It has been a full year that staff and students have been working remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic began. One usually celebrates anniversaries, and that is what I’d like to do here. With all the losses of this past year, I am proud to say at Comprehensive Youth Development we rise up!
Through the creativity of our staff, we have been able to conduct online individual sessions, host career panels, support college representative visits, implement college and career fairs, and, most of all, help 90% of our graduating class prepare plans for life after high school. This has been no easy feat, but to meet the needs of our students staff have extended their days, met with young people on weekends, and have done numerous follow up calls to keep students connected. We’ve hosted movie and basketball nights, and a host of fun activities to engage and lift the spirits of our students. Our board stepped up to supply hotspots to students in need. Our Development team created an up-to-date Resources page to help families find housing, food, and mental health services. Our motto throughout this year: “We may be socially disconnected but we are not emotionally disconnected!”
I also want to celebrate the vaccine getting out across the city and the return to school for our high school students this week.
As we move toward the full opening of schools in the fall, we will face challenges going forward, among them:
• Employment for our older youth while the city is in an economic recovery. Our recent webinar, Preparation Meets Opportunity, highlighted CYD’s healthcare certificate training program for alumni at the Career Academy, which is a partnership with Borough of Manhattan Community College. The Academy’s methodology and program components are transferable across sectors and highlights the way short-term training can lattice into higher education and sustainable employment for 18–24-year-olds.
• We know that students will return with increased emotional wellness needs after all they’ve experienced over this year. We have applied for funding to add several social workers to our teams to help students with these concerns.
• Advocacy for resources for high school and older youth is a number one priority for CYD. We know that in these times an already underserved population can be left behind. We are working with elected officials and several coalitions to ensure that the needs of those we serve is on top of the fiscal agenda for New York City.
• Finally, equity for all has been at the heart of CYD’s mission for 25 years. We continue that fight by educating our students and working across areas of education, workforce, advocacy, and culture to make sure everyone has access and a seat at the table. We will be further developing our leadership programming to include peer leadership in equity, civics, and diversity training.
Today I celebrate making it through together, being grateful for your support, and that the next few months we will begin the process of healing and focusing on the future of all those we serve. Here’s to looking forward!
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