The Road to City Hall’s Errol Louis discussed the first youth lead mayoral forum with Brooke Richie-Babbage, the executive director of the Resilience Advocacy Project, who was joined by one of the event’s moderators, 16-year-old Diasia Robinson, who attends La Guardia High School, as well as one of the event’s planners, 18-year-old Shakira Wright, who attends the City University of New YorkOctober 11, 2013
For the second year in a row, advocates are fighting massive cuts to early childhood and after-school programs proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his preliminary budget for FY 2013-14 which begins on July 1st. After winning City Council restorations last year, the Mayor has once again proposed the elimination of after-school slots for 37,000 children as well as early education slots for 10,000 children.
On Wednesday, children, parents, advocates and providers brought their case to City Hall to testify at the City Council Youth Services budget hearing. Among those testifying was Pobo Efekoro, a member of the award-winning chess team at Brooklyn’s IS 318 which is profiled in the acclaimed “Brooklyn Castle” documentary film Brooklyn Castle –a program which would be eliminated in the funding cut.
“Over the past few years, the IS 318 chess program has been hit with successive budget cuts that have scalled back the proram,” said Efekoro. “Following the debut of ‘Brooklyn Castle’, the program has beenlucky enough to receive donations from private entities and individuals – but although these donations are wonderful, the chess team may not be able to survive if the City cuts our funding this year.”
The Campaign for Children, a group of more than 150 children’s advocacy and provider organizations, presented a poster-sized chart showing the city’s cuts to Out-of-School Time (OST) programs over the past five years – a 35% decrease in the number of children served since 2008 – not including the cuts proposed this year. (Click here to download a copy of the poster.)
“This is not a budget dance – this is a real loss of services for children, many of whom are among the city’s poorest and most vulnerable already,” said Brooke Ritchie-Babbage, Executive Director of the Resilience Advocacy Project and member of the Campaign for Children.
At a pre-hearing press conference, youth from after-school programs across the City spoke out about the value of the programs in their lives.
“My Beacon after-school program keeps me occupied in a positive way so I won’t be wasting time outside doing nothing,” said Ardelia Lovelace from the University Settlement Beacon on the Lower East Side. “If the city keeps cutting money from our programs, how will we have a positive place to go?”
Julie Florez also attends the University Settlement program. “Not only does it benefit me in the future, but it also pushes me to keep up with my studies and give back to my community,” she said. “Mayor Bloomberg, please don’t cut our program!”
“My after-school program gave me the skills and confidence to be a leader in may community,” said Robert Ortiz from the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park. “The idea that children of this generation could lose out on having a similar influence in their lives seems so unfair.”
The Campaign for Children also announced the launch of their online advocacy campaign aimed at City leaders. Last year, the Campaign generated more than 60,000 letters and 4,500 phone calls from parents to City officials. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildrennyc.com.October 11, 2013
My name is Cristina Pastor and I’m the new Communications Coordinator here at RAP. Before coming to RAP, I was handling the digital media platform for a non-profit organization in Newark, New Jersey. I am also an ESL teacher in Chinatown, NYC. As a journalist, I have written about immigrant communities and working-class families. In all those capacities, I have come across some really nice, motivated and ambitious young people with dreams to do better for themselves, their families and their communities, but did not know how or where to go for support.
That’s why working with RAP seemed like a follow-through, a continuation of the kind of work I’ve been doing. However, I prefer to look at this as a beginning. The start of a deeper, more meaningful engagement with young people, talking to them about the issues they care about (such as stop-and-frisk, voting rights and bullying) and using communication platforms where they feel safe and are comfortable with.
