Tune In as P.S. 73 Violinists Tune Up – VIDEO

Tucked deep in P.S. 73 is the rehearsal space for the school’s violin students. Earlier this month, we spent a morning enjoying a lesson with a group of eight violinists and their teacher, Mr. Kerrick Sasaki.


Earlier this month, we spent a morning enjoying a a lesson with a group of eight violin students and their teacher, Mr. Kerrick Sasaki. While they ran through several pieces, they worked on their finger placement and pausing for rests in the music.


When asked if they practiced at home, the class answered with a unanimous, enthusiastic, “Yes!” And given the choice–homework or violin–all of them would rather be playing their instruments.


Still, it’s clear that their work with Mr. Sasaki is helping them in their other subjects. “Reading music helps me with math,” said one student. “I learned a new way to read–it’s like another language,” said another.

Watch these students play the classic, “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

P.S. 73 Students Play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on Their Violins from Change for Kids on Vimeo.

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.”




Calling All Scallywags! P.S. 73 Story Pirates Perform on December 12

On Thursday, December 12, from 8:30 – 9:30 AM, we hope you’ll join us at P.S. 73 for the world premiere of the newest Story Pirates show!

In the weeks leading up to the performance, students have been putting the finishing touches on their stories. Here they are, imaginations at work!

Creating characters


Sharing ideas

Bringing it all together on the page

For those of you who have never seen a Story Pirates performance, you are in for a treat–the Pirates bring the students’ stories to life on stage. Here are a few pics from a past performance to give you a sense of the color, energy and fun the Pirates and their students bring out for their audience.




See you Thursday! And don’t forget your eye patch!



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


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!


New Faces at P.S. 73

This year, as P.S. 73 teachers and staff welcomed back their students, they also welcomed a new face–CFK’s new School Manager Alyxe Lett. Alyxe coordinates CFK’s programs at P.S. 73 and builds relationships with students, teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers. She is also the School Manager for P.S. 15. Here at CFK, Alyxe works with our brand new Education Director, Kayla Dove. For those of you who don’t get to sit across from Kayla in the office, or aren’t lucky enough to still be in grade school at P.S. 73, we thought you might like to hear a little bit about these two program dynamos, in their own words.

Abby Holstein: School has been in session for a few weeks now. Any highlights you can share from your days at P.S. 73 or our other partner schools so far?

photoAlyxe Lett: I’ve loved meeting and getting to know the principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor and parent coordinators at P.S. 73.  Everyone has been super welcoming and eager to have CFK back in the building!

Kayla DoveKayla Dove: What immediately comes to mind is my recent visit to P.S. 15. I had a chance to take a tour and speak to a few of the classroom teachers. I was amazed that in the short time we’ve been partnered with the school (programs only started last January), the impact is so palpable–from the mural we helped create that greets you as you walk in, to the teachers, who asked, “When is the program starting again, we can’t wait.”

AH: What are you excited to do in your new position? What do you hope to achieve?

AL:  I’m really excited to meet more of the P.S. 73 community and to see CFK’s programs in action, particularly Story Pirates performances and our music classes. I hope to achieve increased communication between teachers, staff and program partners and more engagement among parents and families at P.S. 15 and P.S. 73.  Both are challenges at my schools.

KD: I am excited about starting a new team with Alyxe and Zareta [Ricks, our School Manager for P.S. 81 and Brooklyn Landmark]. We each have specific strengths that are complementary to each other and we all have the same passion for the work. I hope to build on the idea of what it means to be a CFK school and develop a network between the schools for the sharing of ideas.

Some of our violin virtuosos from P.S. 73.

AH: Tell me about the work you did before you came to Change for Kids.

AL: Immediately before coming to CFK, I was an English teacher in Bogota, Colombia.  As much as I liked teaching, I became more interested in taking on more of a community coordinator role which would allow me to continue to work in a school setting but also allow me to do more program work and project management.  I think my role in the Peace Corps, working in multiple schools as an environmental educator and program coordinator, really was the starting point of my love for education and inspired me to pursue similar roles.

KD: I started out as a dancer and a dance educator, developing a multidisciplinary approach to learning, and teaching in different venues, from pre-K to college. I then moved into museum education, working closely with schools to bring resources of the institutions to support learning in the classroom. Museums and organizations I’ve worked at are: Liberty Science Center, Young Audiences New York, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Long Island Children’s Museum. Most recently I worked as a research assistant at the Educational Development Center on project evaluating science learning in pre-school classrooms.

AH: What brought you to CFK?

AL: I actually initially applied for a Communications Manager position at Change for Kids, but in the middle of my first interview, the team at CFK suggested I check out the School Manager position. As soon as I read the description, I thought, “Wow, yeah. That is totally me!”  And the rest is history.

What really appealed to me about being a School Manager at CFK was the broad range of responsibilities that would put me in contact with so many different people at the schools and in so many different capacities. Working with staff, parents, teachers and, of course, the students–I’m a people person so this part of the job is the best! And it’s this one-on-one time that sets CFK apart for me, because it really allows our organization to tailor our programming to a school’s needs, rather than applying a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that is the pitfall of other organizations.

