P.S. 81 Students Find New Friends at The Hackley School – VIDEO

Earlier this year, our students at P.S. 81 enjoyed a Saturday of arts, sports, music and fun with a group of fantastic ninth graders from The Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. What started off as a volunteer opportunity for the Hackley students quickly turned into new friendships and an important relationship between two very different schools.


“I had such a great day at P.S. 81 because we were able to make the kids’ day that much better,” offered one Hackley student. “We didn’t just brighten their day, they made us laugh, too and helped us enjoy the day even more. Everybody taught the kids something and helped them to enjoy the idea of school which is an important part of their young lives.”


We can’t wait for the Hackley students to come back, and hope to replicate this relationship in our other partner schools. Click here to read more of the students’ reflections on their day at P.S. 81.

Check out this video of the day these students spent together:

Hackley Helps PS 81 Edit 2a from Change for Kids on Vimeo.

Running for Change

Our runners couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to run the ING New York City Marathon on November 3—cool temperatures, partly sunny, not too much wind. We couldn’t have asked for a better team, some of whom have been holding out since last year to run for Change for Kids. Our thanks to Maureen Ford, Pat Daly, Suraj Patel, Viral Patel, Courtney Raneri, Brad Zanoni, Ken Davidoff and Alex Porter. Together, these athletes have raised more than $25,000 for the students in our partner schools.


Maureen Ford, showing us how it’s done at mile 17

Two of our runners, Junior Council members Courtney and Alex, made a trip to P.S. 73 before the race to participate in a Fan4Kids class. “With two and a half weeks left before the big day, this morning really empowered Alex and myself to continue to strive ahead in terms of fundraising and spirit but also made the goal of CFK more tangible,” Courtney wrote in an email following her visit.

Courtney Raneri and friends at P.S. 73

Alex shared that “after meeting the kids, teachers, and instructors, I am truly so proud to be raising money to help support Fan4Kids….The CFK influence is profound and felt throughout the entire school.”

Marathon Visit

P.S. 73′s future marathoners

At the end of their run, several teammates toasted their triumph.  As you can see, they make running 26.2 miles and raising $25k look easy!

Two medalists, Courtney Raneri and Brad Zanoni


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!


Gannett Makes the Difference

Five floors. Hidden stairwells. Secret offices. Endless hallways. Built in the early twentieth century for a student body well over a thousand, PS 73 is a seemingly overwhelming challenge for even the most seasoned beautification day volunteer.

Unless you are talking about the 50 amazing volunteers from Gannett, supercharged with the will to give back and a full Saturday to spare. On October 26, Make a Difference Day, Gannett’s NYC office mobilized a team to paint and restore murals; repaint the school’s entryway, the CFK office, and a set of swinging doors; clean trash out of the music room; and clear and reorganize two closets, each as big as small apartments.

A new mural in the works

“To have people like you who are willing to come in from the outside…to really help us and support us, you get emotional to see all of you guys here doing all these things—it’s wonderful,” said Ms. Perez, a teacher at P.S. 73.

The new mural on the fifth floor brought beloved characters from children’s books and stories to life—Nemo, Horton the elephant, Ariel the Little Mermaid, Olivia the Pig, Thing 1 and Thing 2—against a wonderland backdrop of castles and forest and sea.

Dr. Suess’s Thing 1 and Thing 2 in progress

Mural restoration brought vibrant color back into other important pieces and touched up scratches everywhere, including Clifford’s nose. One team transformed the school’s vestibule with bright blue and yellow paint.

A young restorer

“Just anticipating our children coming back on Monday into the school—I cannot wait to see their faces. In simple terms: Thank you for beautifying our school, not just for our children, but also for our community,” said Assistant Principal Abreu.

Our closet ninjas unpacked, sorted, organized and repacked a closet in such a short amount of time we had to find them another closet to attack.

Piles and piles and piles of supplies

Other volunteers headed to the CFK office to rehab dreary walls, and a family of four took on a gray set of swinging doors, turning them into a cheery aqua that Principal Vivian Bueno now wants to use throughout the school.

The Safran family takes on a set of double doors

“All the research that’s out there says that the principal cannot do it alone. The teachers cannot do it alone,” Principal Bueno told the volunteers at lunch. “This is why we welcome Change for Kids, because we know that having a partnership in this building is going to benefit the children.”

