Expanding access to Regional Enrichment Centers to students who are homeless

Amid the COVID-19 situation, the New York Junior League is still identifying ways to serve our community. As New York City schools adjust to the new normal, educators settle into remote teaching, and students grapple with a new, ad hoc way of learning, more than 100,000 students who are homeless might not have the same opportunities to learn.

This week, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) opened up Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs) to provide safe child care to students whose parents are first responders, health care workers, and key transit employees. Yesterday, the mayor added the children of grocery store and pharmacy workers to the list of children eligible to enroll in a REC.

However, the 114,000 children experiencing the daily trauma of housing instability are not eligible to enroll. The NYJL signed on to a letter, organized by Advocates for Children, urging the mayor and the DOE chancellor to open these enrollment centers to students who are homeless, so they may have access to reliable technology for remote learning and the space to focus on their lessons, with the help of a volunteer DOE educator. The letter also requests that the the DOE expand enrollment eligibility to the children of shelter workers.

Read the letter here, and follow NYJL on Twitter for more advocacy updates.

 

 

NYJL Updates During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated April 2, 2020

During this time of crisis, the health and safety of the staff, members, and partners of the NYJL community are our highest priorities. Although we are making adjustments in real time as the COVID-19 situation evolves, we remain steadfast in our commitment to women and children in New York City, community partners, and our strong, passionate women volunteers.

We continue to monitor and follow the public health recommendations of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the directives of local and federal government officials.

Please check this web page, or NYJL’s InstagramFacebook, or Twitter for the latest updates.

NYJL Events and Meetings

Through April, all in-person events are cancelled, postponed, or moving online to a video platform.  

  • Fundraising events: Please visit our Events page for more information on the status of each fundraising event.
  • New membership orientations: We will continue to host new membership orientations through Zoom. Please check our new membership information page for upcoming dates.

Community Programs

Scheduled volunteer activities for our community programs have been suspended, but there are several ways we can continue to serve our community. We understand that volunteering your time is a deeply personal choice, but for those who wish to stay engaged in community response, here are some opportunities: 

Critical Supply Donations to Partners

With the city practicing social distancing, many of our partners need activities and supplies to help clients, particularly children who are homeless and confined to temporary living spaces, through this difficult time. If you would like to support our partners, here are several community partners’ lists of supplies needed. You may purchase and send items directly to the following organizations:

  • Win – Needs activities for children living in homeless shelters.
  • Isaacs Center – Needs school supplies for students.
  • The New Jewish Home – Needs activities for senior residents.
  • Covenant House – Needs snacks and activities for youth in the crisis shelter.
  • Department of Homeless Services – Needs toys and activities for children in shelter. Stay tuned for updates on this opportunity.
  • SCAN-Harbor – Accepting food donations (both non-perishable and perishable). Stay tuned for updates on this opportunity.

Live Volunteer Opportunities

The primary area of critical need is meal and pantry item distribution. Several of our partners are still providing grab-and-go meals, or meal services, for their clients. Volunteers are needed to help package and serve meals; partners are following safety guidelines for volunteers. The NYJL recommends that volunteers carefully review New York Cares’ guidelines for safe volunteering. If you would like to participate, please follow these guidelines for your own safety and that of community members.

  • Urban Outreach Center (UOC) – Pack and distribute grab-and-go meals.
  • Isaacs Center – Help with plating and packaging meals and Meals on Wheels delivery.
  • Crossroads – Prepare and serve meals, and help with cleanup and food pantry distributions.

For more information and to find out how to sign up for these volunteer shifts, please refer to this document

Virtual volunteer opportunities 

Our community partner SCAN-Harbor is looking for help updating their website and YouTube channel with virtual activities for the youth. Anyone with knowledge of using WordPress and managing YouTube who would like to donate her skills should contact community@nyjl.org.  

Advocacy opportunity

The NYJL signed on to a letter, organized by Advocates for Children, urging the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to open Regional Enrollment Centers (RECs) to the 114,000 students facing housing instability, so they may have access to reliable technology for remote learning and the space to focus on their lessons, with the help of a volunteer DOE educator. Currently, the RECs provide safe spaces for remote education and childcare for children of first responders, health care workers, key transit employees, and grocery store and pharmacy workers. Read more on the issue here https://nyti.ms/2UCG7Bw.

NYJL has posted several messages on Twitter in support of this sign-on letter. Please consider retweeting NYJl.

Complete the 2020 Census!

The 2020 Census takes less than 10 minutes, but its impact will last 10 years! The federal government uses the census to determine NYC’s fair share of billions of dollars in federal funds for public education, affordable housing, infrastructure and much more. The Census also informs how many seats NY gets in the House of Representatives. 

Please contact community@nyjl.org and let us know if there are any organizations seeking volunteers for small group activities, virtual support, and/or supplies.

Together, we will get through this!

The NYJL will revitalize St. Nicholas Park during April and May 2020!

 

The New York Junior League’s Playground Improvement Project (PIP) is excited to announce that this spring, they will revitalize St. Nicholas Park in Harlem, in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation!

Every year since 1992, New York Junior League (NYJL) volunteers, as part of the Playground Improvement Project, have designed, planned, funded, and completed a playground or park renovation. Initially focused on local school playgrounds, the NYJL eventually forged a partnership with the NYC Parks Department to revitalize public parks. Many Manhattan parks lack funding or staff to make general improvements to gardens, benches, and playground equipment. The NYJL helps meet these needs by contributing supplies and dedicated volunteer time.