KD: For the past 20 years I have worked in organizations that bring its resources to support learning in underserved schools.  What sets Change for Kids apart from other organizations is the work that’s done to individualize each partnership with the needs of the school and community. It is also an interesting time for CFK, reflecting on what is working and seeing how the model can be expanded, without compromising the quality of the partnerships.

I truly believe in CFK’s mission. My personal mission for my work is: knowing that each child learns differently, and that not every child learns best by reading a book at a desk, I want to help each child to develop skills that will help them succeed in school and life. And that is what CFK does.

On the court with Fan4Kids. Thank you for supporting P.S. 73′s programs.

AH: Do you have a favorite story from your work in education?

AL: During my time in Peace Corps in Guatemala, one of the many projects that I started there was a radio show that I had on the town’s radio station. The show was called  “Amigos del Ambiente” (“Friends of the Environment”) and it was about environmental issues. For one show, I had a few of my third grade students come on the air to talk about things you could do at home to conserve electricity.  They sang a song and read a short, funny play, too.  It was so cute!  Later, complete strangers from around town would come up to me and ask, “You’re the one from the radio, right?  I’ve learned so much from your show and when you have the kids on there it’s even better!”  That made my heart smile.

KD: This goes under the category of multidisciplinary learning, I was doing a professional development workshop for school administrators (principals and superintendents) and I had them all up and doing the “bee dance.” I am sure they will never look at a bee the same way again.

AH: Do you have a favorite memory from your elementary school days?

AL: As an elementary school and middle school kid, I never stopped talking (okay, that hasn’t changed much!), so I was always being sent outside the classroom or being moved away from my friends.  One day, I was absent because I was sick.The next day, my best friend told me that someone had been talking and  making everyone laugh and our teacher automatically yelled out, “Alyxe, go outside!” but then immediately realized I wasn’t there.  That had everyone laughing even more. I was always a great student and my teachers liked me, but I was always running my mouth, jajajaja!

KD: It’s too many years ago…but I do remember being able to spend one day a term in elementary school painting a picture of anything I wanted to in the back of the classroom and not having to participate in the day’s lessons. I can’t imagine elementary school without art, music or recess.

AH: Thank you, Kayla and Alyxe, and welcome to Change for Kids!


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

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

Robots invade the Bronx!

Thanks to Variety‘s incredible support, Change for Kids’ partnership with the Bronx Museum of Art provides a unique opportunity for P.S. 73 second, third and fourth graders – a chance to discover the value of art through curated exploration of various themes and mediums. Students work in small groups to examine, analyze, and eventually create their own artwork during weekly 90-minute visits to the museum. Rather than study these themes purely academically, the children gain hands-on experience interacting with and producing art, enabling them to place their own work within a larger context. The eight-week program culminates with a student art exhibit at both the museum and P.S. 73, where parents, sponsors, school and community members celebrate the kids’ incredible work.

At this year’s opening reception on Tuesday, June 5th, the museum walls were lined with everything from crayon-colored family portraits to models of local landmarks to large scale robots made from recycled cardboard boxes. Each masterpiece singularly integrated the different artistic concepts and mediums discussed throughout the residency. During the event, the students presented their artwork to doting parents and fellow classmates; sharing their creative process, the trials and tribulations of group work and the significance of the art they created. By incorporating elements of their own neighborhood into their projects (including a remarkable model of “Mets” Stadium – “The Yankees have a stadium named after them! Why shouldn’t the Mets?”), the kids were able to establish a personal connection with their work – pouring a bit of themselves into each piece. With parents looking proudly over their child’s work, and the students equipped with newly discovered artistic knowledge as evidenced by the phenomenal body of work, the residency was nothing short of a tremendous success.

P.S. 73 CFK Violin Performance

Think back to elementary school, to your first time on stage. Whether it was a chorus or band concert, a dance recital or theatrical debut, think back to the moment right before you went on: the nerves, the excitement… the utter dread (eek!).

Eon and his father, Allistair

For the kids in our violin program at P.S. 73, these emotions hit hard Monday morning as they tuned up for their end-of-year performance. Eight-year-old Eon, who has been involved in the program for almost two years, experienced the pre-stage jitters despite it being his second time around. His father, Allistair, tried to help by giving him some sage advice: “I told him to take a deep breath and just let it out. I told him, ‘You’ll do great.’”

And great he certainly did. Eon, along with 44 of his schoolmates ranging from first to fifth grade, wowed us with renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Old MacDonald,” and the William Tell Overture. Dressed to impress in ties and flowered headbands, the students performed alongside their teacher, Julliard-trained Majid Khaliq, for the entire P.S. 73 community. Their successful show was a testament to their hard work, dedication, and practice throughout the past year.

All smiles w/ Mr. Majid!

Not to say there weren’t the occasional moments of distraction; basketball and video games sure are fun. Allistair was quick to share an adorable story of Eon’s five-year-old sister encouraging her big brother to play. “There was one time I could tell he was growing tired of practicing,” recounts Allistair, “But before I could say anything, I see my daughter put the violin in front of Eon and tell him, ‘Play something for me. Play something for ME now.’” And with that kind of support as well as the lessons of commitment and perseverance learned, we’re not the least bit nervous about Eon’s future success — in school or with bow in hand.

Congrats to all of our performers at P.S. 73 on Monday! Be sure to press ‘Play’ below to watch them in action.