At the end of December, Counseling In Schools (CIS) and A-Tech High School, a vocational training and Community School in Brooklyn, hosted a Holiday Food and Coat Drive for students and their families, staffed by teachers, administrators and other school volunteers. The event came together after a school-wide survey confirmed families were more in need of winter essentials than ever this holiday season, due to the effects of Covid-19. Though A-Tech usually procures donated coats from a local agency, this year Akua Aboagye, Counseling In Schools’ Student Wellness Coordinator at A-Tech, was informed that the organization had run out of adult winter coats due to the pandemic. A-Tech's A-Tech Cares program helps connect students with basic needs. Aboagye took it upon herself to organize a coat drive for the school community, receiving more than 50 donations from Operation Warm, a local non-profit, and Michelle Matland of MSM Design Studio, a New York City costume designer for TV and film including HBO’s Succession and TBS’s The Last OG, starring Tracy Morgan.  Students' physical needs need to be met before they can find hope and healing, and as a Community School dedicated to ensuring that children are physically, emotionally, and socially prepared to learn, A-Tech and CIS always make it a priority to help their community access essential, basic resources. Holiday "gift bags" filled with food and paper goods sit lined up on a table before families and students arrive to collect them. A-Tech had a number of turkeys donated locally to distribute to families for their winter holiday meals. ...

During the summer of 2019, Counseling in Schools (CIS) and high school students from the Heritage School in East Harlem began partnering with Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena, Senior Scholar-in-Residence at The New York Academy of Medicine, to address the issue of gun violence in their community. Unfortunately, the Heritage School community is no stranger to the impact of gun violence, as it is both a pressing concern in their neighborhood and just a few years ago, a high school student was killed in close proximity to the school building. Dr. Laraque-Arena reached out to CIS looking for young people to participate in a research project on how to effectively respond to the gun violence epidemic in the United States. CIS connected her with the Heritage School and soon after, five students were chosen for a summer internship. Working with Dr. Laraque-Arena and graduate students at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, they adapted a community assessment tool from UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative to document youth perspectives on gun violence and invite their opinions regarding intervention measures. Heritage H.S. students meet with Dr. Laraque-Arena and others to begin work on the gun violence community assessment tool. Each week the students participate in meetings, becoming an integral part of the scientific process, and learning practical skills that they can use in college and their future careers, such as how to work in a group setting, conduct themselves in a professional environment, and meet deadlines. This work also helps empower the students and involve them in the process of promoting positive social change in their community. The group has continued their work into the current school year, and are now finalizing the survey tool, which they will first implement with a small group before distributing schoolwide. The results will be presented in Spring 2021...

With spring break around the corner and summer close in its trail, Counseling in Schools is reflecting on our community successes. With the promising results of the Rand report as our motivator, we’re taking our time to review how far our SMART Goals have brought us.  Today’s spotlight is on The Bronx Mathematics Preparatory School, where our counselors have been making significant strides since our partnership began in 2015. Key takeaways:  During the 2016-2017 school year, the school saw an 7.5% increase in reading proficiency in our young scholars, and a 4% increase in math proficiency.During the 2017-2018 school year, math proficiency increased another 5%, and reading .5%. During the 2018-2019 school year our students achieved a 4% increase in reading proficiency and an 8.5% increase in math proficiency.Overall from 2015 to the 2019-2020 school year, Bronx Math has seen a 12% increase in school-wide reading proficiency, and a 17.5% increase in school-wide math proficiency.  During the 2020-2021 school year, we will continue to work towards our goals of 100% graduation rates, increased attendance, increased family and community engagement, and thriving communities. As we’ve seen in Bronx Math, our continued efforts to address the systemic issues that interfere with our scholars’ ability to engage with their education have proven successful over the past years. We are eager to create sustainable change that supports our scholars as they create the future for us all. ...