SNIPES Holiday Dream Makers at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center

In December, SNIPES USA selected BronxWorks as a finalist for their Holiday Dream Maker Program. The BronxWorks Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center After-School Program was awarded its wish to create a media center at the site that will give our program participants a space to express themselves through design and creativity, and to enjoy different aspects of digital media with their friends. 

SNIPES donated tablets, furniture, a television and gaming devices. To commemorate the award, BronxWorks and SNIPES organized a digital media event where after-school participants learned to use programs like Procreate to design their own sneakers and jerseys. 

“This has been a longtime dream of ours to build a creative and welcoming space for our participants. SNIPES came through to help make this dream a reality. Our participants really appreciated the workshops and learning how to use Procreate. We are thrilled that our participants will be able to use this space for many years to come.” – Dina Brown, Assistant Department Director, Children and Youth Department

Thank you to SNIPES for helping to fulfill a longtime BronxWorks dream! 

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Family Enrichment Program Winter Wonderland Party

This holiday season, the BronxWorks Family Enrichment Program (FEP) celebrated the holidays with a Winter Wonderland Party at the BronxWorks Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center gymnasium. Families enrolled in FEP celebrated with food, holiday music from a DJ, and presents generously donated by Nixon Peabody, a global law firm based out of New York City.

BronxWorks staff dressed as Santa’s helpers and turned the gym into a winter wonderland with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa decorations to be inclusive of the many winter holidays our participants celebrate. The children were thrilled when Santa arrived to hand out presents and take photos in the Frozen-themed photobooth.

“Events such as the Winter Wonderland Holiday celebration allow families and staff o spend quality time together. Children get to play together while parents can touch base. During these festivities, our goal is for children and parents to have fun and emphasize the FAMILY in the Enrichment Program.” – Loretta Edwards, Program Director – Family Enrichment Program

BronxWorks FEP helps to prevent the placement or re-placement of children into the foster care system. FEP serves residents in Bronx Community District 4. Through this program, case managers provide case management and casework counseling through the broad and diverse spectrum of services that BronxWorks offers to address families’ needs.

Thank you to Nixon Peabody for supporting our Family Enrichment Program!

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Osayi Ikhinmwin

The motivation to contribute to the BronxWorks mission is a theme you will find throughout many of our staff profiles. You find it in the core beliefs of staff in every corner of BronxWorks. Even in non-direct service departments, staff work day in and day out to support the organization’s operational needs, knowing how important our programs are for our communities. 

One of the most unsung heroes of operations is the BronxWorks IT Department, a small team of problem-solvers tasked with maintaining the technology infrastructure of over 60 offices. A central figure of the IT team is Osayi Ikhinmwin. You will reliably find Osayi at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center tackling the many tech challenges of the nearly century-old building.  

I value my work because it ensures business continuity. We are behind the scenes maintaining the smooth operation of the agency by connecting and securing our IT infrastructure. It is essential work for me because we are helping BronxWorks achieve its mission.” 

Osayi is originally from Nigeria where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical/Electronics Engineering from Ambrose Alli University. He worked as an IT Administrator, managing the IT systems for local small businesses. In 2011, Osayi came to the United States. 

Osayi joined BronxWorks in 2012 as a Safety Monitor. When a job in the IT Department opened up in 2014, he applied and joined as an IT Helpdesk Specialist. Osayi has worked in the IT Department for over 9 years. In 2021, Osayi completed his Master’s Degree in IT Management from Western Governors University. Now, Osayi is a Systems Administrator and a key team member of the BronxWorks IT Department. 

People buy into things for which they can see the impact. I can see that what I’m doing is not just for me. The work I do is allowing our programs to do their work, helping our communities receive the support they need.” 

Outside of work, Osayi loves to swim and read books. Some of his favorite authors are Malcom Gladwell and John Maxwell. Osayi is a father of three – two daughters and a son. Along with his wife, as a family, they enjoy going on vacations, playing games at home, and listening to good music. 

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Jumoke Fatukasi

Lead Teacher, CMCC Early Childhood Learning Center

Jumoke Fatukasi immigrated from Nigeria to the Bronx twenty years ago. In Nigeria, she was working as a journalist, but when she came to the United States she had to change careers. In her role as the Lead Teacher of the BronxWorks Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (CMCC) Early Childhood Learning Center, Jumoke has found a mission of the utmost importance. 

“When I got to this I country, I realized that teaching here was not like teaching back home. I said, let me see how I can help, especially with migrant families from my background or similar. Children and parents may find it difficult to adjust to the different educational system here, which is why I wanted to help.” 

