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DFOY @ Butler Community Center “On the Scene”!

On January 21st, 2015, Directions for Our Youth - Cornerstone Program at the Butler Houses Community Center hosted more than 100 children, parents, and community members during their “DFOY on the Scene” End of Cycle celebration. The celebration highlighted youth-led enrichment reflections, civic engagement projects and the accomplishments of our youth during the Fall cycle.

As parents and guests arrived, they were greeted by one of four “DFOY Ambassadors” (youth participants Christina Moor, Skylar Cordero, Ardayshia Prince, and Jamal Mohammed) who made sure their guests experienced everything the center had to offer. The tour covered various activities, including #Giving Tuesday - a day set aside where DFOY encourages youth, families and community partners to give back to organizations, that support their local or global community.

The Community Center, located at 1368 Webster Avenue in the Bronx, was full of life and participants were delighted to share with others what they had learned over the last four months. All of the projects showcased participants’ work around the advancements in S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and their exploration into future S.T.E.A.M. careers.

The evening came to a close with performances from the Center’s “Divas” Step Team and its Chorus, followed by a hot bowl of chili made fresh from the Center’s kitchen by DFOY Butler’s staff. Nieves Capellan, grandmother of 10 year old participant Kenyon Cooper, commented “I love what they do here…It is very motivating to see how much work the kids do as well as the blended age groups. The staff is very kind and patient and it is clear that the kids love being here!”

Mar 4
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Once You’re DFOY, You’re Always DFOY!

On Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 former participant Evinn Campbell (graduate of Van Nest Academy 2014) paid us a visit. As a participant here at DFOY, Evinn was loved both by fellow participants and staff members alike. His visit was quite exciting for us and truly indicated the belief that once you are part of the DFOY family, you are our family forever. As is evident from the photo, Evinn still possesses the sense of humor that made him such an uplifting and memorable part of our family. Evinn has had quite a successful high school career thus far and will be joining us this summer as a DYCD summer youth employment worker.


Mar 12
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Conservation Club Kicks Off with a Strong Start at DFOYBeacon/TASC 219

Conservation Club at Beacon/TASC DFOY 219 has been a great success thus far! Our participants are actively engaged in activities focusing on changing the environment they live in. Students have shown this by suggesting potential trips and activities that aim to educate their community on the “Triple R's” (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle). The Conservation Club’s hands-on activities have led to an increase in afterschool involvement. For example, participants demonstrated the concept of reusing by using old containers by planting pots and using egg shells in the process to create a richer soil. Furthermore, the participants have developed innovative ways to reuse a soda can. They suggested using their old soda cans to fill and water their plants, rather than wasting a cup.

As a result of these activities, the participants are becoming environmental awareness experts and leaders in their community. Kiara Wynter (DFOY Conservation Club participant and MS 219 8th grader) shared her feedback about the activity: “During Conservation Club we have learned about how to reuse and recycle. We had a chance to use dirt and soil to plant our sunflower seed. I really like that I get to do different things like change the world. We are also creating a song for end of cycle to help motivate people to recycle. We want to inform people that Conservation is fun! We want people to understand that doing things hands on-like planting-helps you to appreciate your community more because you actually created something beautiful and why would you want to mess that up. Some people destroy their communities because they are dirty! If everyone had Conservation Club in after school the world would be different and more people would recycle and take care of the earth.”


Mar 14
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On March 14th, 2015, Beacon/TACS DFOY 219 celebrated Pi Day along with New Venture Academy. Together, the schools participated in fun activities designed to educate the participants on the Pi mathematical symbol/number, as well as bring about a sense of community between the two schools. Activities on the agenda kept the participants engaged and informed about the history of Pi while focusing on Pi’s first 15 digits. Our participants’ first activity was to create a color coded Pi chain that included most of the Pi numbers that reached the length of an entire hallway. Participants also enjoyed the “Pi Challenge” - where participants were asked to memorize the first 15 digits of Pi; and those who recited the wrong numerical sequence were PIED!

Beacon/TACS DFOY 219 strives to create innovative activities that engage youth in a positive way while maintaining a fun learning atmosphere.

“The day was really fun! I got to meet other kids from a different school. We all created the Pi chain that was really long! I learned so much about Pi. I am only in Junior High School but when I get to High School I will be working on Pi in my math classes, so it’s good that I learned what it means now. When we had to memorize the Pi number I got pied! But now I know the first 15 numbers are 1415926535 89793,” Elisa Ortiz shared.

According to piday.org, Pi Day started 27 years ago at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. Physicist Larry Shaw, who worked in the electronics group at the museum, started celebrating “pi” on March 14th, 1988, primarily with museum staffers. The tradition has grown to embrace math enthusiasts from all walks of life.

This year’s Pi Day was extra important because the entire date matched up with the first 5 digits of Pi. Although Pi is an infinite number, our date has been the closest in decades! We are very fortunate that our Beacon/TACS DFOY 219 participants had the opportunity to learn about this very interesting Mathematical symbol and the origins of Pi.


DFOY Views “Selma” on MLK’s Birthday January 2015

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has always been a big deal at DFOY, especially at our DFOY Cypress Hills Community Center in Brooklyn. Last year, the Brooklyn DFOY site hosted a day of activities and commemorative tributes to Dr. King, which included a “mural of positivity” to encourage the center’s participants.

