Our commitment to meet pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service hasn't changed since 1987. What has changed is the needs of our Community Partners and the communities they serve. So how does New York Cares assess what's pressing in 2020 and create volunteer-run programs that make the most significant impact? We go to the source - our Community Partners. Learn more about some of the needs we're hearing about in 2020 and how everyday New Yorkers are responding.
ELL (English Language Learners)
Many of our NYC public school partners have large populations of English Language Learners. In fact, 13.5% of students in the district are designated ELL. Which is no surprise considering our city is home to over three million immigrants, and more than 49% of the population speaks another language. Many ELL students need extra academic support, particularly in reading. In 2018, only a quarter of 3rd grade ELL students scored "proficient" on the state English Language Arts tests, compared to the citywide average of 55%. Supporting ELL students is a major priority for both the DOE and our school partners.
In 2019, we started piloting a reading program for ELL students at PS 196 K in Brooklyn. Our ELL projects help students build literacy skills by reading one-on-one or in small groups and engaging in other activities related to phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. We are now running ELL projects at PS 359 X in the Bronx and plan to expand to more schools in 2020. Early results have shown that nearly all students have increased by 1-2 reading levels on average!
SEL (Social Emotional Learning)
Social-Emotional Learning has been another topic of conversation among our education partners in the last year, with both the DOE and Mayor DeBlasio stressing its importance. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) gives students the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to:
1. Understand and manage emotions
2. Set and achieve positive goals
3. Feel and show empathy for others
4. Establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions
SEL programs can increase students' academic performance, reduce behavior problems, and help children succeed in college and beyond.
Our SEL program evolved in conversations with our partner schools and our School Success team. In 2019, we worked on assessing school needs and began using resources provided by Sanford Harmony, a partner with the NYC Department of Education and the fastest-growing Pre-K-6 grade SEL program in the nation. SEL enrichment programs are now running at two of our partner schools: PS 330 Q and PS/IS 366 M. Together, our students and volunteers have completed lessons on themes including diversity, empathy, problem-solving, and building positive peer relationships.
Parent and Caregiver Engagement
Research shows that students with parents/caregivers who are involved in their education earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and fewer behavioral problems. Unfortunately, obstacles such as income, language barriers, and access to technology can prevent families from being able to participate in their child's education.
In 2019, we began piloting our Parent and Caregiver Engagement Program at six schools in the Bronx and Queens. We are now in the first full year of the pilot and have already trained 65 parents as volunteers. Each volunteer program is designed to meet the unique needs of the school and is evolving as we go. Parents and caregivers can serve as classroom parents, read to students, chaperone field trips, act as hallway and lunch monitors, serve on PTA and Student Leadership Teams, and support after school programs.
We look forward to continuing to explore ways of engaging families in meaningful service that supports school communities.
The Bottom Line
As the needs of our city evolve, it is critical that our programs do as well. While these pilot programs are still in their early stages, our ongoing education projects organically involve community engagement, social-emotional learning, and literacy tools. Stay tuned as these pilot programs expand, and volunteers continue to meet the needs of our city in new and meaningful ways!