“I was not going to give up, so I applied aggressiveness and went for it.”
Ashlye was a student of KCC’s Project Rise in 2014. She entered the program having already completed the requisite credits for high school completion at the Bronx Aerospace Academy, but was denied a diploma on a technicality. While she had a passion for a job in the aviation industry, she knew that in order to support herself and her daughter, she would need to change her immediate career prospects.
Upon attending an information session, program administrators, Norma D’Arancio and Victoria Bershtat, urged her to enroll telling her that she had the skills to rapidly excel in the program. The commute was long but knowing that “the further I had to [travel] to get an education, the more I’d want it.” This momentum began the moment she started.
On Tuesday, March 22, Dina LiMandri and Genesis Reyes will present at the 2016 NYAETP Youth Conference about CEWD’s successful approach to youth programming.
A strong relationship between the program counselor and participant cannot be overstated. A report by MDRC, Reconnecting Disconnected Young Adults: the Early Experiences of Project Rise, which featured KCC’s Project Rise, notes that the caring relationships between participants, case managers, instructors and staff promoted persistence and success. Participants interviewed for the report describe the staff as “invested, relentless, kind and passionate”. At CEWD, these relationships extend throughout the entire program team.
Through our presentation (click the image above for the full presentation) attendees will learn about our successful approaches that serve to empower young adult participants. We’ll review the benefits of our teamwork approach and its impact on retention. Attendees will discuss practical steps to facilitate implementation which will ultimately improve programming, participant retention results, and the development of best practices applicable to all youth programs.
In this report, KCC’s Project Rise was recognized, among other things, for our collaboration with the College that provided resources to both staff and students—KCC Urban Farm as the pre-internship site, referrals to KCC’s Single Stop for social service benefits, the opportunity to bank college credits, etc.
In a message to her staff, Associate Director of KCC’s Project Rise, Dina LiMandri, said: “There’s a story that the report won’t tell. One about growth and development, leadership and management, interdisciplinary team approaches, and what it takes to create a culture of engagement.” Without a team that brought “a perfect balance of creativity, organization, temperament, and strategy…” our services would look completely different.
Across all sites, Project Rise has been wildly successful:
More than 91% received some HSE preparation.
About 72% began internships and over half of those worked more than 120 hours.
Within 12 months, 25% earned a high school equivalency credential or high school diploma.
CEWD programs (Project Rise, Northeast Resiliency Consortium) serve as pipelines to college enrollment, specifically enrollment at Kingsborough. Our programs provide educational training needed for college-level work, the opportunity to bank college credit, preparation for the CAT (CUNY Assessment Tests), and enrollment assistance when participants decide to move on to higher education. Pretty awesome, right? It gets even better:
Kingsborough just announced that the College has been recognized as Leader College—a national designation awarded to community colleges that commit to improving student success and closing achievement gaps—at Achieving the Dream. KCC has shown how data can inform policy and practice to help community college students achieve their goals, resulting in improved skills, better employability, and economic growth for families, communities, and the nation as a whole. Upon hearing the news, KCC President Farley Herzek said that the college is “committed to helping students walk away with a sense of confidence and readiness for four-year study or for the workforce.”
David Zubin 24, is a current student KCC’s Project Rise. Since enrolling, he has made it his mission to earn his TASC Certificate and find employment. Although it hasn’t been easy, in 8 months he has come closer to meeting goals–reaching over 100 internship hours, finding part-time employment and, working his way to taking the TASC Exam. “I love Project Rise and I focus on what is important: getting my GED, completing internship hours, and working at Applebee’s. I love working!”.
His hard work has paid off. David is the first Ambassador in Project Rise’s Ambassador Program. Since taking on this new role, his class attendance, participation, grades, and confidence have all gone up. “Now I feel important, like I am really needed. Sometimes I get excited and brag on Facebook and to my friends about what I do as an Ambassador.”
