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Now Open! Student Success Center on Jefferson Campus
Mullane Scholars Carry on Leader’s Legacy
Cypress Hills Business Partners Vie for a Slice of the Pie
Community Support for Cypress Hills Fresh Food Market Openings!
This fall, thousands of New York City high school seniors will apply to college and eagerly await notification of where they have been accepted in the spring. This is a rite of passage for high school seniors but, unfortunately, the playing field is not level for all New York City students. Low income, first generation Black and Latino students lag significantly behind middle and higher income white students in college applications/acceptances, enrollment, persistence and completion. That’s where the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation steps in. We work to bring equity to the process – counseling and exposing students to all of their college options, providing expert guidance on applications and financial aid, supporting them on the transition to higher education and sticking with them until they graduate with their college degree! In 2000 we replicated Goddard Riverside Community Center’s OPTIONS Program, a nationally- recognized college access center on the Upper West Side at a storefront office here in the community. That office remains a hub of information, counseling and support for high school students and adults in the community pursuing college.
In 2008, seeing this important need in their own school, students from Future of Tomorrow (a youth organizing group supported by CHLDC), led a campaign to increase college access resources at the Franklin K. Lane Campus. In response, the Lane High School Campus opened the door to the CHLDC-managed Student Success Center (SSC). Since it opened, the SSC has used a peer counseling approach to delivering individualized student counseling, college awareness workshops, college trips and college access services to increase graduation rates and aided thousands of students in applying and attending college. Youth leaders, who are high school juniors and seniors, are trained at Goddard Riverside’s OPTIONS Institute and help their peers research their college options, draft their college essays, enroll in SAT prep classes, file their applications and financial aid forms, evaluate their financial aid offers and enroll in college. This peer counseling model has produced powerful results, helping to increase college enrollment among graduates of Lane campus schools. The Lane SSC was one of the first two SSC’s in New York City. The success of the SSC model in providing these services has prompted the city to search for new sites of possible centers, vowing to open up at least 100 in New York City over the next few years.
The timing was excellent. In 2016, affordable housing real estate development companies L&M Development Partners and Dunn Development Corp. had begun funding the expansion of CHLDC’s college access services at the Thomas Jefferson campus, and exploring what resources would be necessary to provide the same level of services that students were receiving at Lane. When funding from the New York City Department of Education became available later that school year, this initial investment was leveraged effectively, with the two funding streams combining to support a fully operational SSC on the campus.
While CHLDC has been present on the campus for a number of years with one College Counselor out-stationed on a part-time basis, the new center will provide services on a larger scale with full-time adult College Counselors and Youth Leaders. Similar to the Lane Campus SSC, we will use a peer leadership program. One of those Youth Leaders is Zach Jean-Joseph, a senior at Performing Arts and Technology High School on the Jefferson campus. This fall, Zach will be applying to college himself, where he hopes to study computer engineering. This past year, he has learned a great deal about the college application process and now, “I get to pass my knowledge along to my classmates.”
Nasheley Boursiquot, who will also be a Youth Leader this year and plans to apply to the University of Pennsylvania. She is excited about the impact that the new SSC will have on the school, saying, “The Jefferson SSC is going to ensure that students attending Jefferson have every option available to them after high school.”
Peer mentoring is a unique and innovative component of CHLDC’s college access model. Youth Leaders play an important role in getting other students interested in college and providing peer-to-peer insight on why college is important. “Students will listen to other students – it’s a relatable thing,” Zach explains. As a Youth Leader, he encourages students to see college as an investment in their future and an opportunity to explore different career options. Nasheley agrees, “When students witness their peers succeeding and interested in college, they will, in turn, follow that path.”
This fall, the SSC is already bustling with Jefferson campus students making college lists, preparing for the SAT and filling out financial aid applications. Staff and Youth Leaders are very excited for the year ahead and the impact they are going to have.
As Zach puts it, “Without the SSC, kids would have to find the information out on their own. We’ll be able to help them so that they know they are not alone in this.”
“I’m anticipating great results,” Nasheley says, “Everyone at the Jefferson SSC is caring and helpful. I’m looking forward to the results at the end of the school year as far as reaching our goals.”
CHLDC thanks the New York City Department of Education, and the funding partnership between L&M Development Partners and Dunn Development Corp. for making the new SSC possible and to the NYS Education Department – 21st Century Community Learning Centers, NYC Department of Education, NYS Office of Children and Family Services, US Department of Education, Change Capital Fund, Capital One, Charles Hayden Foundation, The Clark Foundation, Graduate NYC, Henry Street Settlement House, Pinkerton Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation, TJX Foundation for their generous support of our college access and persistence work.
The Cesiah Toro Mullane Scholarship Fund was established in 2004 in honor its namesake – Cesiah Toro Mullane, a devoted Cypress Hills community leader and advocate.