The youth have often despaired about being ignored or misunderstood. We at RAP aim to bring out that voice through our many programs and campaigns. It’s exhilarating being part of it all.September 23, 2013
Hello. My name is Carrington Amey and I am the newest addition to the RAP team. My passion and desire to be a catalyst for change have led me to the Resilience Advocacy Project. Through my own life experiences I have seen first-hand the inadequacies of a flawed system. A system that continues to victimize and disenfranchise at-risk youth and families at an alarming rate. Aligning myself with RAP’s mission, I plan to provide these once-disenfranchised communities with the skills to become their own advocates of change. I am excited to be a part of the RAP initiative to bring about social change and push for equal opportunities. I will be an asset to the organization by bringing the perspective of a resilient young person into our various outreach programs. Also through my background as an organizer and peer group leader I will be able to make myself accessible and open to the needs of our youth in our quest for social change.September 23, 2013
- For six high school students, the search for answers to age-old questions about college and life beyond high school continued last month at a half-day workshop with volunteers from Credit Suisse financial services company who helped the students lay out the roadmaps that best fit their goals, interests, and pocketbooks.RAP and Credit Suisse jointly sponsored the workshop “Exploring College & Beyond” as part of their ongoing partnership to mentor and empower young New Yorkers.“Some of them were clear about what they want out of college but others were not sure,” said RAP Program Director Elisa Kaplan, who moderated the discussions. The students mulled over questions like “What activities are you interested in?” and “How do you pay for college?” as the volunteers discussed the different types of schools (community v university, state v private, online v on site), courses (certificate v associate v bachelor), what to expect from them, how to apply for FAFSA, what kind of personal essay will get attention, and many more topics. RAP consultant Darcy Richie facilitated one of the workshops.September 23, 2013
It’s Time For A Paradigm Shift: Teen Dads As Community Leaders
by Brooke Richie-Babbage
Huffington Post, September 17, 2013
I believe strongly in the inherent resilience of all young people, and in their capacity to create positive change in their own lives and to catalyze positive change in the lives of their peers. This belief has laid the foundation for my inspiration to develop a peer advocacy training institute specifically for teen fathers.
I want to give young fathers the tools and confidence to break down barriers to education and employment so they are able to maximize their potential as parents, partners and men.
More and more, the news is filled with stories of the educational and employment challenges facing low-income Black and Latino men. It is unacceptable that so many young men are being left to flounder in poverty — becoming what Gandhi deplored as “throw-away children” — simply through our systemic failure to ensure access to critical resources like education and employment.
The challenges faced by these young men are felt even more severely when the young men are also fathers. The fact that the resources exist to support them, and we know that they work, makes our failure to ensure equal access one of our city’s deepest societal injustices.
As a lawyer working with low-income single parents and their children, I saw first-hand the unique frustrations of the young Black and Latino fathers that I worked with as they attempted to effectively parent the children they loved, while also navigating the trials and tribulations of adolescence.
When I founded the Resilience Advocacy Project, I brought this awareness with me, gathering research and partnering with other organizations to explore the needs of this population. Although there is little data available about teen fathers, what research there is shows that they are generally less educated, less skilled and less capable of accessing available supports within complex government agencies and court systems than their adult counterparts.
As a result, thousands of Black and Latino teen fathers are foregoing, or missing out on, supports that could help them succeed in school, find and maintain employment and provide emotional and economic support for their children.
The key to addressing this problem is to put the power to change their trajectories directly into the hands of those most impacted: teen fathers. That is what our training institute aims to do. We want to build a citywide corps of young fathers that have the knowledge and skills to serve as peer leaders, and education and employment advocates, for one another in their own communities.
Now is the time for an institute like ours. The past three years have been a watershed moment in our city’s approach to meeting the needs of young fathers.
The Mayor’s Fatherhood Initiative and the efforts of the Department of Youth and Community Development to create programs for young fathers have created a strong foundation for work in this field. The Teen Father Peer Advocacy Training Institute is a critical next step, engaging teen fathers as real partners in the city’s efforts to support their educational and employment success.
Our comprehensive 10-week Teen Father Peer Advocacy Training Institute will educate young fathers about NYC government, their legal rights, and the community resources that are available to help them succeed. Most important, it will train them in the leadership skills that are critical to success in the employment world: self-advocacy, peer leadership, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
Upon graduation, our young men will work together to transform core public institutions (like schools and libraries) into education and employment resource hubs for young fathers. These hubs will serve as one-stop-shops for teen fathers to address critical education and employment issues such as applying for a government ID, finding money for college, finding appropriate and available internship and job training opportunities, and navigating interviews with a criminal record.
Our trained peer advocates will be able to offer concrete legal rights information, referrals to professionals like lawyers and social workers, and concrete help with basic forms, such as applications for State ID.
In addition, the dads will provide much needed peer support in their communities through monthly “truth circles.” These circles — which run like semi-structured discussion groups — create a peer mentor community that can provide a safe space to discuss challenges, questions and issues of importance in their lives.
Our model has far-reaching implications. It has the potential to transform every teen father in New York into a powerful community leader with the tools to break cycles of poverty.
I saw the potential for this type of model when working with one young man who went through one of RAP’s other peer advocacy programs. Durell was a 19-year-old GED student and new father from Brownsville.
