I’m excited to share that Kids Creative has been awarded not one, but two 21st Century Community Learning Center grants from the New York State Department of Education! These highly competitive grants were awarded to just 122 programs and school districts across NY State that provide supplemental services and enrichments to students most in need of support.
The Round 7 21st Century grants reflect the Department of Education’s belief in the educational and developmental goals being met through Kids Creative programs, particularly our highly successful Round 6 grant, which ended June 30, 2017. We are honored to be recognized in this way and are excited to continue the very real difference we’re making in the lives of our students and their families.
The funding will help to expand our work at ROCK 2 The Bronx at The Joseph O. Loretan Campus in the Bronx, which includes PS 536, Archer Elementary School and Bronx Little School, as well as at PS 102 in East Harlem. We have served these communities since 2011 and 2008 respectively and are excited to be able to offer even more youth the creative, critical thinking and social skills necessary to make peace within themselves and in society.
For more information on the award, feel free to check out this release from the Education Department.
I hope you join me in applauding the efforts of our students and staff at ROCK 2 The Bronx and PS
At Kids Creative, our top priority is the physical and emotional wellbeing of our students. Earlier this year, I wrote about how we create an environment that is both physically safe and emotionally welcoming for students from all backgrounds. We recognize that when parents send their children to our programs, they are placing their ultimate trust in Kids Creative, and we take that responsibility extremely seriously. With that commitment in mind, I want to elaborate on the many ways we protect the safety and wellbeing of our kids.
First and foremost, Kids Creative has a rigorous screening process to find the most qualified staff for our programs and to ensure all employees share our creative and educational mission and commitment to the safety of our students.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity. Join Kids Creative on Wednesday, March 8th to Celebrate the Role of Women in Our Organization
Kids Creative was founded 17 years ago as an outlet for kids to share ideas and have their voices heard. From the beginning, women have played a major part in our leadership and growth as an organization, as they have in many nonprofit and educational settings. We have worked hard to lift up the voices of each of our participants and leaders, but 17 years later, there is still a struggle for women’s voices and needs to take priority in greater society. This year, International Women’s Day on March 8th, has taken on new significance, offering a poignant call to highlight just how integral a role women play in society. The Women's March has called for International Women's Day on March 8th to be "A Day Without a Woman" to raise these issues and to truly drive home the significant contribution that over 50% of the population have on society.
The Women’s March is asking businesses to participate in A Day Without a Woman to show solidarity with women, potentially even striking that day. Kids Creative runs daily programming for children ages 4-18, providing essential services to majority women-led households, including single mother households, grandmothers raising grandchildren, lesbian and trans parents and two-income households. Women make up over 70% of our staff, our schools are 50% led by women and our Board of Directors is 50% women as well. This is especially acute when considering the impact of women of color and immigrant women, who make up a large proportion of our families and staff and who traditionally face greater challenges in society. We also want to recognize our role in contributing to and breaking the pay gap between men and women. Women get paid 77¢ to a dollar for a man...if they are white. For black women that drops to just, 64 cents and Hispanic women make 56 cents to every dollar. According to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, the gap is changing but it is changing very slowly. “If change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 44 years—or until 2059—for [White] women to finally reach pay parity. Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.”
If each of these people did not contribute to Kids Creative on a daily basis, we would not be able to function. If all women at Kids Creative took the day to strike, we would not be able to operate programs safely and effectively. We would have to inform families that we would not be able to provide a space for their children after school, and close programs for the day. The fact that we cannot close our programs for one day because of women shows the impact women have on our organization!
So practically, how can we show solidarity, celebrate the women and girls in our organization and still support our families?
The Women's March suggests a few ways to do so:
1. Take the day away from our jobs to show our impact.
2. Don't spend money.
3. Wear red.
We are determined to support the International Women's Day and here's how:
-On Wednesday, March 8th, we will review all staff contracts and hiring procedures to ensure that we are truly equitable in our staffing.
-On Wednesday, March 8th, we will do our best to not spend money (both personally and as a company).
-On Wednesday, March 8th, we will request that all staff who report to programs wear red in solidarity.
-On Wednesday, March 8th, all programs will create positive rally signs and hold rallies or conduct lessons where we will learn about the contributions of women and people from marginalized communities, and provide lesson plans for community building, peace building and structural violence.
-On Wednesday, March 8th, we will invite families to join us at the school to engage in conversations around gender equity.
-On Wednesday, March 8th, we will explore ways to be upstanders, for our families to feel safe and to protect their communities, both their immediate community and the community at large.
