speak after all.

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