Jumoke joined BronxWorks seven years ago. She started as a Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters (HIPPY) Program Instructor, before joining the CMCC Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) as a Teacher Assistant. Now for the past four years, Jumoke has been the Lead Teacher at the ECLC.  

For Jumoke, teaching has become a life passion. She went back to school, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Early Childhood Education from Touro College last year, and is now planning to enroll at Lehman College for her Master’s in Early Childhood Education.  

“Being a teacher is a two-way relationship. You teach and you help, but you also learn a lot. That’s what I love about this job. I learn skills, and it helps me in my own life, in my home, and helped me raise my children.” 

Over ninety percent of her class are immigrant children, and because she feels attuned with their experience as an immigrant to the U.S., Jumoke works hard to create a welcoming environment where children and parents alike can talk to her. Jumoke is also motivated by her colleagues and supervisors, who work together and encourage one another to provide the best early childhood education possible to their classes. “We work as a family,” Jumoke says, “We have collaboration, we work to prepare for the children every week, and the children can see that.” 

Outside of work, Jumoke is a lifelong student. She loves to read and uses it to further her professional and personal development. She enjoys taking vacations with her family. As a family, they also participate actively in their church.   

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Exciting Partnerships With the Misty Copeland Foundation, Asphalt Green, and Physique Swimming

It is busy season at BronxWorks! But then again, when is it not? We have some exciting programming and partnerships that started in October and are continuing into the new year. We wanted to share with you our excitement for three amazing partnerships that are bringing swim and dance lessons to the children and families of our communities.

The Misty Copeland Foundation BE BOLD Program

BronxWorks has partnered with the Misty Copeland Foundation BE BOLD Program to bring ballet and dance classes to four of our after-school programs. BE BOLD is a framework of after-school education developed by the Misty Copeland Foundation in collaboration with the National Dance Institute designed to teach basic ballet concepts to students ages 5-12 years old, especially to children of color. The framework connects positive youth development, social emotional learning, movement, music, and culture to make ballet and dance inclusive and accessible to students of different backgrounds.

Starting in October and running for the next twelve weeks, BE BOLD teaching artists will visit four BronxWorks after-school programs at the Betances and Classic Cornerstone Community Centers, the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center, and South Bronx Prep Academy. Activity space has been outfitted with ballet bars and mirrors, and students receive dancewear and a copy of Misty Copeland’s Black Ballerinas. Classes are held twice a week and will culminate in an Open Class at the end of the semester. BE BOLD teaching artists and musicians are trained performers that are selected by the Misty Copeland Foundation for their devotion to child development through dance and music.

Ursula Cooper-Hunter, Department Director for Children & Youth said of the program:

“I am super excited for the BE BOLD Program. I was a dancer growing up, and I understand how empowering it can be, for our overall wellness, for understanding your body, what it can do, and having the confidence to try things as a young person.”

Aquatics and Swimming

As you may know, BronxWorks recently cut the ribbon on our newly-renovated Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (CMCC) pool. We could not be more eager to bring back swim lesson and aquatics programs to our communities, so we’ve partnered with Asphalt Green and Physique Swimming to help us get people back in our pool.

Asphalt Green is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds in achieving a healthy lifestyle through a lifetime of sports and fitness. Physique Swimming has a diverse group of instructors that are deeply dedicated to helping our students achieve their goals as swimmers. Asphalt Green will utilize the CMCC pool on school days between 9am to 1pm. They will work with area elementary and middle schools to provide swim classes as a part of their physical education programming. Physique Swimming will provide swim lessons to BronxWorks programs and open-to-the-public swim classes at the BronxWorks CMCC pool. Classes will be held during the afternoons and evenings on weekdays, and mornings and afternoons on Saturdays. Open registration will start in November. Schedule and more information will be found on our website and at the CMCC front desk.

John Weed, Assistant Executive Director said of the partnerships:

“We’re extremely happy to have the pool open again. It’s great to see kids in the pool.  By working with Asphalt Green and Physique Swimming, we are succeeding with our commitment to utilize the pool to its full potential and create opportunities for healthy activities in the Bronx.”

To learn about the CMCC Pool schedule, please visit our Aquatics page.

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Profile: Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson

As we reflect on our partnerships, BronxWorks would be remiss if we did not highlight our longstanding relationship with Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson has stood as one of the most important champions for the residents of the Bronx throughout her career as a New York State Assembly Member, New York City Council Member, and now, serving as the first female and first African American Bronx Borough President. BronxWorks recently sat down with Borough President Gibson to talk about her relentless drive to work for the people of the Bronx.