With “Dream Big” being one of DFOY’s most popular norms that govern how our DFOY youth think and act - it made perfect sense that this year DFOY participants (across four Bronx and Brooklyn sites) jumped at the opportunity to attend free screenings of the award winning movie “Selma,” sponsored in partnership with Paramount Pictures and 27 New York City business leaders. After the screenings, participants shared their reactions, understandings and reflections on the movie. The historical events depicted, along with account of the life and work of legendary “big dreamer” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), inspired youth like Jasir Bosnick, of DFOY Cypress Hills, to express his feeling that the movie encouraged him to “dare to dream” even when faced with obstacles and adversity. Newly enrolled DFOY Beacon 219 participant, Kyeretwie Boatieng, shared that the movie made him sad because he believes “that everyone should be treated equally” because “we are all human.” Kyeretwie, who emigrated from Ghana just four months ago, had never heard of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. until the screening.

When interviewed after her viewing of “Selma,” DFOY Beacon/TASC MS 219 participant Denisha Dollard, shared that watching “Selma” helped her “understand that the struggle that people of color have gone through in America is real” and that [the film helped] her appreciate “where we are now.”

The opportunity for our participants to view and to be inspired by Americans who dared to dream of a better country for themselves and future generations has helped encourage our youth to join our youth leadership activities, like our DFOY Youth Council. DFOY Youth Council is an advocacy and peer leadership activity offered across all DFOY middle school programs. Youth are encouraged, even more so now, to learn how to use their personal and collective power, voice, and choice to take their place as DFOY “agents of change in their local and global communities” much like the leaders they saw depicted in “Selma.”


“Stepping to Their Own Beat”

DFOY Step Teams Tackle Tough Topics Winter 2015

Sometimes step is about the rhythm, sometimes it is about the timing, and sometimes it’s about the precision. Sometimes “step” is just about step and becomes just another chance to choreograph and perform. This program year, DFOY’s premier step teams: “Unity” from our DFOY SONYC MS 181 (Co-Op City, Bronx) and the “Divas” from our DFOY Butler Houses Cornerstone Community Center (Morrisania, South Bronx) locations took their passion and creativity beyond “step.”

DFOY step teams “Divas” and “Unity” lent their voices as champions for social awareness issues as well. The teams included their perspectives as a part of their entry performances into the NIKE and Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) co-sponsored “2015 Step It Up” Competition. DYCD charged all “Step It Up” entrants to choreograph original performances interwoven with presentations and messages that would inspire social change. The two DFOY teams, unaware of each other’s processes for choosing their social awareness topics, surprisingly chose to address the same issue: “bullying.”

The DFOY “Divas” used consensus to weigh the importance of the issue to the group. The team’s coach, Instructor Esther Martial, reported that hotbed debates and topics surrounding the death of Michael Brown and the treatment of minorities and some personal experience with bullying inspired the team’s choice of topic. The DFOY “Unity” step team selected “bullying” as their focus because many of the members related to the topic. The program norm, which each member of the DFOY program strives to uphold and protect, is the norm of keeping DFOY a “bully-free zone.”

As we become more aware of our connections as members of cultures and societies, we communicate our expectations and needs. Sometimes our expectations and needs are shared and even shaped in response to the presence of undesirable conditions. These less than desirable conditions motivated both of our amazing DFOY step teams to demonstrate their self-awareness by identifying and communicating their concerns like true “agents of change.” This is exactly what DFOY’s mission strives to inspire youth to do: empower themselves by using their personal power, voice, and choice for change through youth leadership activities and opportunities. These activities include our “My Sister’s Keeper” gender-specific youth empowerment and leadership activity, in which both step teams participate.

The instructor of the DFOY MS 181 “Unity Steppers,” Ms. Shardelle Anderson, shared “A lot of the [steppers] start out with not being able to say who they are nor even have the confidence to do something they want to do. A lot of [the youth] were known to follow instead of lead…speaking out about anti-bullying helped [the DFOY Youth] realize that they are important…and they are as beautiful as me or you.”


Dance to make the team stronger! DFOY @ MS.498 - 2/27/15

On Friday, February 27th, 2015 DFOY participants and staff took a moment to build the family bonds through the art of dance. In a completely spontaneous moment, DFOY participants formed a soul train line and proceeded to boogie the day away during “DFOY Lounge.” Every single member of the DFOY498 middle school family joined in this soul train line. It was such a fun moment of innocent fun and laughter and it was such a wonderful way to make our family here stronger.


DFOY @ Butler Community Center “On the Scene”! 1/21/15

On January 21st, 2015, Directions for Our Youth - Cornerstone Program at the Butler Houses Community Center hosted more than 100 children, parents, and community members during their “DFOY on the Scene” End of Cycle celebration. The celebration highlighted youth-led enrichment reflections, civic engagement projects and the accomplishments of our youth during the Fall cycle.

As parents and guests arrived, they were greeted by one of four “DFOY Ambassadors” (youth participants Christina Moor, Skylar Cordero, Ardayshia Prince, and Jamal Mohammed) who made sure their guests experienced everything the center had to offer. The tour covered various activities, including #Giving Tuesday - a day set aside where DFOY encourages youth, families and community partners to give back to organizations, that support their local or global community.

The Community Center, located at 1368 Webster Avenue in the Bronx, was full of life and participants were delighted to share with others what they had learned over the last four months. All of the projects showcased participants’ work around the advancements in S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and their exploration into future S.T.E.A.M. careers.

The evening came to a close with performances from the Center’s “Divas” Step Team and its Chorus, followed by a hot bowl of chili made fresh from the Center’s kitchen by DFOY Butler’s staff. Nieves Capellan, grandmother of 10 year old participant Kenyon Cooper, commented “I love what they do here…It is very motivating to see how much work the kids do as well as the blended age groups. The staff is very kind and patient and it is clear that the kids love being here!”



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