Freckleface Strawberry

Last week, CFK joined our favorite Brooklyn students on a field trip to Freckleface Strawberry, the Broadway musical based on Julianne Moore’s bestselling children’s book.   The timing for our little outing couldn’t have been better.  Last week also marked Speaker Christine Quinn and Chancellor Cathy Black’s new initiative, “Respect for All Week,” five days of awareness-raising events and workshops designed to promote respect for diversity and inclusive learning environments throughout the city. For those of you not already in possession of the book, Freckleface Strawberry follows the trials and tribulations of a little girl with red hair as she attempts to ditch the dreaded freckles. With the help of a quirky and lovable cast of students and teachers, Freckleface learns to accept herself, freckles and all.

Also, a huge round of a applause for Caitlin Smith, the next big thing on Broadway and our very talented CFK office manager, for today’s reportage.

Hayley Podschun as Freckleface Strawberry, from the Freckleface Musical website. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

Lights down, the rustle of 100 light-up shoes has ceased. The squirming of excited elementary school kids happy to be having recess in an unfamiliar but grandiose atmosphere begins to settle.  Warm stage lights reveal a fluorescent and inviting set. Many kids, attending their first Broadway show, release “Wows” and talk to and about the actors in front of them. Teachers, equally enraptured administer quick “Shh’s.” All is now quiet, and catchy music, ranging in style from Kurt Weill to Lady Gaga, fills the air. Which did the kids prefer most? “The part where she made fun of Lady Gaga!” one exuberant boy tells me after the show, before mimicking dance moves he saw the hour before.  Not everyone loved the slow ballads and more tender moments of the show, but they all sat thoroughly attentive for 75 minutes (a tall order for most adults these days).

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Community Spotlight: Meet Olivia and Elian

Olivia and Elian take a quick break. Photo credit: Caitie McCabe

Olivia Olson’s favorite book is Anna Karenina, but ever since she got involved with CFK, she’s devoted every Monday to Curious George. Olivia was born just outside Washington, DC and spent much of her childhood in England, but she arrived to us last year through She had decided to return to graduate school after a long stint in the finance world and was looking for a way to give back, particularly in the areas of reading and literacy. We put her stellar skills to work with a whole pile of grant requests and then sent her to P.S. 243. There she met Elian, a lovable and creative first-grader whose reading skills were well below grade level. After many months of learning the alphabet and reading Curious George together, the two have become fast friends—one of our favorite stories to emerge from the new literacy tutoring program (get involved here). We’ll let Olivia tell the rest…

Elian is now in the 2nd/3rd grade class, and his reading is really coming along! When we started in October of last year, we were still going through the alphabet and the letters’ sounds. This week Elian and I read “Harry the Dirty Dog” together.  Elian read one sentence, I read the next, and larger words we sounded out together…so much fun. Elian is amazing. He’s addicted to Curious George and is SO imaginative. We can’t get through a page without Elian theorizing about what Curious George is up to, what he saw in a Curious George movie or on the Discovery Channel, etc.
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School Beautification: P.S. 243

Huge thanks to NYCares, the UNC Tar Heels, the Duke Blue Devils and the UVA Wahoos—all in, more than 80 volunteers—who rolled out of bed early last Saturday for one of our most successful school beautification days ever. We’re still not sure how you managed to accomplish everything you did in the course of those five short hours at the Bed-Stuy campus.

Wright Harvey: "Paint the land green and the water blue..."

Calvine Dunnan and Executive Director Colin Smith Comply

Ann-Henley Saunders Pauses Mid-Capitol


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Mark your calendars! FAN4Kids hits big time on November 18

Most of the time when we launch a pilot program in one of our schools, it grows slowly—building momentum after several months of successful implementation and tons of feedback from administrators, teachers, students and parents. Not so with FAN4Kids, our new fitness and nutrition program, which came off the starting line at a full out sprint.

Justin Jones leads a rousing warm-up session at P.S. 243

Mike Quinzio managed to catch Ms. Toussaint’s 2nd grade class during their second fitness session with instructor Justin Jones. In addition to a full battery of running skipping, hopping, dancing, leg lifts, stretching and general wiggling, Justin’s lesson plan for the day included some serious strength training. “The kids loved doing the pushups,” says Mike. “It was kind of funny. The girls even more than the boys. Their hair was carefully done, and they were all nicely dressed, but they just knocked out those pushups.”
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Bringing Fitness and Nutrition to Our Schools

As a direct result of the success of Run for Kids and Ride for Kids this summer, we’re launching a brand spanking new program at P.S. 243 in Bed-Stuy. Here’s the whole story:


This spring we sat down with our four partner principals to get some feedback and discuss their greatest needs for the next few school years. Some of what we heard came as no surprise—more frequent literacy tutoring, greater access to fine arts education, etc. But the overwhelming responses were heartfelt pleas for fitness and nutrition programs, particularly from Principal Karen Hambright at P.S. 243 in Bed-Stuy. This was an untested area for us, one that would require a new partner to administer the program, new metrics to assess it, and, most significantly, a fundraising push that would allow us to expand our menu of services. In a year when most charities have had to scale back, this seemed like a pretty tall order.

Still, Principal Hambright made a compelling case. Her K-3 students currently receive 50 minutes of gym a week…every other semester. Their newly built playground goes virtually unused. Even more alarming, the students at P.S. 243 suffer from a wide range of health- and diet-related difficulties, including extremely high rates of asthma.

We decided to give it a shot.


Fortunately, we have a whole slew of volunteers and donors who got on board and got organized. Run for Kids and Ride for Kids this summer broke every budget expectation we had and gave us enough cushion to bring in a good partner to help us in this new venture.

Executive Director of FAN 4 Kids, Rob Oliver, edges FAN 4 Kids instructor Justin Jones at Run for Kids in May

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Become a Literacy Tutor!

We’re recruiting literacy tutors for our schools in Harlem and Bedstuy!

Help kids in grades K-2 build essential literacy skills through 1-on-1 and small group sessions. It is an easy an fun way to make a measurable impact on the lives’ of our kids.

Interested tutors should be:

  • willing to commit 1.5 hours per week (not including transportation time)
  • patient, understanding, clear-spoken, and willing to help
  • able to attend a mandatory orientation session facilitated by school teachers or literacy specialist

Email me or call me if you are interested: – 212-213-8061

Reading a book out-loud

Reading a book out-loud