The scholarship was created to recognize the efforts of students in the community advocating for the same causes as Cesiah: a better quality of life, education of local students, and the construction of new schools in Cypress Hills. Cesiah devoted many years of her life to furthering educational opportunities in the Cypress Hills community. Serving in various leadership positions, she was a member of the Governance Council for the establishment of Cypress Hills Community School/PS 89, which opened in 1997, and President of the CHLDC Board of Directors from 1999 to 2003. She was a true Cypress Hills hero and a role model for the community, especially young people. The recipients of the Cesiah Toro Mullane Scholarship receive continued financial support throughout their undergraduate degrees.
A recent graduate of City College of City University of New York, Willie Allen received the Cesiah Toro Mullane Scholarship in 2010. Willie graduated with a double major in History and Black Studies and double minors in both Economics and Anthropology. Allen graduated as a Cum Laude honoree and held leadership positions in a variety of organizations around his campus. An involved member at his college, he met a diverse range of people and helped to advocate for others. Allen plans to attend a graduate program and earn his Master’s with goals to be either a teacher or historian. In reflecting on the impact of the Cesiah Toro Mullane Scholarship, Allen showed appreciation for those who believed in him.
“The scholarship and the board members of CHLDC showed me that someone in life cares and because of that, I need to pass that on as well. The scholarship also taught me about the value of helping others. I’m very proud to be a member of this organization and I plan to represent Brooklyn, New York, CHLDC and Cesiah Toro wherever I go.”
On Saturday, June 25, 2017, the Cypress Hills Board of Directors held a reception for recipients of the Cesiah Toro Mullane Scholarship Fund. The new group of Mullane scholars will attend schools across the state and will be pursuing a variety of careers. This year’s recipients are Dina Bu who will be attending SUNY Geneseo, Tolulope Arasanyin who will be attending Hobart William and Smith, Rakim Griffin who will be attending Bard College, and Keyshane Whitley who will be attending Dickinson University though the Posse Foundation. CHLDC is very proud of the new honorees as well as each past scholar for carrying on the legacy of Cesiah Toro Mullane.
In 1977, Vito first opened his pizza shop on the corner of Shepherd and Fulton St. He moved down to the corner of Essex and Fulton Street in 1979, where he is still located today. Over the past forty years, he has perfected his craft serving thousands of pizzas and supporting the community along the way. While sitting back in one of the booths in the dining room of Caterina Pizza, Vito expressed a great love for his customers:
“After a while, they are not customers– they are family.”
He has watched as the community has changed and grown over the years, and he believes that the best future for Cypress Hills is rooted in respect and communication – characteristics that the Cypress Hills Business Partners value and promote. Vito voiced appreciation for his community owing his happiness to the people who have loyally eaten his food over the years. He believes businesses in the community must be involved, not only with each other, but also with residents.
“More people need to get together to communicate. When we’re together, we’re much stronger.”
For the past twenty years, Vito has operated a student of the month program with a local school offering two students from each class a free meal. Vito values his connection with the young people in the community who will be the next leaders of Cypress Hills.
Vito has been an active member of the Business Partners for two years, always attending meetings and sharing his input. Regarding the importance of the Business Partners to Cypress Hills, Vito expressed his thoughts on the relationship between business and community:
“The Business Partners has created a platform for business to unite, which not only makes our businesses better but also the community. The Business Partners has worked hard to bring cleanliness and safety not only to my business, but again, to the community.”
Caterina Pizza, located at 3035 Fulton Street, offers pizza and a variety of other Italian dishes.
The two Cypress Hills Fresh Food Markets opened with great success this summer and are still going strong this fall! The markets offer residents of Cypress Hills/East New York a taste of fresh, local produce and a variety of other services. Located on Pitkin Avenue, the Pitkin-Verde Market is a part of the Cypress Hills Verde Initiative which intends to make our community a greener, healthier, and more sustainable place to live. Partnered with GrowNYC, the Cypress Hills Youthmarket, located on Fulton Street, is a network of urban farm stands operated by neighborhood youth, supplied by local farmers, and designed to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to communities throughout New York City. The local fruits and vegetables aren’t the only thing pulling community members to the markets. Both markets feature cooking demonstrations using the fresh produce available at the markets. Resource tables at both markets provide details and assistance for voter registration, SNAP benefit applications, and other useful information about healthy living. New to the market is a compost drop off point for food waste. Both markets accept cash, debit, credit, and EBT. They distribute $2 Health Bucks for every $5 spent using EBT and to each participant who attends a cooking class or nutrition workshop. Both market openings went well despite thunderstorms, but as always, the community came out to support the fresh food markets and make healthier food choices that benefit the community.
To support local farmers and purchase fresh produce, visit the Pitkin-Verde Farmer’s Market on the corner of Pennsylvania and Pitkin. The market will be running on Tuesdays until November 21st. To support young residents in the community and their learning, visit the YouthMarket on the corner of Fulton and Richmond St. The market will be open on Fridays until November 17th.
Check out footage of the Pitkin-Verde Market below!
CHLDC thanks the following organizations for their support of this programming: The New York City Council – NYC Department of Youth and Community Development’s Access to Healthy Food and Nutritional Education initiative, Grow NYC and Harvest Home, and Local Initiative Support Corporation’s Communities for Healthy Food Initiative.