Committee Candid: NYJL Steps to Success

During GO Project sessions, NYJL volunteers work with under-performing eighth grade students to introduce them to job skills concepts. As these students prepare for both high school selection interviews and after-school job interviews, GO Project sessions cover topics including resume writing, mock interviews, presentation skills, and goal setting. This individualized instruction helps the students thrive in school and position themselves for success… plus it’s fun!

New York Junior League Steps to Success volunteers Caitlin Crimmins and Rachel Aiello preparing for a session at GO Project.

Egyptian Art and Andy Warhol with the Project Muse committee

Third grade students at PS 64 and New York Junior League volunteers from the Project Muse Committee recently completed an interactive art module exploring Egyptian art. First, students and volunteers visited the Brooklyn Museum of Art where they explored a few key pieces from the collection: Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern Art.

Students expressed their amazement at “how old this art is!” Next, students used the Egyptian alphabet/hieroglyphics to depict their name using small pieces of papyrus paper and liquid gel pens. Many of the students continued using the alphabet to send “secret” messages to friends and family.

Lastly, students learned about the five patterns of nature (spiral, meander, packing, branching, and explosion) that are often represented in hieroglyphics. They then used these patterns to apply to pop art by creating a grid and filling the grid with abstract interpretations of the five patterns as inspired by Andy Warhol using bright and vibrant colors. The students particularly enjoyed infusing the two different genres of art.

NYJL decorates with New Alternatives for Children

On March 25, 2017, New York Junior League Done In A Day On Demand (DIAD-OD) volunteers assisted New Alternatives for Children (NAC) with its Spring Decorating Event. NAC, a long-standing NYJL partner, provides innovative, high quality services to support birth, foster, and adoptive families caring for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. NAC’s mission includes children with severe physical, emotional, and behavioral challenges, and developmental disabilities.

During the Spring Decorating Event, volunteers were paired with vulnerable children to decorate pots for a planting activity. Volunteers also had snacks with the children and completed a “Spring” activity worksheet together. Most importantly, each NYJL volunteer offered laughter, supportive attention, praise, and encouragement to the children. Each child ended the activity with a beautiful potted plant showcasing their artistic talents. This messy fun delighted both the children and the volunteers.

NYSPAC Welcomes NYJL volunteer Samantha Santaniello to Board of Directors

The Junior League is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the communities in which it exists. Each Junior League in the state of New York has a single volunteer or a committee dedicated to public policy work. The New York State Public Affairs Committee of the Junior Leagues of New York (NYSPAC) is made up of the 17 Junior Leagues and represents more than 8,000 voting women in New York.

NYSPAC is responsible for educating individual leagues on issues selected for advocacy action and facilitates communication among neighboring Junior Leagues on public affairs work by providing training in advocacy skills and strategy, and acts as the representative body of the member leagues at the state and national level.

NYSPAC focuses on public policy impacting women and health as well as children and families. Recent advocacy efforts have centered upon human trafficking, paid family leave, and pay equity legislation. We advocated for Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act from 2012-2015 and the legislation passed in both the NYS Senate and Assembly in 2015. Advocacy efforts for Paid Family Leave Act began in 2014. This specific piece provided worker’s compensation benefits for employees that were injured, sick, pregnant or required family leave for another reason.

This year, NYSPAC voted on Pay Equity legislation. This is a hot-button topic as strong legislation was recently passed at the New York City level and the NYJL Advocates for Public Policy committee traveled to Albany on May 2nd to advocate for this issue. Since the NYC bill’s introduction, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order that bars the practice of asking for salary history for public sector hires and our goal is to get more comprehensive legislation that protects private sector workers as well.

With all of this great work in progress, we are excited to announce that one of our NYJL volunteers, Samantha Santaniello, was elected to the board of NYSPAC. In her role as legislative coordinator, Samantha serves as the main liaison between NYSPAC and Albany legislative members and staff. She is responsible for legislator outreach for Lobby Day and remains knowledgeable and abreast of any political developments and issues that may affect Lobby Day.

Samantha has been on the Advocates for Public Policy committee since she was a provisional member of the Junior League serving as Vice-Chair of State Affairs for the last two years. She is excited for this opportunity to get even more involved in the public policy arena for NYSPAC.