A “ribbon park” bordering Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, and Harlem, St. Nicholas Park was created in 1895 when the City acquired the land after the close of the Croton Aqueduct. The patron saint of Amsterdam, St. Nicholas contributes his name to two of the park’s surrounding streets, commemorating the Dutch farmers who settled northern Manhattan in the late seventeenth century.

Now, St. Nicholas Park brings together Harlem neighbors for festivals and other community events. It features basketball and handball courts, playgrounds, a dog park, and barbecue areas. Operated by the National Parks Service, Alexander Hamilton’s historic home also resides in the park. Residents visit the park to host neighborhood gatherings and barbecues, play catch, observe park activities from park benches, read, and exercise in the park.

In 1995, Harlem community members and City College formed the initiative”Take Back St. Nicholas Park” and renovated the park. In 2010, the New York Junior League beautified the park and is excited to return for another round of renovations this spring.

The NYJL invites volunteers from the public to help restore St. Nicholas Park during specific weekends in April and May!

Register to volunteer!

The NYJL will host the following Park Days during Spring 2020:

  • Saturday, April 18 and Sunday, April 19
  • Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26
  • Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3
  • Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17

*All volunteers shifts start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 1:00 p.m.

If you have questions, please contact playground@nyjl.org for more details.

Urgent: Help us collect more holiday gifts for children in homeless shelters by December 23

More than 22,000 children in New York City are homeless this holiday season.

Every year, NYC’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Coalition for the Homeless, and other organizations mobilize a massive drive to collect and deliver gifts to every single child living in a shelter or hotel over the holidays.

To make sure every child receives a gift, the NYJL is partnering with the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to help collect 50 urgently needed toys by close of business on Monday, December 23. New toys should be delivered directly to Astor House (130 E 80th St, New York, NY 10075) between now and Monday. The DHS administrator will personally pick up gifts and deliver them to children on Christmas Eve.

  • We need new toys for children under the age of 10, such as toddler toys, dolls, cars, trucks, and board games.
  • Please wrap the toy (if possible) and label it with a description of the toy, the age, and whether it’s for a boy or girl.
  • Toys may be delivered to Astor House today (Thursday) until 10:00 p.m., tomorrow (Friday) until 6:00 p.m., and Monday, December 23, until 5:00 p.m.
  • The DHS administrator will pick up the gifts in the morning on December 24.

If you are unable to hand deliver wrapped gifts to Astor House by December 23, Mary Arnold Toy Store near headquarters is happy to take toy orders and deliver them to Astor House for free. You may contact the store directly at 212-744-8510. You can view their inventory on their website.

Thank you for your generosity this holiday season!

Arts exploration in the classroom

The young artists who take NYJL’s Tuesday morning art classes are explorers. They get lost in the details while carefully sketching a Ming-dynasty-inspired vase. They discover combinations of color and light by creating stained glass mosaics out of tissue paper. And they contemplate the wilderness of Chihuly’s twisted glass sculptures by recreating their own out of other materials. These students are exercising their critical thinking and experiencing the pride artists feel when creating an artwork with theirs own hands.

Research supporting art education’s positive impact on children’s academic success and social-emotional wellbeing is abundant. A 2019 Brookings Institute report found that, among elementary school students,“[…] increases in arts learning positively and significantly affect students’ school engagement, college aspirations, and their inclinations to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others.” And according to studies by the National Endowment for the Arts, students from low-income communities demonstrated higher test scores in science and writing if they were highly engaged in the arts from kindergarten to eighth grade, compared to students who were less involved in arts during those formative years. 

Affirming the importance of arts programming in education, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $23 million in 2014 to upgrade arts facilities and equipment, strengthen partnerships with cultural institutions, expand specialized programming for English language learners and students with disabilities, and support staff development. 

“Arts instruction must be continuous, rigorous, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of the communities and students the DOE serves,” said Chancellor Richard A. Carranza in the NYC Department of Education’s Arts in Schools (2017-2018) report. 

The NYJL is strongly committed to arts education too. In fact, we have six committees dedicated to engaging students in rich, cultural and artistic activities and experiences. One example of our arts education programming is Project Muse. 

Every week, Project Muse volunteers provide interactive art education classes to third grade students at a Title 1 school in the Lower East Side. Volunteers cultivate an environment where students feel comfortable, supported, and inspired to learn and develop their creativity and artistic skills through explorations of diverse artistic styles, championed by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Monet. 

Project Muse organizes several field trips to arts and cultural institutions each year, so students can engage with artworks in real life and create their own inspired projects. Recently, NYJL volunteers and students visited the Children’s Museum of Art to see E.V. Day’s Breaking the Glass Ceiling exhibit, encouraging guests to question invisible boundaries and aspire to greatness beyond society’s expectations and limits. 

Project Muse artists have also visited the Botanical Gardens, where they documented natural works of art through photography. Afterwards, the students walked through the neighborhood to identify and admire street art. 

To foster students’ aspirations, Project Muse hosts a career panel each year so students can learn more about art-related careers.

If you would like to celebrate Project Muse, please join us Thursday evening, December 5, at Golden Tree, where we will celebrate the important contributions of five community projects. A three-day shopping event and celebration, Golden Tree is one of NYJL’s signature events to raise funds for our mission–and continued exploration in the arts.