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The BronxWorks October 2022 Newsletter

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Yevy Bednaya

When Yevy came to the United States she was three and a half years old, and it was not safe at the time the Soviet Union was falling. Her grandmother had already left the Russia Federation for Brooklyn, and so Yevy and her mother made the journey – like so many others – as refugees, coming here to find a safer and better life.

I don’t know how we did it, but we made it work.”

We asked Yevy to describe her experience. “It was my mom always having to figure out how things work in the US,” she says, “It was having to learn English. It was getting hand me downs. We didn’t have an organization like BronxWorks to help show the way.”

Yevy and her family relied on connections they made within a Russian community in Brooklyn. Her mother found employment while she went back to school. She earned a degree from Brooklyn College as a Nutritionist. Back in Russia, she was a Neurologist. School of course became important for Yevy too.

After graduating high school, Yevy attended Hunter College, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from NYU and, in 2019, she joined BronxWorks at the Nelson Avenue Family Residence as a Client Care Coordinator. She worked at the Nelson Family Residence for over two years, was promoted from Client Care Coordinator to Case Manager Supervisor and then to Director of Social Services. In September 2022, Yevy became the Residence Director at the BronxWorks Family Sanctuary, a role for which she is uniquely suited.

Many of the families here have arrived with just the clothes on their backs. They are so very much in need of assistance. But they are also amazingly positive. I’m inspired by their diligence and their eagerness.”

For Yevy, it has come full circle. Her mother, after going back to school to become a Nutritionist, now works for WIC. Yevy, after becoming a Social Worker, oversees a family sanctuary for refugees who have come here seeking a safer and better life. The stories we share with each other are more similar than they are different. Yevy draws from her own experience as an immigrant and refugee to the U.S. in how she approaches her work with these new families who have come here to seek the very same things that she and her mother did almost thirty years ago.

Outside of work, Yevy loves hiking, video games, and cats. She adopted a cat named Pluto from the backyard at the Nelson Family Residence. She likes to spend time with the people that are important to her, and focusing on self-care and art.

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BronxWorks Family Shelters And The Newly-Opened Family Sanctuary

BronxWorks is known for being a trusted homeless service provider in the Bronx and New York City. A key part of our mission to address homelessness is our work with vulnerable families. Today, BronxWorks operates three Family Residences capable of housing 276 families at a time and recently opened a new emergency Family Sanctuary to assist the migrant families arriving in New York City.

This year marks thirty years of our work providing shelter for homeless families in the Bronx. The BronxWorks Nelson Avenue Family Residence (NAFR) first opened in 1992, followed by the Jackson Avenue Family Residence (JAFR) in 1995, and the Willow Avenue Family Residence (WAFR) in 2004. Today, NAFR can house up to 79 families and, with the largest units, can accommodate families of 6-8 people, while JAFR can house 95 families and WAFR can house 102 families at a time. Combined, the three BronxWorks Family Residences can work with and provide shelter for as many as 500 families in a given year.

Homeless families in New York City enter the shelter system through the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Office (PATH), the citywide shelter intake center. Based on their intake assessment, families are matched with shelter units depending on their family size and composition and unit availability.

When families arrive at one of our sites, they are immediately assessed and matched with a team that includes a dedicated Case Manager, Housing Specialist, and Social Worker. Each site is also supported by Case Management Supervisors, a Social Services Director, childcare staff, after-school programming, and a robust maintenance and security staff. The teams work to address any family needs, including mental health, supporting children in their education, assistance with benefits, medical care, or legal services, while helping each family ultimately secure permanent housing.

For all families that enter BronxWorks Family Residences, the ultimate goal is to work toward attaining permanent housing. Once a housing package is completed, shelter staff assist each family with their housing interviews, accompany them in viewing potential apartments, and help families move out of the shelter and into their permanent homes. But the work doesn’t just end there. Families are connected with after-care services through the BronxWorks Transform program and other community-based partners that provide long-term case management and engagement during and after their transition to permanent housing.

