Everybody wins when students and the community connect with one another. But, of course, there are challenges to making the most of these relationships. After hearing the same challenges over and over again, we posed these “Community Connection Challenges” to our CBO Network. These organizations help us fully understand the experience of organizations working with schools. Click the links for their expert advice:
“I just got invited to a school, but I have no idea what to say or do! How do I prepare for my visit?”
Elizabeth Bliss is the former Executive Director of the Children’s Hope Foundation, dedicated to providing services for children with HIV/AIDS. She discusses the importance of coordinating with the Penny Harvest Coach before a presentation.
|ADVICE FROM CHILDREN’S HOPE FOUNDATION|
|Your related challenge: When training new staff who did not have experience working with kids, I also struggled to help others feel comfortable selecting age-appropriate language and content choices.How you overcame it: The very best resource when preparing for a visit is the classroom teacher! You should have a short conversation in advance to discuss the plan and your apprehensions. I kept the content limited and simple, and also allowed for a structured type of question/answer. I was nervous that kids would ask questions about HIV, AIDS, sex, transmission, sexuality, and other topics that would catch me off guard. I had the teacher collect the questions in advance from the students. I was able to preview the questions and select which ones to answer (and how!).General advice for another CBO: Ask lots of questions in advance! Simple is better. Do not try to modify or tweak documents used for fundraising/PR purposes that are intended for an adult audience (I’ve been in that trap – you run out of time, grab what’s on the front desk, and make copies…it’s a recipe for disaster!). It might make sense to engage a really eager volunteer to help create materials for you and pull together resources in advance.|
“My organization deals with difficult issues, sometimes involving death. How do I talk to kids honestly about these issues without scaring them or overstepping my boundaries?”
June Paley, Ozanam Hall staff, discusses talking about sensitive issues with students during their visits to the facility. Ozanam Hall is a geriatric rehabilitation center in Bayside, Queens.
|ADVICE FROM OZANAM HALL|
|Your challenge: Every time I meet with the groups of children they ask me how many people die at the Nursing Home.How you overcame it: I ask the child if anyone in his or her family has died. If they say yes, I ask them to share about that and then I ask other children to share their loss. If not, then I ask them what their concern is regarding death and talk about that.Advice to other CBOs: Do not avoid tough conversations. Try asking students questions about their own experiences with the issue before making assumptions about what they do or don’t understand.|
“My organization only allows volunteers over age 18. How do I create a service project that will be meaningful for students and my organization?”
Anne Hughes-Hinnen, Foundations Relations Coordinator, details her commitment to engaging students in service. God’s Love We Deliver, which delivers nutritious meals to people living with serious illnesses, attracts 10-15 grants every year.
|ADVICE FROM GOD’S LOVE WE DELIVER|
|Your related experience: Most of our volunteer work is in our kitchen (where we need to be concerned about sharp knives) or delivering to clients (where there is anonymity concern).How you overcame the challenge: I developed a “greeting card” program, where children are invited to create cards for the clients, which are delivered with the meals. This has been warmly welcomed.Advice to other CBOs: Think…there’s something students can do, even if it’s just to get the word out about what you do!|
“I just got a Penny Harvest grant. I want to give the students validation so they continue to care about the work my organization does in the future. How do I let them know how thankful we are?”
As recipients of many Penny Harvest grants, Claire Worley, Office Manager, and Pat Comerford, Director of Communications and Development for The Child Abuse Prevention Program (CAPP) explain how they appreciate their grants. CAPP conducts workshops for NYC school children about their right to be safe from child abuse.
|ADVICE FROM CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION CENTER|
|Your related challenge: CAPP is enormously grateful for the support we have received from the school Roundtables. We have continuously tried to find the most effective ways to show our appreciation.How you overcame it: Last year we created a special “puppet thank you” to send to the schools, it featured a photo of our puppets counting pennies and their signatures.Advice to other CBOs: Create a thank you that relates to your mission that will appeal to children.|
Read about how these partnerships between Penny Harvest schools and organizations keep getting better and better over time.
PS 59 in the Bronx and St. Barnabas Hospital: Students’ concern over the pediatric waiting room triggers a mural project and lifelong lessons in healthy living.
|PS 59 AND ST. BARNABAS|
|The PS 59 Roundtable in the Bronx decided they were concerned about children’s health and
decided to spruce up the pediatric waiting room at their local hospital, St. Barnabas. They met with an ER doctor at the hospital who talked to them about the reasons children come to the hospital and about how they can stay healthy. Together, they developed a plan for the children to create a mural to hang in the waiting room. The following September, there was a mural unveiling with students, parents, doctors, hospital trustees, and the media. Students were given a framed certificate in honor of their hard work. A few weeks later, students told the Penny Harvest Coach that they were afraid of the staff infection. The Coach called her contacts at St. Barnabas, and doctors came to the school to soothe their fears. The students were then inspired to make a public service announcement that St. Barnabas can use to educate other schools about the infection.
P.S. 27 in Brooklyn and the New York Says Thank You Foundation: Students send two local firefighters to Texas to rebuild after a tornado.
|PS 27 AND NEW YORK SAYS THANK YOU FOUNDATION|
|The P.S. 27 Roundtable in Brooklyn found the New York Says Thank You Foundation on The Organization Finder last year. Students called Jeff Parness, the Executive Director, and asked him to make a presentation in front of their school. He talked with students about what families who have been affected by natural disasters go through and then showed a video and slideshow on how volunteers help these victims each year on the anniversary of 9/11. The Roundtable was so inspired that they sent two firefighters from their local firehouse to go to Texas this past fall to rebuild after a tornado. After the trip, Jeff and the two firefighters presented their trip to the whole school, including the principal, teachers, and parents. Many parents approached Jeff afterwards to ask how they could help, and he now has more volunteers who are interested in helping out for next year’s trip.|
P.S. 87 in Queens and the Middle Village Adult Center: Students grant money to the Center every year, all the while giving – and gaining – more each time.
|PS 87 AND MIDDLE VILLAGE ADULT CENTER|
|A few years ago, the PS 87 Roundtable in Queens went on a community walk and decided to learn more about a senior center, the Middle Village Adult Center. Students visited the Center, took a tour with the Director, and met with some of the seniors to learn more about the issues facing the elderly and the programs the center offers. Students decided to award $440 to the Center as well as spend time helping to teach dance classes, set the dinner tables, and bake with the seniors. The Center featured the students in their newsletter and sent it, along with certificates, to every student. The students now regularly spend time with the seniors both onsite and at school, through a school-based mentorship program the Center has established.|
P.S. XX and Your Organization: Do you have a story to tell about working with Penny Harvest schools? Contact us at 212-579-0579. We can feature it on our website or in an e-newsletter.