My “life was a mess” said Niko R. speaking with Project Rise’s Associate Director Dina LiMandri. He was living in a shelter with his mom, had dropped out of high school, was not interacting with friends and was unemployed
When he realized he needed to get back on his feet, he enrolled in a Harlem-based GED program. “It wasn’t for me. It was one guy in a room in the back of the building…He gave me a packet, but wasn’t really teaching. I needed something more.” His mom found Project Rise on the internet. “The day I was supposed to come for the Information Session I got lost…I was almost not allowed to apply.” Norma D’Arancio, then the college assistant for the program, spoke with Niko’s mother about his high school experiences–he was bullied in school, survived a stabbing, and because of these experiences, was shy and mistrusting of people. Program administrators decided he needed a second chance.
The CEWD Ambassador Program at KCC’s Project Rise is part of the program’sInternship Tier System designed to provide the students the opportunity to gain specialized skills that are useful in the workplace and in their personal lives. Ambassadors learn skills such as professionalism, public speaking, networking, marketing, self-awareness, and responsibility.
Unlike many internship programs, this one allows ambassadors to work within a supportive and engaging professional environment where they learn about CEWD’s other workforce programs, teamwork and leadership, setting work schedules, developing marketing materials, networking with other professionals and neighborhood businesses, and serving as representatives of CEWD at citywide events, fairs and conferences.
This program not only aids students in self-improvement and self-confidence but also helps them overcome hurdles and barriers. Through activities such as role-playing, ice breakers, team competitions, memory quizzes, and the implementation of the “Selfie Race” (taking a selfie photo during the outreach and recruitment events with the Hashtag #CEWDwashere), each individual will utilize various learning techniques that will ultimately widen their horizons to new opportunities and success.
Note: If you are a current Project Rise participant and want to become an Ambassador, please note that slots are limited. Each participant is given the same opportunity to apply and interview for the program. Speak with Project Rise’s Associate Director, Dina LiMandri for more information.
Project Rise at KCC is approaching the end of our initial 4 year grant period. During that time over 180 disconnected young adults have come through our doors to receive preparation for the GED/TASC exam, important work readiness skills development, and extensive individualized support services. Our efforts have had a huge effect with over 50 participants receiving their high school equivalency and over 50 gaining long-term employment. Even more significant, so many of our students have gained confidence in themselves and their work to overcome obstacles that kept them from succeeding earlier in life.
As we move forward, KCC’s Project Rise received a challenge grant from the Center for Economic Opportunity/Social Innovation Fund to provide an additional year of funding for our program. Late last week we received a commitment from the Pinkerton Foundation for $100,000 and $2,500 from the Signature Bank Foundation towards reaching the challenge. These awards will allow us to continue providing our much-needed services to disconnected young adults who are eager to take control of their educational, professional and personal lives.
On Wednesday, Dec. 3rd, NRC Community Health Worker Cohort 1 students gave a presentation to Project Rise participants about the role they play in their own health, with a multi-tiered focus. NRC students spoke about price disparities–how processed foods are often advertised at sale prices, while healthier products are much more costly–and the layout of grocery stores–how fresh produce is often located just on the perimeters whereas processed foods fill the bulk of stores. CHW students highlighted that individuals should and can inquire about the foods they consume to take an active role in determining which foods are healthy.
In addition to food consumption, CHW students told participants about the importance of being more engaged in their overall health. For example, resources both on-campus and throughout the city, provide individuals with information about sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. These resources give information about protecting oneself against STDs and also talk about the positive impacts of taking control of one’s sexual health.
On Thursday, December 4th, 2014 CEWD presented at the 13th Annual CUNY IT Conference at John Jay College. The presentation was moderated by Dr. Edgar Troudt, CEWD Director of Technology, with speakers including Christopher Pileggi, Min-Kyung Park, Gillian Gooding, Christine Zagari-LoPorto and Jessie Cinelli (read our full bios here). Workforce Development Supported by Strategic IT Investments detailed our multi-faceted use of technology that supports CEWD’s many programs and initiatives.