The BronxWorks Family Sanctuary

As a part of the New York City strategy to assist migrant families arriving from border states, BronxWorks opened a new Family Sanctuary in September. BronxWorks opened the Family Sanctuary in short order to provide shelter for almost 90 migrant families, many of whom are seeking asylum here in the United States.

Most families arrived at the Sanctuary overnight during the first weekend that the site opened. Yevy Bednaya, Director of Social Services at the Nelson Avenue Family Residence, led the opening of the Family Sanctuary as the new Residence Director. It was a large collective effort supported by volunteers from programs throughout BronxWorks to ensure that the site was ready to welcome the families and adequately equipped to meet all of their basic needs.

That first weekend we focused on getting as many intakes done as possible,” Yevy says, “making sure we understood all of the needs of our families, providing clothing and household items, connecting them to medical and legal services, enrolling the children in school, and ensuring that everyone feels welcome and safe here.”

While the work at the Family Sanctuary is similar to the three other BronxWorks Family Residences, there are added challenges as a result of how the families arrived. Many of the families came with minimal belongings, and many have very young children. The families will need added care to adjust to life in the United States and in the Bronx, including assistance with their legal status, all in addition to securing permanent housing. “This process will take longer for us and for the families, and we’re asking them to be patient with us just as we are asking everyone who is here working to be patient with them.” Yevy, a Licensed Social Worker and multi-year veteran of the BronxWorks Family Shelter Department draws from her own experience coming to the U.S. as a refugee when she was child. Within just a few weeks, the BronxWorks Family Sanctuary already housed 84 families representing nearly 300 people, including 110 children.

Why This Work Matters

Marjorie Jeannot is the Department Director for the BronxWorks Family Shelter Department. She oversees the three Family Residences as well as the newly-opened Family Sanctuary. We asked Marjorie to put into perspective her twenty years working with homeless families. “It comes down to the work we do every single day,” Marjorie says. “It can be easy to get stuck on the numbers, whether it is the placement numbers, or the number of families in the system city-wide, but for us, these are families with real people, real children, working to overcome real challenges to achieve their goals.”

Marjorie explains that as a shelter provider for homeless families, BronxWorks Family Residences are responsible for everything as it relates to the well-being of every family member, from their day-to-day needs to their long-term goals. That includes ensuring that the children have the resources needed to succeed in their education. That means making sure students are regularly attending school. That means making sure parents have everything they need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their families.

The impact we have is made through consistent incremental and daily progress. It is made through being here day in and day out for our families, and celebrating every small success in big ways.”

Marjorie says that at its core, the work isn’t about simply making housing placements, or getting families out of the shelter system. At its core, the work is about working to prepare families while they are with us to achieve a stable and healthier life once they have left.

As the families in the newly-opened BronxWorks Family Sanctuary get settled, Yevy says they are eager to pursue the lives they envisioned as they made the treacherous journey to come here. She says that the children are excited to start school and the parents are keen to find work or learn English

There has been an outpouring of support from the community, including BronxWorks staff, partner organizations, local churches, and private donors and community members. As such, they have been able to give each family many of their basic household needs, such as clothing, toys, cookware and even groceries. “One of the biggest things that our families have wanted to do is cook their own food,” Yevy says. “When I walk through the halls it already smells great.”

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Wanda Abeyllez, Maxene Foster, Marjorie Jeannott, Rosa Martinez, Frank Melendez, and Igor Zekster

Celebrating Staff Reaching Over Twenty Years of Service

One of the best parts of the Annual Staff Meeting is celebrating staff milestones. BronxWorks is lucky to have amazingly dedicated staff who have given years or even decades of service to the communities of the Bronx. This year we celebrated five staff members who reached over twenty years of service and one staff member who reached over twenty-five years of service at BronxWorks. That’s a combined one-hundred and twenty-five years dedicated to the betterment of our communities. There is so much history to recognize in the stories of these six staff members and we want to thank them for their commitment to the Bronx.