March 8th offers a peaceful way for us to celebrate, rise up and be heard. This is not a political or partisan issue. If we truly value everyone's voice, it is our obligation to honor them not only with words but also action. We hope you will join us to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Kids Creative prides ourselves on creating a safe space where everyone can join to create and explore their imaginations without fear of being teased or bullied. We believe this for all of our program participants, regardless of race, religion, learning style, physical ability or country of origin (this is especially important right now). The ban on immigrants, particularly those who are seeking refuge from violence, is unfathomable. We have a responsibility to create guidelines that welcome others into our country, our city, our schools and our camp, not shut them out. Saying "No" to others without hearing their viewpoints creates an unsafe environment and makes it much more difficult to resolve conflicts with them and to build a safe community that encompasses everyone.
So how do we at Kids Creative make a space that welcomes everyone? It takes a lot of groundwork, but here are 2 key ways that we make our space safe.
1. Make the learning area as physically safe as possible. Physical safety is essential--without it, learning is not possible. While we can't control all factors that may make a space unsafe, we can minimize hazards immensely by removing anything that is unsafe before beginning our program.
So what does this mean for something as important as immigration policy? We believe that everyone is welcome here. We are responsible for creating a safe space for everyone and making them feel safe. It is our responsibility to invite them in, and our collective responsibility to build a community that is respectful for all.
I haven't written for a while. But now is not a time to stay silent. We have to provide our youth (and ourselves) the tools to take action and face the growing negativity that is flooding our media, political sphere and classrooms.
Our peace education philosophy, which is based on the concepts "All ideas are good" and "Yes, and...", is more important now than ever. As an inclusive program that enrolls kids from all different walks of life, with different learning needs, socio-economic backgrounds, neighborhoods, etc., the thing that brings everyone together is our positive approach to learning, to listening, to growing and to creating together.
Saying "yes, and..." in a group where there is no teasing or fake teasing, we validate each other in a safe space. We may not always agree, but we challenge ourselves to listen and engage. Our programs are built around sharing creative ideas, validating those ideas and shaping them as a collective into stories, like underwater portals to other dimensions filled with mermaids, giants and half peacock, half jaguar.
On the surface, these stories seem like just "child's play", but they represent something much more. The stories themselves have lessons to teach the audience about conflict and resolution. In addition, what we learn through the creative process is that sharing an idea in a safe space is just the first step. The real work comes from joining together to shape the ideas into a viable presentation. Each student and teacher must identify what matters most to them, what makes them excited, what makes them nervous or uncomfortable, and learn how to negotiate those issues with their classmates.
So in the era of "No", we have to challenge ourselves and our students to say "Yes, and..." and to be positive about new ideas. That is peace education in action.
The tragic events of this past weekend at The Pulse in Orlando brought sorrow to many in the Kids Creative community, particularly our LGBTQ and Latino/a staff and families. June is both Gun Violence Awareness Month and Pride Month and we need to send love to Orlando, to the grieving families, to the entire LGBT community and to our communities that know gun violence way too well.
However, sending love is only one step. We also need to fight for equality and for peace.
For Kids Creative, this weekend's horrible events were sandwiched by events of peace. On Saturday, our high school apprentices did a reading of their original play, "Undecided", which portrayed a teen who was shunned by his family for being gay. He runs away (in true Kids Creative fashion, he runs away on a shuttle to Mars) and meets another teen, Mac, and together they fight the bigotry of hate. They are accepted by Mac's family immediately, an eye-opening experience for our protagonist. However, the play ends with violence, a gun shot from the protagonist's father killing the protagonist's mother, accidentally shot during a fit of rage. This group of students created this play together using the motto "All ideas are good" and tackled these issues head on, not concerned with identities and perceptions. They left us with hope and recognizing that there is still so much work to do.
The other event was on Monday, after we learned of the Orlando shooting. The Kids Creative summer leadership staff gathered in that same room for our annual Peace & Culture training before summer camp. To start off each training, we join together in a circle and take three steps. First, we think about everything we brought into that training--news of tragedy, illness, a bad commute, etc. We look up, take a step in and we leave all of that behind us. We are now in a new space as a group. Second, we take a step back and recognize our new community, creating a collective force field to tackle any difficult issues together. Finally, we step in once again, this time recognizing our new space and acknowledging that we're in this together.
It is increasingly necessary to discuss gun violence with children. This is not an easy topic. We must be transparent with our kids about what steps we are taking to make sure they, and we, are safe. Our hope is that using "All ideas are good," we can create a space where we listen to each other and achieve a lasting, sustainable peace, where differences are recognized and appreciated and conflicts are solved through communication, rather than violence.
Today, we change the Kids Creative logo to Orange to honor the start of National Gun Violence Awareness Month.