Many thanks to Gannett for everything they did on October 26 for P.S.73! Check out more photos from throughout the day here. And here are two photos of the new mural you should go see in person at P.S. 73!


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

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.

P.S. 243 Family Fun Field Day

Mr. Justin from FAN4Kids, awesome CFK volunteers, & adorable P.S. 243 students!

Aside from the days the school cafeteria served chicken nuggets for lunch, there was nothing I looked forward to more in elementary school than Field Day. Each spring, the entire grade would gather together on the playground for some fun in the sun. The Egg Walk; Over, Under; Dizzy Bat; Water Balloon Toss (my favorite relay race); all culminating in the final showdown: Class Tug of War.

Last Saturday, May 19th, I took part in the excitement again; this time at Change for Kids‘ inaugural Family Fun Field Day at P.S. 243 in Brooklyn. Over 75 students, parents, and community members joined CFK and FAN4Kids, our healthy living partner, for a bit of friendly competition in kickball, bowling, basketball, and — of course — a water balloon toss!

My favorite little guy of the day!

In addition to fun games and races, we provided a nutritious lunch for the kids and their families. Gone were my beloved chicken nuggets, replaced with: cucumber salad, no-mayo tuna salad (yep…you read that right…NO MAYO!), and peanut butter & banana sandwiches.

All in all, it was an incredibly successful first-go at what CFK hopes will become a much-anticipated and highly-attended annual event at each of our partner schools. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Field Day, when I can lace up, line up, and set off down the relay race track!

Cutest. Children. Ever.

Do you know your A-B-Cs?  Our Pre-K kids sure do, and they proved it this week!  For what is by far our most adorable volunteer opportunity, stellar CFK community members headed out to our four partner schools to help students make personalized ABC books.  The beyond-cute kiddos (and a few fabulous parents and grandparents) turned into perfect print models, as we took portraits of them holding props and smiling big.  The photos were then turned into stickers to place in their very own books (P is for penguin!) to take home to read with family.  Say cheese!  The A-B-Cs according to C-F-K:

Adorable 4yr old Pre-K students learning their A-B-C’s.

Books in which you are the main character!

F is for Flower!

CFK volunteers sharing their time and talents with our kids.

Dedicated families having fun together.

Everyone gets his/her very own ABC book.

Families reading together, always a good time.

Grins and smiles fill the room.

Helping each other learn the alphabet.

I  love Pearson ABC Book Days!

Join us for volunteer opportunities all year long.

Kat is actually spelled with a C.

Learning your letters is a good thing.

Making reading fun and easy.

Now!  This year’s Pearson ABC Book Days are happening this week — be sure to catch us next year.

Oh, how I wish I had a Pearson ABC Book Day when I was little.

Pearson Foundation.  Thank you for your support!

Quiet….shhhh….I’m learning to read.

Reading is fundamental.

Sticker books are my favorite!

Taking pictures to share with our friends and family.

University of Virginia, here I come. (Wahoowa!)

Victory is upon us, only four letter left…

Z is for Zebra!

We love our CFK partner schools!

X is the third least common in the English language, did you know that?

Young children can sing their A-B-Cs.

Zero letters left, can you believe it?!  Success.

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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Volunteer Magic: Fresh Spaces, New Computers

For the last ten years, P.S. 243′s computer lab has been “under construction” – a full decade of hoping they could get together the resources to provide their students the technology education they’d need to be successful throughout school.

Baruch College volunteers in the new J.P. Morgan computer lab

Finally this summer we met the folks at nPower, a national nonprofit that brings information technology services and training to other nonprofits. When they heard about the situation at our Bedford-Stuyvesant school, they brought in long-time sponsor J.P. Morgan for a little financial muscle. JPM generously donated enough machines to stock up the entire lab, thus ending the agony of yet another year minus computer education. Last but not least, muralist Caitlin Everett and a team of Baruch College volunteers joined nPower to get things set up and pretty in the brand-spanking new lab. You heard right: nonprofit + business + education + individual volunteers = solutions. That’s just how CFK rolls. Meanwhile…

Our favorite South Bronx school was facing a dilemma. CFK’s violin instructor, Mr. Majid, could probably work miracles wherever you put his classes. But this year, the increased student population at P.S. 73 (otherwise great news) pushed Mr. Majid’s violin class into an old locker/shower room (bad news).
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