The Start of a Historic Career

Vanessa Gibson is a lifelong resident of New York City, raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany and her MPA from CUNY Baruch College. During her senior year at SUNY Albany, Gibson interned for NYS Assembly Member Aurelia Greene.

Vanessa Gibson (right) with the late New York State Assembly Member and Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Greene (center) and Carmen Allende, Former CAB Board Member (left) at a BronxWorks event in 2004.

“Aurelia gave me a job in her office and she really transformed my life. She ultimately became my mentor and set me on my career in public service. It was an honor to work for her.”

In 2009, after Aurelia Greene became the Deputy Bronx Borough President, Gibson was elected to the NYS Assembly for District 77 in the Bronx, in succession of her mentor. She served in the NYS Assembly for four years. In 2013, Gibson was elected to the New York City Council for District 16, where she served for eight years, until in 2021 she was elected as the fourteenth Bronx Borough President, making history as the first woman and first African American to hold the office.

“What does it mean to me? It means that every day I wake up with a purpose. It means that I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, everything that they hoped and fought for. It means that I can be a role model for little girls and little boys in the Bronx that look just like me, that have the same struggles and sometimes the same insecurities. But they can see me and see their own hopes, their own dreams, and their own aspirations for a bright future.”

History With BronxWorks

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson speaks at the BronxWorks 50th Anniversary Gala.

Gibson first learned about BronxWorks, then the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), while working as the District Office Manager for Aurelia Greene in the early 2000s. The relationship grew throughout Gibson’s time in the State Assembly and City Council. She helped secure funding for important community programs, like our Early Childhood Learning Center at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (CMCC), Cornerstone Community Centers working with youth participants, and Older Adult Centers and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). As City Council Member, Gibson was integral in securing capital funds for critical renovations, including the CMCC pool, gym, and elevator. Furthermore, Gibson was an early champion for the BronxWorks Senior Homelessness Prevention Program (SHPP), helping to secure funding for the program for many years, which enabled BronxWorks to provide eviction prevention services to Bronx seniors, some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Then-City Council Member Gibson with BronxWorks leadership, staff, and participants at the opening of the BronxWorks Woodstock NORC in 2019.

“It just grew into a great relationship and it continued to blossom and bloom. When I became the Assembly Member and then in the City Council, I was able to support BronxWorks from a funding perspective and really work with the organization. And I made sure my neighboring colleagues also funded BronxWorks because they operated many centers in their districts as well.”

Then-City Council Member Gibson (second from right) with staff from the BronxWorks Farm Stands in 2020.

The relationship was cemented in our common objective to provide vital services to the communities of the Bronx. There is perhaps no bigger example of the importance of this alliance than during the COVID-19 pandemic. As City Council Member and later newly-elected Borough President, Gibson worked day-in and day-out with organizations like BronxWorks to provide the necessary services to help Bronx residents survive the emergency, navigate the unknown challenges, and receive resources and assistance. She was in regular contact with BronxWorks Executive Director Eileen Torres and other community leaders to understand the challenges on the streets and in the communities, to help address life-changing tragedies, and to continue to push the borough forward, to recover and rebuild stronger than before.

Then-City Council Member Vanessa Gibson (right) donates PPE to BronxWorks Executive Director Eileen Torres (left) in 2020.

“When you think about the pandemic and so many families struggling for basic necessities, it was BronxWorks that was open. Doors were never closed to serving our neighbors. We never closed our hearts to loving our clients and their families. Together, we have always been there, even when times are tough.”

Vision For The Bronx As Borough President

“My vision for the future of the Bronx is one of opportunity, is of making the Bronx a global destination, of making sure that we provide access and opportunities for our young people, from youth development to youth employment and pathways to college and careers and pathways to the middle class for families.”

President Gibson’s vision for the future of the Bronx include major projects, like renovations at Orchard Beach, Hunts Point Forward, Metro North Expansion, modernizing the Kingsbridge Armory, reimagining space for community use, for businesses and entrepreneurship, creating jobs, alleviating poverty, celebrating the vitality and history of the Bronx, of hip hop, of the hustle, diversity, and the pursuit of happiness throughout the borough.

“So I see that vision and I have that blueprint, and working with organizations like BronxWorks, we strive to get better and meet those targets every single day. We cannot do this work alone. We need partners at every angle, at every level to help support our vision. Because when we work together, when we align on the same priorities, we are truly unstoppable.”