Wanda Abeyllez – Twenty-Five Years of Service

Wanda grew up in the South Bronx and was actually a summer youth intern with BronxWorks, then known as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). After she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at Queens College, Wanda applied and was hired as a Case Manager for a housing program. Wanda worked in various housing programs, until 2005 when she joined the Senior Services Department. She has been the Program Director for the E. Roberts Moore Older Adult Center for seventeen years. During her time at BronxWorks, Wanda completed a Master’s in Public Administration from Metropolitan College. Congratulations, Wanda, on twenty-five years of service at BronxWorks.

Maxene Foster – Twenty Years of Service

Maxene started at BronxWorks in 2001 as an Aftercare Case Manager at the Jackson Avenue Family Residence. Born and raised in Jamaica, Maxene moved to the US in 1986, at first to Colorado Springs and then eventually to New York and the Bronx in 1990. She completed an Associate’s Degree in Health Education at Bronx Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Education and Promotion from Lehman College. Maxene has worked between the Eviction Prevention and Access to Benefits Departments for the majority of her time at BronxWorks, including the last eight years as Program Coordinator of the Benefits Access and Assistance Program. Congratulations, Maxene, on your twenty years of service at BronxWorks.

Marjorie Jeannot – Twenty Years of Service

Marjorie grew up in Haiti and came to the US when she was fourteen. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences at Stony Brook University. Marjorie started at BronxWorks fresh out of college as a Case Manager for an eviction prevention program. She left BronxWorks to pursue her Master’s in Social Work at Columbia University and returned as the Program Director for the Living Room. During her time at BronxWorks, Marjorie has also worked as Department Director of various Workforce Development programs, and Director of the Nelson and Willow Avenue Family Residences. Today, Marjorie is the Department Director of Family Shelters. Congratulations, Marjorie, on twenty years of service at BronxWorks!

Rosa Martinez – Twenty Years of Service

Rosa started at BronxWorks within the Access to Benefits Department and has worked as an Administrative Assistant and Messenger for many years. She has reliably assisted programs including Eviction Prevention and Walk-in Offices throughout her time at BronxWorks. Rosa’s family is originally from Puerto Rico, and now she lives in the Bronx. As an Administrative Assistant, Rosa has helped staff throughout the agency and appreciates everyone she has been able to work with. Congratulations, Rosa, on twenty years of service!

Frank Melendez – Twenty Years of Service

Frank was introduced to BronxWorks by a friend. He was hired in 2001 as a Family Monitor at the Jackson Avenue Family Residence. Later he joined the maintenance team, where he would work from 2004-2016. Born and raised in the Bronx, Frank attended the Adlai Stevenson High School. In 2015, he transferred to the Senior Services Department as a Driver, maintaining the vehicle and delivering food to a number of sites, as well as providing maintenance at the Morris Innovative Older Adult Center. He also does part-time street homeless outreach on the weekends with the Homeless Outreach Team. Congratulations, Frank, on your twenty years of service!

Igor Zekster – Twenty Years of Service

Igor grew up in Ukraine and lived in Russia, where he studied and worked in neurosurgery science and brain research. He has a Master’s of Science from Gorky University. Igor came to the US in the late 1990s with his wife and daughter. He was recruited by a friend to a small technology business where he got his start working in IT, completing projects like cabling and building computers. After completing his certification in IT, Igor interviewed at BronxWorks and was hired as an IT Technician. Igor helped design and start to build the entire modern IT infrastructure at BronxWorks. He has been integral in growing the IT department during his twenty years of service at BronxWorks. Congratulations Igor!

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The BronxWorks April 2022 Newsletter

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BronxWorks TCS New York City Marathon Runners Raise Money to Support Children and Youth

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After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the TCS New York City Marathon is back and will take place on November 7, 2021! #TeamBronxWorks is excited to represent the agency as a charity partner! This year, BronxWorks is fielding a team of five charity runners who are each raising money to support BronxWorks Children & Youth services. In these uncertain times, support for our programs that help our children and students adapt to the shifting landscape of school and learning through the COVID-19 pandemic is more important than ever. Support Team BronxWorks here. Meet our amazing runners below:

Dr. Anna Goodheart

Dr. Anna Goodheart is a Neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She started running during medical school. Anna was connected to BronxWorks through a good friend from college who works at the organization. “I decided to look into the organization and I was impressed by the services that they provide and their passionate support of their community,” Anna says. “It’s a worthy organization to run for.”