Gun violence is a pressing issue for many NYC communities. Kids Creative is joining city officials and organizations to bring visibility to ending gun violence through a city-wide campaign, “Go Orange.”
We all have a role to play in stopping gun violence, especially the Arts. But How do we, as artists, prevent gun violence?
We need see gun violence prevention as a Long Term issue. We are not police, we cannot stop a gun from going off. However, if we look to tackle gun violence in the long term, we can identify many solutions. We have to take a step back and think about what circumstances led to someone using a gun at all.
When we consider conflicts in Kids Creative, confidence is key:
The choice to use a gun in an altercation starts well before someone even has the altercation or picks up the gun. Kids Creative uses the arts to empower children to have a voice. They get to be the creative drivers of their own lives. Our participants have the ability to use their imaginations and develop their ideas into a piece of music, art or theater. However, they also have the responsibility to listen to the ideas of others and to truly consider their input on a larger scale. Being able to take a step back, hear the ideas of others and use empathy is one step to resolve conflicts using non-violent methods.
Many members of the Kids Creative family (students and staff) live in areas with high incidents of gun violence. Our programs provide a safe space for students and staff alike. They give them the opportunity to imagine a world where guns don’t have to exist, and where conflicts are resolved peacefully.
The next time you help empower a child to resolve their conflict peacefully, you are giving that child an alternative to using a gun. For us at Kids Creative, that is what Going Orange is all about.
Show your support by wearing orange and telling your friends why.
What happens when some of NYC's most talented actors meet Kids Creative Board Members, supporters, families and campers in Lower Manhattan? It's Kids Creative Accomplice, a mystery walking adventure/fundraiser in Lower Manhattan, where improvisation and "Yes, and" drive the experience and lead to a solution!
This past Sunday, May 15th, 6 teams from Kids Creative took the challenge of solving the mystery of Accomplice New York, while raising essential funds for KC programs in NYC. The groups met at our generously donated space at Riad Represents at WeWork Wall Street, and followed a variety of clues through NYC's most amazing and fascinating neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan. Each group used the 6 C's to solve the mystery of...wait! We can't give it away. Stay tuned for the next Kids Creative Accomplice so you can experience it for yourselves! Join our mailing list to find out about our next adventure.
See below for some pictures of the event:
NYC public schools just finished spring break and the kids in our programs are back, refreshed and ready to learn. Our kids at Kids Creative's Rock 2 The Bronx took part in a Spring Break Camp that allowed them to do things we can't do during the rest of the school year, like take full day field trips and play sports ALL day long. Here's why Spring Break is so much more than just fun for kids.
1. The mind needs a break
Your kids work hard all year. They commit themselves during the school day to academics and during the after school programs to writing music, creating art, prepping for olympics, training capoeira and other great, exciting things. In order for them to appreciate everything they work so hard to achieve, they need time to unwind and relax. It's exhausting being that awesome!
2. Going outside:
During the year, kids don't spend enough time running around outside. Even when they do, it's limited. Breaks mean they get time to just run and roam in a safe space. It means releasing energy that is pent up so they can learn better. Kids also learn by doing. Running around a playground allows them to explore their surroundings and learn directly from their environment.
3. Discover the world!
Whether it's traveling far or staying in NYC, taking a break means kids at our programs get to take field trips to museums, shows, city parks and even an amusement park. Getting outside school walls allows them to expand our horizons and be excited to return to share what they've learned. Consider taking a mini day trip over the weekend during Spring Break so kids can see more of the world, even if it's just another part of NY. The change of scenery will do everyone well.
4. Hanging out with friends and family:
During the school year, kids don't get to see their communities nearly as much as on break. They're in a school environment and interact with their friends within the context of tests and high pressure learning. When on break, kids should be encouraged to hang out with their friends and family in no-pressure situations where they just need to focus on having fun and being silly. Try to go visit a friend or family member with your kids after work, even if it's only for an hour.
5. Seeing Mom or Dad work is important
If you're able to, take your kid to work one day over their break. This allows them to see what you do all day. It is also an excellent opportunity to talk about what they want to be when they grow up and what path might lead them there. It's important for kids to see their parents enjoying a career. This is how they will learn to find a career that brings them joy. Before long, your little one will be making choices related to their career path so it's never too early to start this dialogue.
Spring break can be lots of fun but sometimes it takes a bit of planning on the part of you, the parent, to ensure that it is truly a mental break for kids. You've got a ton on your plate so be realistic about what you have the energy for. Even a one hour daily break in routine during spring break can make a big difference in helping your child truly relax and be more focused during the school year.