At CHLDC, we prioritize the academic and personal achievements of our youth. Local resident Solange Dunning, a rising freshman at Bard Early College and valedictorian of the 2022 graduating eighth grade class at I.S. 171, attributes much of her success to Cypress Hills’ Youth and Family Services.
As a student at I.S. 171, Solange had the opportunity to participate in CHLDC’s Middle School Student Success Center (MSSSC) beginning her eighth grade year. A highly ambitious and motivated student, Solange wanted her involvement with MSSSC to be of benefit not just to her, but to her classmates as well. As a result, Solange applied, and ultimately got accepted, to be a Youth Leader within the MSSSC program. Solange’s responsibilities as a Youth Leader included assisting her classmates in the NYC high school application process, providing educational resources to make the application process more accessible to
parents and students, and conducting virtual high school visits. In order to become a Youth Leader, Solange had to receive extensive training and guidance throughout the summer and school year. Solange described how her position as a Youth Leader taught her how to effectively manage responsibilities. As Solange noted, “learning how to work with people and learning how to work with yourself is a really important life skill”. In addition to perfecting her work ethic, Solange highlighted how honesty and patience became vital life lessons learned throughout her youth leadership experience. As a Youth Leader, Solange both delivered and received aid in the high school admission process, stating “even though we were helping other students…the staff at MSSSC really helped with our own applications''.
Solange hopes to continue her academic success at Bard Early College where she plans to get involved in various extracurricular activities including mock trial and sports. With aspirations to study criminology in college, Solange hopes to eventually reform the criminal justice system and mitigate its racial and economic disparities. However, according to Solange, change does not end at the penal system. Solange hopes to dismantle the racist and sexist structures within criminal law. As a girl of color with goals to pursue a career as a Special Agent, Solange wants to “prove to people that [her] race, gender, and ethnicity will never stop [her]”. Solange inspires all of us at CHLDC, and we look forward to seeing how she will change the world.