I started running during medical school as a form of stress relief and as a way to practice what I preach to my patients: exercise is important!”

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Emily Hespeler is a Nutrition Educator for the BronxWorks SNAP-Ed Program. She started running in high school when she joined the track team to stay in shape between soccer seasons. She fell in love with running during college by running on trails around her house before class. Emily is running in the NYC Marathon this year to show herself how powerful she is. She decided to run for BronxWorks to support youth programs that provide valuable learning and work experience to students in the Bronx.

This past year I spent a little over two months in the hospital after sustaining 3rd degree burns on 30 % of my body from a cooking accident. My experiences this past year combined with the strength that I have gained from training make me excited to run the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon.”

Jessie Moriarty teaches 4th Grade at Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary School. She started running in 3rd Grade at Tuesday night races during the summer at a local park near her house. She then started to train in order to get faster at these Tuesday night races. Jessie is running for BronxWorks because she believes in the organization’s work and mission. “I know that BronxWorks empowers Bronx residents with their services and I want to be a part of raising funds and awareness so they can continue.”

Working through the COVID-19 pandemic in the Bronx last year made me realize a lot of things, one of them being that I was strong. I decided to run the marathon this year because I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it, and I want to be a part of building a stronger Bronx community.”

Andrew Lin

Andrew Lin is the Development Associate for the BronxWorks Development Department. He was a former star middle school sprinter but runs mainly for fitness these days. Andrew is running the marathon because he has always wanted to run one to see if he can do it. He decided to run this year to support the incredible work and services that BronxWorks has provided throughout the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

 

I’m running for BronxWorks to support an organization that I think is trying to do good in a very difficult world. At the end of the day, all of the programs at BronxWorks are trying to create positive change, are trying to have an impact.”

Kate Machan

Kate Machan is the Legal Counsel & Associate Director of Special Projects at Zeta Charter Schools in the Bronx. She is one of the founding members and Chair of the BronxWorks Leadership Council. Kate’s passion for running began in high school and she continues that passion today. She is running the marathon this year for the challenge, the excitement of being part of such an incredible event, and the opportunity to represent and give back to BronxWorks.

 

 

I’m running for BronxWorks in order to further its mission of improving the lives of Bronx residents. Having been part of the organization’s Leadership Council for about three years, I have had the opportunity to work with kind, bright, dedicated BronxWorks team members who have inspired me to do more for the organization.”

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BronxWorks Protective Services Provide Vital Support for Adults and Families

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In 2021, BronxWorks added an Adult Protective Services (APS) Program funded through the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA). The objective of the program is to provide protective services to vulnerable adults and put structures in place to assist them to live independently. According to the Independent Budget Office (IBO) of New York City, a growing number of NYC residents are in need of adult protective services. Between 2014 to 2018, the average number of APS cases grew over 37%, largely due to demographic shifts affecting the entire city. In 2020, a major crisis struck New York City and the entire globe in the form of COVID-19, and while data is still being collected from the ongoing pandemic, the crisis has pushed a continued expansion of services to meet the growing and novel needs of the city’s vulnerable populations.

APS accepts referrals through NYC HRA. Eligible clients must be 18 years or older, have a physical or mental impairment, are unable to manage activities of daily living or protect themselves from neglect or hazardous conditions, and have no one willing or able to assist them responsibly. Upon receiving a referral, APS will conduct a home visit and intake, assessing the client’s needs, developing a service plan, and assigning the client to a Case Manager. APS will provide ongoing case management services, advocacy, financial management assistance, and connection to resources to stabilize a client’s situation and provide a framework for independence.

