Offering a “New View” online

After the recent installation of Internet access at Good Shepherd Services’ facilities, NYJL’s virtual workshops present a ‘New View’ for youth clients.

When the pandemic suddenly disrupted daily life and required everyone to limit physical contact, technology immediately became a necessary resource–to continue education programs, maintain employment, apply for unemployment assistance, attend doctor’s visits without leaving home, and stay connected to family and friends. The New York Junior League (NYJL), like it has done so many times before in its 120-year history, quickly mobilized to respond to our community partners’ evolving needs–among them, access to technology.

NYJL’s New View committee consulted community partner Good Shepherd Services—which meets children, youth, and families where they are to “create opportunities [for success] at school, at home, and in their community”—and asked the simple question, “What do you need, and how can we help?”

As part of NYJL’s Child Health and Welfare program, the New View committee builds mentoring relationships with youth who are in foster care, the juvenile justice system, or supportive housing programs, as well as with those who have aged out of foster care and are at risk of homelessness. In previous years, NYJL volunteers worked with youth onsite at two Good Shepherd Services facilities on a variety of topics ranging from job readiness to wellness; with the onset of the pandemic, the NYJL quickly learned it would need to transition all education programming to virtual platforms. But first, Good Shepherd’s facilities needed reliable access to the Internet.

In June, New View purchased twelve hotspot devices with one year of internet service and four headsets for use in Good Shepherd’s centers. The hotspots are now live, and clients are participating in New View’s virtual mentorship sessions and a “Food & Zoom” series with NYJL’s Cooking and Health Education for Families (CHEF). These hotspots have also opened access to important opportunities beyond NYJL’s programming.

“With NYJL’s help, we were able to bring mobile hotspots to both [Chelsea Foyer and 17th Street programs] and set them up in key areas of the buildings [for] free and unlimited Wi-Fi access to upwards of 65 program participants. This creates increased access to remote learning, working from home, job searches, college courses, educational enrichment, mentoring, tutoring, program engagement and other opportunities.”—Damien Tillman, the Coordinator of Mentor Services and Resource Development at Good Shepherd Services

Aside from enabling clients’ access to opportunities, the hotspots have also allowed Good Shepherd Services to recruit additional mentors, including those outside of the New York area, and with New View’s help, apply for grant funding to support their critical programs.

Exciting programming lies ahead. New View began the fall with a “Getting to Know You” session followed by “Halloween Craft Night” where the group created edible spiders out of Oreos and Twizzlers, which was quite the hit. November features “How to Write a Haiku” and December has “Career Carousel Night” and a virtual scavenger hunt with holiday festivities.

“Early October, on our kickoff virtual ‘Getting to Know You’ event, a young woman resident of Good Shepherd Services let us know that she would love to someday be a lawyer. One of our committee members is a lawyer; she was able to share her story of going to night school, getting her law degree, and now practicing in Manhattan. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship, and I’m excited to see more of these connections bloom and grow.”

–Abbey Hendrix and Kristine Shoemaker, New View’s co-chairs

Help support NYJL’s training and community programs, like New View, by joining us at NYJL’s annual Golden Tree, a virtual, week-long festival of events, holiday shopping, and a silent auction. Learn more here.

NYJL and advocates urge the NYC mayor to prioritize educational needs of students experiencing homelessness in school reopening plans

On August 4, 2020, the New York Junior League joined Advocates for Children of New York and other organizations in New York City to send a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking that he prioritize the educational needs of students who are homeless, as part of the city’s plans for reopening schools this fall. We urge the educational leaders to offer students who are homeless full-time, in-person instruction or, at a minimum, ensure they have a space conducive to learning where they can access remote instruction and adult support on days when they cannot be in school, and to provide transportation to school as legally required.

When the Department of Education moved to remote learning last spring, many students experiencing housing insecurity were left behind, lacking sufficient access to technology, a safe place to spend the day, and an environment that nurtures learning. When schools reopen, these students will need a space where they can focus on learning and have access to dedicated instructional support five days a week, not just the one to three days of in-person instruction, as currently outlined in the city’s school reopening plan. These children will also need reliable transportation to get to school, as more than half of families entering shelters are placed in a different borough from where their youngest child attends school.

Read the letter

Statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion from the NYJL Board of Directors

We recognize the heartbreaking and devastating effects of racism and inequity that are playing out in our City and country. For the past 120 years, New York Junior League (NYJL) volunteers have been community builders. At no other time in our history has this been more critical. We stand together with our NYC community, and in particular with the Black community, against exclusion, bias, structural and systemic racism and prejudice in all forms. Together, we find power and joy in working collaboratively to ensure that the Junior League of the City of New York is a place of ethical stance and substance, a place in which all members cultivate personal integrity in service to the collective values of respect and trust. The brutal events of the last several days have reinforced the importance of this, now more than ever. We will remember the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who have lost their lives to violence or who have been threatened as a result of structural and systemic racism.

In 1901, Mary Harriman and 80 other women broke barriers by actively going out into the community and improving the social conditions of New York City.  Today we face a defining moment, when we need to ensure our current NYJL culture is connected to the reality of our NYC community, and ensure that we continue to be catalysts for lasting, positive community change.

The NYJL Board of Directors and Management Council will continue to support and drive diversity, equity, and inclusion for the New York Junior League.  We are grounded in an authentic and abiding commitment to inclusive environments of diverse individuals, organizations, and communities.  This commitment stems from a fundamental belief that truly diverse and inclusive organizations have a greater propensity for innovation, for attracting and retaining incredible members and for stronger relationships with the communities where we serve and are accountable to.

We understand this is a commitment that requires ongoing action. We welcome all women who value our mission and are guided by our shared values of respect, service and leadership, and recognize the need to expand leadership development opportunities to more diverse populations of women, ensuring a dynamic membership that reflects the city in which we live and serve.  We are investing in ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion training, and we will continue to look for ways to meaningfully advocate shoulder-to-shoulder with our community and advocacy partners on behalf of pressing issues in our community.

We are proud of the work that has come before us and want to make a difference today by focusing on how we will plan to stand together to move the needle on these critically important issues.

Video: Community Issues Forum

Community Action and Advocacy Around Homelessness and Food Insecurity in the Current Environment

Monday, April 20, 2020 • 7:00 p.m.

Featuring panelists:

  • Manhattan Borough President – Gale Brewer
  • New York City Councilman – Ben Kallos
  • New York State Senator – Liz Krueger
  • Win Vice President of Policy and Planning – Jessica Yager

Panel discussion moderated by NYJL President Lauren Chung

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.