 

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Lisbenny Salcedo

As a settlement house dedicated to uplifting the communities of the Bronx, a central tenet of our strategy is to hire from within our communities and then help our staff grow into leaders providing the critical services that our communities deserve and need. Case in point: Lisbenny Salcedo, Program Director, Park Haven Supportive Housing.  

Lisbenny was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. After she graduated high school in the DR, she came to New York to pursue higher education. It was not easy for Lisbenny as an English-language learner, but still she completed her Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the Borough of Manhattan Community College, followed by her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Management and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration both from John Jay College.  

Lisbenny joined BronxWorks in 2019, after completing her B.A. She started as a Housing Specialist at the Pyramid Safe Haven, helping prepare chronically street homeless clients for the housing application process and, ultimately, permanent or supportive housing.  

My favorite part of the job is being there when clients first see their apartments. That moment after all the work we’ve put in together through housing applications and interviews, seeing that work come to fruition, that’s what I loved most.” 

In 2021, when the Park Haven Supportive Housing Program opened, Lisbenny joined the team as the Assistant Program Director. She helped with the start of the new program, moving 50 clients, including 10 families, into permanent supportive housing, while helping to guide the program through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, Lisbenny was promoted to the Program Director of Park Haven. She brings to the role her experience and perspective working with homeless clients on the shelter side and in permanent supportive housing.  

The goals are very different. In the shelter, there is an ultimate outcome – housing placement. But in supportive housing, we work with clients for their lives and with their own goals, and they could be anything from education to employment to behavioral health, even relationships with their families. We get to see people grow into their lives after shelter, and it’s amazing.” 

Outside of work, Lisbenny spends a lot of time reading. She also loves going to the gym and considers it her daily therapy. She loves to find all kinds of occasions to meet up with her family and friends. 

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CMCC Pool Ribbon Cutting and BronxWorks Day Celebration

BronxWorks is grateful for the outpouring of support for our first ever BronxWorks Day celebration. Long-term partners, stakeholders, and friends gathered for the three-part event that included the long-awaited ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (CMCC) Pool, a tour of select BronxWorks offices and locations, and an evening cocktail reception in the CMCC gymnasium. Special thanks to our guests, New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez, who spoke about the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) that helped fund part of the pool renovations, and NYS Assembly Member Latoya Joyner, who also helped secure funding for the recent pool renovations. Thanks as well to Deputy Bronx Borough President Janet A. Peguero and New York City Council Member Althea Stevens for helping us commemorate the re-opening of this wonderful and important community resource. Finally, thanks to all of our guests who came out to experience the many facets of BronxWorks for a day and helped make it such an illuminating event. 

BronxWorks Day kicked off in the morning with the ribbon cutting of the CMCC Pool. Popular for its aquatics programming, and as one of the few community swimming resources for the surrounding neighborhoods, the CMCC Pool was closed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsure of how long the pandemic would require the pool’s closure, BronxWorks took the opportunity to complete renovations thanks to funding secured through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and NYS Assembly Member Latoya Joyner. We were joined by NYS Secretary of State Rodriguez; NYS Assembly Member Joyner; Deputy Bronx Borough President Janet A Peguero; NYC Council Member Althea Stevens; and Bronx Regional Representative, Fidel Malena from Governor Kathy Hocul’s office who helped us cut the ribbon.  

Following the ribbon cutting, two buses picked up our guests for a tour of selected BronxWorks sites, including our Morris and East Concourse Older Adult Centers, Park Haven Supportive Housing and Workforce Development offices, Jackson Avenue Family Residence, Westchester Avenue Safe Haven, and Bronx Point. Our guests met with program leadership and staff, participated in activities, and experienced a glimpse of some of the services BronxWorks provides every single day. Tours of BronxWorks programs are always important opportunities to show our partners and stakeholders the community impact that results from their support.  

BronxWorks Day culminated with a cocktail reception in the gymnasium at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center. Supporters mingled with BronxWorks board members and staff, helping us closeout the busy day with much needed food, refreshments, and heartfelt discussion. As big and complex as BronxWorks is, we always make sure to come together at every opportunity, to celebrate our work, each other, staff, friends, and supporters, and to connect over our mutual goals to support the communities of the Bronx.  

Click here to see more pictures from BronxWorks Day.

To see media coverage of the event, click below:

PIX 11
News 12 The Bronx
NY1 Noticias (en Espanol)

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BronxWorks 2023 Summer Youth Employment Program

Summer youth participants help run BronxWorks Farm Stands from July to August.

In the New York City social services landscape, the end of summer is foretold by the graduating Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) cohorts, tens of thousands of the city’s youth now equipped with new work experiences and skills.