BronxWorks APS Team has a total of 17 Case Managers and is able to accept over 500 cases annually. If you or anyone you know suspects a case of adult neglect or abuse, please call APS Central Intake Unit at 212.630.1853, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call 311.

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The BronxWorks Family Enrichment Program (FEP) is a long standing foster care prevention program contracted through the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). The purpose of the program is to provide abuse and neglect prevention services to families of the South Bronx, with the primary goal of keeping children safe and assisting parents to meet their children’s needs. The BronxWorks FEP team is made up of 15 staff, including eight Case Planners, two Family Conference Workers, and leadership and administrative support. The team provides services to over 155 families and over 380 children every year.

A large part of the program is empowering parents to take control of their lives in a positive way that will affect their children,” says Loretta Edwards, Program Director. “What could look like neglect can be due to other core problems stemming from poverty and lack of resources, including time or money. “

BronxWorks FEP accepts referrals from ACS, internal BronxWorks programs, from other community-based services providers and prevention programs, as well as walk-in clients. Upon accepting a referral, the FEP team will conduct an intake and assessment to determine the family and children’s primary needs. The family will be assigned to a dedicated Case Manager for ongoing engagement, including home visits, family counseling, parental support resources, advocacy, education resources, emergency services and crisis intervention such as eviction prevention, as well as connections to other community-based services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FEP program continued to provide both in-person and virtual services to families. Home visits never stopped, with each case requiring one in-person home visit, followed by a second virtual visit, and additional home visits as needed. The COVID-19 crisis meant that vigilance in areas of abuse and neglect, particularly in educational neglect stemming from new remote learning models, was and remains more important than ever.

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Loretta Edwards

LorettaEdwards2021

Some of the most inspiring stories do not come soley from our participants, but also from the dedicated BronxWorks staff. When you have a body of staff who are driven intrinsically by a desire to make a diference, you will inevitably see many of them grow in their expertise and in their impact. For Loretta Edwards, who became the Program Director of the BronxWorks Family Enrichment Program in 2021, her story is exactly the kind that we love to share.

Loretta was born in Brooklyn but grew up in South Carolina. She returned to New York City after high school, completing two years at Borough of Manhattan Community College and graduating from Hunter College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Loretta started at BronxWorks in 2010 as a Case Manager for the newly opened Brook Supportive Housing program. In 2015, Loretta received the NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene scholarship to attend Hunter College for her Master’s in Social Work. While studying at Hunter College, she completed her internship with the BronxWorks Homeless Outreach Team and graduated with her MSW in 2017.

My career path started with me trying to understand myself first, and also wanting to understand others around me and human nature. I immediately gravitated toward case management and social work.”

Loretta returned to The Brook as a Social Worker where she worked with clients in the program who would benefit from a higher level of care and engagement. As a Social Worker, she also had the opportunity to supervise and provide mentorship to case management staff. In 2018, Loretta was promoted to Clinical Coordinator at The Brook overseeing a team of Social Workers and Case Managers.

I’ve learned so many things from clients that I’ve engaged over the years. The interactions made me a better person.”

In 2021, Loretta assumed the role of Program Director for the BronxWorks Family Enrichment Program. She brings with her over a decade of experience working with homeless and formerly homeless adults. Working with a new client population, and in particular families with children, will be a new challenge for Loretta, one that she is excited to meet, to learn from, and continue to grow.

Outside of work, Loretta likes to read or binge watch her favorite shows. She recently learned to drive and says her go-to activity this summer has been driving to the beach.

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Raymi De La Cruz

Youth Workforce Program Director Raymi De La Cruz

Raymi De La Cruz joined BronxWorks in May 2019 as the Program Director for Youth Workforce Programs at the beginning of the 2019 SYEP season. During his first season at the helm of this very popular program, he helped place over 1,000 youth interns at work sites and in project-based learning groups. The following summer, SYEP was limited and unable to make worksite placements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Raymi and his team were able to pivot and engage youth participants with a remote curriculum. Now that SYEP has resumed in-person for the Summer of 2021, Raymi and his team are back at it, placing and supervising over 1,100 youth interns across nearly 80 worksites.