Community Improvement Project unveils its newly renovated science classroom

Typically on Monday evenings, the hallways of Harbor Science & Arts Charter School are calm and quiet after children and teachers return home after a busy school day. However, on the evening of May 15, the hallways echoed with whispers, laughter and energetic chatter from students and faculty as they anxiously waited to see their new renovated science classroom.

Since its inception in 2012, the New York Junior League’s Community Improvement Project (CIP) Committee has renovated a variety of educational centers and community buildings throughout New York’s underserved communities. CIP is one of four community committees that are part of the City Impact Council at the NYJL. The City Impact Council tackles large scale signature projects including CIP and the Playground Improvement Project, as well as episodic volunteer opportunities under the Done In a Day and Done in Day On Demand Committee.

When the RFP from Harbor Science & Arts Charter School was reviewed by Council Head, Liz Fabsits Pavone and CIP Co-Chairs Terry Pope and Caroline Harrison recognized a very special opportunity for the Harlem school. Opened in 2000, Harbor Science & Arts is the third oldest operating charter school in NYC and serves 255 students per year across grades K-8.  Its mission is to provide high quality education through a rigorous academic program, infusing character building, physical wellness and the arts.

However, the middle school Life Sciences classroom needed drastic improvements. The floor had experienced significant wear and tear; books and science equipment were piling up in the corners of the room; paint was peeling from the walls and ceiling. CIP committee members knew it was time to get the students excited about Science again by implementing a fresh new look and creating an engaging learning environment.

Photo: The original Harbor Charter Life Science classroom prior to renovation.

Enter designer, Casey DeBois, of DeBois Design, who developed an inspiring vision that included new flooring, innovative storage, and a contemporary color palate, combined with advanced equipment and educational tools that made learning fun again!

“I feel very fortunate to have been asked by the Harbor Science and Arts Charter School and New York Junior League to participate again this year – it was such a rewarding project for me,” states DeBois. “I truly believe that your surroundings affect your well being and productivity so it was important to me to create a space the students can thrive in.”

After a year of planning for the design and renovation, volunteers from CIP and the NYJL contributed their time and renovation skills during six work days throughout March, April and May to transform the science classroom into a vital learning environment for the scholars served by Harbor Charter and its programs. “The final product truly captures the design and the shared vision that Casey and the school had for the space. I am so impressed at the remarkable work and dedication of the CIP Co-Chairs and committee to bring this project to fruition. It was truly a labor of love and it was amazing to see all the smiling faces of the students and faculty of Harbor Science and Arts Charter School at the unveiling”, added Liz Fabsits Pavone.

Photo: The new Harbor Charter Life Sciences classroom after six weeks of renovations

The culmination of both Casey and the CIP committee’s hard work was revealed on Monday, May 15 at 6:30 pm. The celebration included a ribbon cutting ceremony with NYJL President Suzanne Manning, City Impact Council Head Liz Fabsits Pavone, and key members of the Harbor Science & Arts Charter School including Principal Mr. Mark Johnson. Science laboratory demonstrations from students of Ms. Merrick’s 7th and 8th grade science classes headlined the celebration and include educational lessons on earth science, robotics and coding.

Photo: Ms. Merrick and students, dressed in their new lab coats, enjoy their first day in their new classroom

“The gift of a modern, state-of-the art science lab provides our students with the opportunity for an educational experience that will enable us to truly live up to our name as a school that emphasizes science and afford us the ability to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) instruction,” Principal Mark Johnson said. “The students can now engage in critical thinking and problem solving strategies that will be vital to their success and well-being as productive citizens in this rapidly changing 21st century environment.”

Johnson adds, “Words will never be able to express how humbled and grateful our school community is for this extraordinary gift, but more importantly for the relationship that grew between our two organizations as a result! We look forward to partnering with the NYJL in future endeavors, and our school community welcomes the NYJL’s members to our Harbor Charter School family!”

The CIP Committee warmly thanks the League and its members who contributed their time and donations to support the growth and education of Harbor Science & Arts Charter School scholars and their community.