This summer, BronxWorks SYEP enrolled 1,347 youth participants, from ages 14 to 24, across three initiatives. The first initiative was school-based, where BronxWorks partnered with four Bronx high schools (Frederick Douglas Academy, Careers in Sports High School, Academy for Language and Technology, and Bronx Leadership Academy II) to recruit SYEP participants. The second initiative recruited participants specifically from Bronx River New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents, and the third initiative was the open lottery for public applicants. This summer, BronxWorks SYEP received over three thousand applications to the open lottery.

A community group works with SYEP participants at BronxWorks.

ShaQuanna Cody-McGrew, Program Director, started to oversee the department’s youth workforce programs last year. “We inherited a great blueprint and team from previous years,” said Shaquanna. “My experience and community partnerships from Jobs Plus allowed us to expand programming, particularly with recruitment for the special initiative group from the Bronx River Houses.” As a result, BronxWorks SYEP exceeded their NYCHA participant targets from last year. To manage the over 1,300 participants, the SYEP team added 25 seasonal staff, including Program Assistants, Site Monitors, and Activity Specialists.

Some of the BronxWorks Summer staff and older youth participants who assisted with project-based learning groups.

Student participants were divided into two groups. The younger youth, ages 14 to 15, were separated into project-based learning groups, supervised by activity specialists. The groups developed different projects and activities and worked with community partners, such as Family Cook Productions and Arcturus Community Endeavors, to tackle a range of topics, like food preparation, nutrition, technology training, and more. Groups also organized and took trips to locations relevant to their projects. For their project-based work for the summer, youth participants received a stipend.

SYEP participants work together on learning more about technology and its application in the working world.

The older youth, ages 16 to 24, were assigned to a worksite to gain valuable job experience. The SYEP team works hard year-round to develop relationships with community partners to secure worksite placements for the summer. Worksites include large retailers like Kid City, CVS, and Burlington Coat Factory; local businesses and organizations like ASPCA, Association for Energy Affordability, Kraus Management Inc., New York Urban League, Rosa’s at Park, Sankofa Haus; as well as many BronxWorks sites, including Children & Youth Summer Camp Programs, Farm Stands, Shelters, and operations. Older youth participants were paid for their work. SYEP Site Monitors checked in with each participant and worksite supervisor to ensure compliance with program standards, mitigate any potential issues, and provide feedback to facilitate growth for the participants.

Nasir, an SYEP intern from the BronxWorks Administrative Building, who learned about maintenance and building operations.

When asked why SYEP is such an important and celebrated annual program for New York City, ShaQuanna said, “Having been in workforce development since 2015, our department is always concerned about how prepared our participants are with job readiness skills. SYEP imparts those skills and experiences on youth at a very early age, and when they are adults looking for jobs, they already have an understanding of what it takes.”

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ShaQuanna Cody-McGrew

When it comes to youth workforce programming, you would be hard pressed to find a more experienced and understanding provider than ShaQuanna Cody-McGrew. ShaQuanna’s advantage comes not only from her many years providing direct services to vulnerable members of New York City communities, but also from her own lived experiences.  

I got my GED. I attended community college and went on to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. My experience connects me to the participants in our programs.” 

ShaQuanna grew up in Brooklyn. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from Medgar Evers College, she started her career in social services at the Bowery Residents Committee. In 2010, ShaQuanna moved to the Bronx, and in 2015 she started at BronxWorks.  

I was looking for larger organizations to grow and develop professionally. I feel like when I came to BronxWorks, I found my home.” 

ShaQuanna started in the Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP) as a Case Manager. In 2017, she began her journey to leadership in the role of Senior Resource Coordinator for the inception of the Jobs Plus program. She was later promoted to Assistant Program Director, and finally as the Program Director in 2021. In October 2022, ShaQuanna became the Program Director of BronxWorks Youth Workforce Programs, which includes three adult literacy programs, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), and the corresponding Work, Learn, and Grow (WLG) program.  

To ShaQuanna, workforce programming is about shaping legacies for families. Just like how she was afforded opportunities to succeed through social programs, ShaQuanna is creating those same opportunities for her participants by motivating them to strive for greater heights while developing a mindset for community support. 

I feel like social services chose me. I saw how the work I did would affect the loves of others, and being a part of that became my drive and motivation. I was afforded opportunities because of agencies in my community, so being able to pay it forward is part of my life’s mission.” 

Outside of work, ShaQuanna is a devoted mother. She loves to spend time with her daughter, playing basketball, swimming, traveling, gaining new experiences and trying new restaurants.   

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