Raymi was born in New York City and raised between the Bronx and the Dominican Republic. During his time at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, he joined a program called Discovering UVM. Through the program, Raymi spent a weekend in Vermont, which led him to enroll at the University of Vermont as a Computer Science major. Raymi would attend an Introduction to Social Work course which demonstrated how social workers help people find their path by removing barriers. Raymi felt compelled by the idea of a career in social work and quickly changed his major.

I came from a background where I had to teach myself a lot of things, and create my own path because there weren’t a lot of examples before me for the things I wanted to do.”

After graduating from UVM, Raymi enrolled in the New York University Master’s of Social Work program before eventually finding his way to BronxWorks. During his tenure at BronxWorks, Raymi has been integral in the continuation of the Youth Workforce Programs, including major adjustments required during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prominently amongst his contributions to the agency is his role as the Co-Chair of the BronxWorks LGBTQ+ Committee.

Every day I go to work, I can help someone forge their own path.”

The mission of the BronxWorks LGBTQ+ Committee is to make our organization an inviting and welcoming space for people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. “Whether you are staff or a participant,” Raymi says, “when you walk into BronxWorks, you know that it is a space that is welcoming to you.” Raymi is proud of how far the Committee has come and he’s excited for what lays ahead. Coming off of Pride Month this past June, the BronxWorks LGBTQ+ Committee is focused on bringing awareness to its goals and growing its presence within the organization.

If you know Raymi, you know that his spirit is incarnated in his work, his story embodied in his commitment to his programs, his participants, and his goals. But when he is able to find some free time, Raymi enjoys reading, hiking, bike riding, being outdoors, and watching movies.

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BronxWorks Summer Youth Employment Program

Two SYEP participants wearing SNAP Ed t-shirts stand at Farm Stand

With the 2021 Summer in full swing, BronxWorks is excited to once again offer the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). After a limited Summer 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, the BronxWorks SYEP has enrolled over 1,100 participants, placing them across nearly 80 worksites both within BronxWorks and at partner organizations. For the safety of all participants, worksites and programs are maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing throughout the program duration.

This year, BronxWorks enrolled 763 participants from the community, 216 participants from three Bronx high schools: Frederick Douglass Academy III, Academy for Language and Technology, and Career in Sports High School, and 80 participants from the New York City Housing Authority Bronx River Houses.

SYEP participant Rosemond sits at Admin
SYEP participant Rosemond interns at the BronxWorks Administration office.

Older youth participants ages 16-24 are assigned to worksites, including BronxWorks programs, and local businesses & organizations, such as New York Urban League, Summatime Studios, Ashley Stewart, and Eddington Security. As the relationship forms, worksites are asked to fill out an application detailing the nature of the work that participants will complete. A pre-assessment visit is completed by SYEP staff, and once participants are placed, Worksite Monitors conduct site-visits on a weekly basis.

The SYEP program gives young adults a great opportunity to have a summer job, gain valuable work experience, and in many cases, provide some support to their households. Coming off the COVID-19 pandemic, so many young people were excited to have this opportunity again.”

– Eileen Torres, Executive Director

Younger youth ages 14-15 years are placed in project-based learning groups of 25-40 participants. The groups decide on a theme, such as civic advocacy, social justice, or environmental issues. The groups develop projects throughout the summer, giving young people an opportunity to learn, create, and express themselves on topics that they choose and are passionate about.

A new popular SYEP placement is with Family Cook Productions, a long-standing partner for several BronxWorks programs. Family Cook Productions began to work with SYEP last year during the pandemic, providing culinary and nutrition programming for younger youth participants. Throughout the curriculum, participants learn about nutrition, healthy eating, culinary skills, and recipes to cook at home. Youth also had an opportunity to participate in the Teen Battle Chef program, where youth can display the skills they have learned, create and present recipes, and explore different cultures and the culinary world.

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