"Children’s Aid helps children in poverty to succeed and thrive. We do this by providing comprehensive supports to children and their families in targeted high-needs New York City neighborhoods." -The Children's Aid Mission Statement
A-Lit: The Adolescent Literacy Program at C.S. 211 Bronx
A-Lit, the after-school program in the Bronx operated by Children's Aid (formerly Children's Aid Society) is located in and serves students from The Bilingual Magnet Community School 211. This Children's Aid after-school program employs a team of teachers from the school who teach the after-school participants during the daytime, as well as Children's Aid staff.
Fostering Leadership, Community Service, and Literacy
Students in the A-Lit program at CS211 are designated as the campus' Youth Council, for both day-school and after-school functioning. Students on the campus of five schools have written letters to the A-Lit Youth Council for changes they wish to see, such as the creation of a new after-school club or a change to the school's lunch menu. A-Lit students have taken action on the concerns and desires of the campus students expressed in the letters, discussed the pros and cons, and possibilities of what have been requested from their constituency, and developed an action plans. A-Lit youth leaders have also also engaged in such community service projects as coat drives and tending the on-site community garden, and created public arts projects that combined literacy, the arts, and community service.
Fall 2018 - Spring 2019: This year, A-Lit students took part in another public art project, this time to design a quilt and a bench, both of which embodied social justice themes around community.
Another Great LEAP: Tackling Bullying through Public Art
Spring, 2018: The new cadre of A-Lit students conceived of a message around bullying, that became solidified on a cafeteria lunchroom table as part of this year's "A View from the Lunchroom" public art project. Drawing off the success of last year's public art lunch table that bore message and imagery about gender equity, students this year decided to direct their focus on an another issue that is near but not dear to many students across the country, bullying.
"People who are bullied and are bystanders should always tell an adult," wrote A-Lit student Darwin in his artist statement. "We propose love and support as ways to solve the effects of bullying." Working with teaching artist Maria L. Foy, A-Lit students decided upon the theme, brainstormed images and words, and set their ideas onto a lunch table donated for the project by the non-profit Learning through and Expanded Arts Program, or LEAP.
Each year LEAP, whose aim is to empower young people to have a voice in their communities through public art, sponsors "A View from the Lunchroom." Ten lunch tables made by ten schools across the city are unveiled at Union Square before they are installed in the neighborhood parks of their respective school communities.
Read My T-Shirt: Sexual Harassment is NOT Cool!
January - March, 2018: A T-shirt designed by A-Lit student Jaylis Pena bearing a tearful, silenced visage and the words, “Not Cool! Stop, it’s not okay,” won first place in DYCD’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month Youth Art Project. A-Lit students Anaya Suazo, El Emran, Natalia Lee, and Karina Duran also participated in the contest, which was open to teens all across NYC.
Other designs included such messages and imagery as "Don't Touch Me," "I Have the Right to Live and Work Without Fear," and "Don't Be Mean to Women." The students brainstormed around the themes related to sexual harassment, on a viable T-shirt message to get their ideas across, and developed a variety of drawings that expressed their how they would speak to someone looking at their art work.
The culmination of the contest was the printing and release of limited edition T-shirts featuring youth artwork in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the winning T-shirts were unveiled in March. According to the DYCD, the contest was meant to inspire students to explore the many aspects of sexual harassment, such as mutual respect, healthy relationships, and speaking out.
Memoirs and Valentines
A-Lit began 2018 with an exploration into themselves with a project called "A Memoir is a Moment in Time." In this assignment, students learned about memoirs and point of view in the course of reading Wonder by A.J. Palacio, a book written in memoir-style from the viewpoint of the main character, August. Students first planned their writing by completing a graphic organizer. They then wrote the first draft, revised, edited, wrote second drafts, and published finished pieces. During the process, students were able to make connections to speaker's voice and experiences in Wonder.
"We wanted the kids to produce a memoir in the first person point of view as they developed the skill of writing narratives," said one of the A-Lit teachers, Ogbebor Omosefe, citing the Common Core Learning Standard as:CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3 - "Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences."
In February, students celebrated St. Valentine's Day by learning the history of the day and producing an informational video in which they presented the findings of their research. They also created Valentine's Day greeting cards for their loved ones. You can see the video and related images from their work below.
The Origin of Saint Valentine's Day
New Library Cards for New A-Lit Leaders
In December 2017, the new cadre of A-Lit students took a major step in their growth as autonomous readers when they journeyed to the West Farms branch of the New York Public Library in the Bronx and obtained library cards. Many of the 18 students who received library cards were replacing cards that were lost, while for others this experience marked their first time having a card to check out books for free. The new A-Lit students, all 6th graders, received a tour of the library and were then left to their own devices to explore and find their own books. Students reflected upon their visit in pieces they wrote afterwards, expressing feelings of accomplishment and wonder, and the intention to make regular trips on their own to the library.
A-Lit LEAPs into Gender Equality with Public Art Project
In March 2017, the A-Lit students, now 8th graders, embarked on a public art project sponsored by the non-profit organization Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LEAP), whose mission is to empower young people to have a voice in their communities through public art. A-Lit represented C.S. 211 as one of 10 New York City schools selected to participate in LEAP's "A View from the Lunchroom" project. A-Lit's mission was to design and paint a school lunchroom table with a mural image that would provide information and express feelings and concerns about an important social issue.
A-Lit students worked with a LEAP teaching artist to brainstorm and come to consensus around one issue --gender equality. From there, they developed a visual theme, designed the overall image, and painted the image onto a lunchroom table that was provided by LEAP. Students read articles, conducted research, discussed and debated, and wrote speeches and opinion pieces around the issue of gender equality. The final product, entitled Gender Equality: It Matters, was displayed alongside 10 other lunchroom tables an unveiling celebration in Union Square, and A-Lit's table itself will be on public exhibition from June through August 2017 in Crotona Park, Bronx.
Take a visual journey of A-Lit's process of creating Gender Equality: It Matters by viewing the slideshow below. Read pieces of writing about the project by A-Lit students on the Student Showcase section of this website: the speech that Aiesha wrote and delivered at the Union Square unveiling, and reflections on the project by Christopher, Kevin, and Arutro.
Photos courtesy of R. Haque and L.Brea
The slideshow below showcases some of the work of A-Lit at CS211 during the 2015 - 2016 school year.