Midway through the program, Durell asked how he could help some of his friends – also dads – learn the kinds of skills he was learning. I watched as Durell began to translate his experience with our program into concrete help for his friends as a peer advocate, helping them apply for jobs, sign up for a State ID, and finding parenting classes in their schools. It was exhilarating to see the transformation in Durell’s view of his own ability to create positive change in his life, as well as in his potential as a father.
Ultimately, we are building the capacity of teen fathers to lead individual and community level change, and to make their communities’ more responsive to their needs. At the same time, we expand their personal beliefs about themselves. When they see that they are able to have a concrete impact on their own lives and on the lives of their peers, they begin to see their own longer-term potential as parents and as young men.
Read the article at Huffington Post.com!September 23, 2013
- Meet Avashini Singh and Hurmat Hashmi from Brooklyn, two teens on a social justice mission. They are RAP’s new youth board members. They will bring fresh perspectives on how to involve young people in the very rewarding task of advocacy and social change.Avashini, 17, is a senior and an honors student at Clara Barton High School. She is looking for activity that involves public service. Another senior from Clara Barton is 16-year-old Hurmat Hashmi, a first-generation Pakistani American who has volunteered at homeless shelters and organized fundraisers for social justice causes.September 23, 2013
Our RAP youth leaders are getting the hang of it.
Their policy briefing with mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrion on August 8 — their second after Sal Albanese — turned out to be quite relaxed and not as nerve-wracking. Never mind that the meeting was held at Carrion’s headquarters and that a cameraman from a Bronx TV station was videotaping. The students thought Carrion made them feel comfortable and responded to their questions with a lot of thought.
There were four students who participated in the hour-long briefing, plus one who sent in a question. RAP Program Director Elisa Kaplan also attended.
Sarah Murslim, a student at Hillside Arts and Letters Academy, wondered why public schools have different policies on testing, some offering it for free and others charging as much as $500. Kahalia Parfait, who will be a senior at La Guardia High School, noted the extreme availability of unhealthy fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods and asked Carrion how he plans to fix that. Victor Marunda, who will be starting school at Hampshire College, was absent but sent a question about Ray Kelly and what he thought about him possibly becoming secretary of Homeland Security.
Carrion did not shy away from the controversial questions. He thinks stop-and-frisk is “a bit overused” and yet it is “not showing results.” He is for hiring about 5,000 police officers and would like to see more foot patrols to encourage greater cooperation between law enforcement and neighborhoods.
He said there ought to be a public-private partnership between the city and big corporations to help schools “carry the burden” of defraying the cost of testing. He stressed that education needs to “transform” not “reform” and he’d like to see a community school model with not more classroom instruction and with emphasis on science and math and prepare students for tech-related jobs.
Carrion was not surprised that President Obama would consider Commissioner Ray Kelly for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security, noting that Kelly oversees a large police force with responsibility for both city and federal counter-terrorism programs.
Carrion had a lot of great plans, but for Sarah, what resonated was his idea of culinary diversity where school cafeterias would introduce food from different countries among the array of food choices. “I thought that was new and fresh,” she said.August 20, 2013
It may not be their idea of summer, but the young people who attended the RAP Summer Program had a blast. RAP is proud to partner with Good Shepherd Services’ Groundwork for Success in East New York and the Children’s Aid Society’s SYEP in Harlem to run our Youth LEAP program that trains young people on how to be advocates for themselves and for others.
“This has been a really exciting summer! These young people are gaining confidence and becoming leaders right before our eyes!” said RAP ED Brooke J. Richie-Babbage.
Early sessions focused on community issues, such as racism, homophobia and classism, and students were encouraged to share their experiences.
“When I went on a Girls Scout trip, a little white girl thought my mom and I were low class because we were black,” one student wrote when asked about classism, or this unhealthy obsession with social class from some young people. Another said, “I heard that if you’re classy you have to be rich.”
Another student said she gets angry when people equate racism with this bias that “Mexicans belong on the border.”
When the subject of LGBT came up, the students’ reactions were mostly positive, with comments such as, “Don’t care, love yourself” and “Love is love, express yourself.”
“Just because your sexual orientation is different doesn’t make you not a human,” was a student’s thoughtful response.
RAP moderator Nyla Khan was able to get the students engaged in a lively discussion.
Midway through the workshop series the young people selected specific topics. Students at Groundwork focused on Stop and Frisk, and at the Children’s Aid Society students selected the issue of resources for summer youth employment. Both groups made multimedia videos to educate their peers about their issues. Khan said that in the case of the Stop and Frisk video, “the students were told what to do and how to respond in those circumstances [where they are stopped by the police].” “Basically, they were told to stand for themselves if they are truly innocent.”August 20, 2013