When COVID-19 hit last year, our partner schools could no longer safely welcome in-person volunteers. As we supported our schools through some of the toughest times they’d ever faced, we adapted our volunteer program and created innovative ways for our Change Makers to engage with our students.
April is #NationalVolunteerMonth, and today marks the first day of Volunteer Appreciation Week! Today we’re highlighting some of the many ways in which our Change Makers have come together to reimagine possibilities and help kids achieve their dreams.
When New York City closed its schools’ doors due to COVID-19, CFK launched a full-service virtual platform to ensure students had continued opportunity to learn, imagine, and connect.
Volunteers have submitted hundreds of original, educational, and free content to our Digital Resource Library, which boasts over 40,000 hours of digital impressions. From volunteers reading books aloud to kids, to free origami lessons, to at-home science experiments, these videos expand the minds of all the families who view them. Through our Digital Resource Library, kids are making new connections with volunteers, all from the safety of their own homes. CFK’s on-demand digital content has been viewed in all 50 states and Canada!
One of our most popular volunteer opportunities is our Guest Reader program, where volunteers visit one of our partner schools and read books aloud to students. This year, due to safety precautions, we went digital, and launched a Virtual Guest Reader program across our partner schools.
We’ve had community members and corporate groups streaming live into virtual classrooms across New York City, from the Bronx, to Brooklyn, to Queens. We’ve heard The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, and new classics like Duck for President (and so many more!). Our Virtual Guest Reader Program has allowed for safe connections between volunteers and students. We know that meeting new, friendly faces, like those of our volunteers, allow kids to have positive support systems outside of their immediate families. On National Read Aloud Day, our volunteers streamed into classes at our Youth Engagement Center to read aloud to our students. Long-time CFK Volunteer Marisa Gomez read Bedtime Bonnet by Nancy Redd to a class of kindergarteners. Serenity, pictured above at left, sat with her head in her hands, engaged and engrossed in this cute story. After Marisa finished reading, Serenity and her classmates were able to ask questions and share their thoughts about the book. When story time was over, Serenity turned to her CFK teacher and said, “That was the best part of today!”
When COVID-19 hit, our students faced virtual learning challenges, and parents had to make difficult choices between making a living and adequately supporting their children's learning needs. CFK responded by opening the South Bronx Youth Engagement Center (YEC), where students have access to critical out-of-school care 10 hours per day, 5 days per week. Despite the pandemic, kids still need and deserve opportunities to learn, explore, and grow under the care and supervision of vested adults.
Our Change Makers came together and raised over $400,000 in support of the YEC’s opening! From funding our opening, to virtually volunteering with our students every week, our Change Makers make the YEC possible. Today, our YEC students are thriving, despite all the challenges this year has brought their way.
Our employee engagement program allows corporate volunteers to make a significant difference in the lives of New York City kids. Corporate volunteering promotes a sense of community, relationship building within and across teams, and supports employee satisfaction and staff retention goals.
Many of our corporate partners came together to fill new access barriers for our students by supplying PPE to YEC students in need. Apollo Global Management’s team bonded while creating cute mask chains. “I loved bonding with the team and seeing how quickly everyone volunteered and offered tips and tricks on how to make the best gift for the kids,” said Marissa Smith, Human Capital Coordinator at Apollo. Without PPE, our students cannot learn safely, and we’re so thankful for the contributions of our corporate Change Makers. Without PPE, our students cannot learn safely, and we’re so thankful for the contributions of our corporate Change Makers.
In January 2021, CFK held its 2nd Annual Change Day, a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, legacy, and quest for justice. Our Change Makers helped CFK provide 140 families in the South Bronx with free bags of nutritious food, toiletry kits, and even hot chocolate! It was an inspiring day of coalition building that we won’t soon forget.
By exposing young people to inspiring people, places, and things they otherwise would not have access to, they are able to explore their personal interests, learn about themselves, and discover their options for the future. This is the mission behind our much-loved Career Days, where, in the past, students have either attended educational field trips to offices of our corporate partners, or our schools have hosted career professionals.
Last year, we launched our first ever Virtual Career Day, which saw 2,500 students engaged with Change Makers across myriad industries! Leaders in the fields of media, technology, business and more joined us in curated panel discussions via Zoom. Students engaged directly with panelists and were able to ask their most pressing questions live on camera.
The relationships built in our Career Days are inspirational, and represent diverse life paths, allowing kids a sense of agency and hope for their limitless futures. Principal Tiffany Hicks of CFK Partner School P.S. 160 in Queens wrote to each and every CFK volunteer and said, “To see smiles on student's faces, to hear them ask questions and hang on to every word, is a Principal's dream come true! You have sparked imaginations, ignited passions, and have left students wanting to learn more. These visits today served as the mirrors that provide reflection and the windows to see new opportunities.” Next month, we’re hosting our 2nd Annual Virtual Career Day on May 26, 2021! Want to join us as a panelist? Reach out now! (Volunteer@changeforkids.org)
• Our fantastic Junior Board is organizing a massive Community Clean Up in the South Bronx! Our YEC sits in a strong, yet under-resourced community, and Junior Board members are headed to the Bronx to beautify the space in which our students live and learn.
• CFK will be providing thought-partnership, resources, and volunteers for many of our schools’ end-of-year celebrations! We’re particularly excited about supporting a Virtual 5th Grade Prom at P.S. 160 in Queens.
We want all kids to experience a world with unlimited possibilities and feel empowered to pursue their dreams. Thank you, Change Makers, for all of your support this year in helping us create opportunities for kids!