2018 was a year filled with innovative accomplishments, partnerships, and initiatives. We strengthened existing parent programming like Family Works while launching unique new pilot programs like Babies and Brunch. Our after-school, recreation, and early childhood education staff continued to develop engaging new ways of sparking the imagination of children in HFH programming, often facilitated by partners like CHEFF and Writopia. We also worked with Sesame Workshop in the development of a new storyline and set of resources about Lily, a 7-year-old muppet experiencing homelessness, which debuted in December of 2018. Read more about our Top Ten Highlights of 2018, made possible by the continuous dedication of our families, staff, volunteers, supporters, and partners.

At Babies and Brunch, a four-part pilot program at Prospect Family Residence, new mothers have been participating in workshops, discussions, and active play with their children in order to foster protective factors including social connections, knowledge of child development, socio-emotional competence, and concrete support. Organized and led by Dorothea Nixon, Director of Prospect Family Support Center, the series facilitates discussions where parents can share concerns, ask questions, and obtain support from one another and participating staff. As a result of the program, parents have been communicating more with one another while developing relationships built on shared experiences and mutual support. Prospect hopes to continue these group sessions in 2019, strengthening the bonds between new mothers and their infant children.

HFH early childhood education centers, after-school enrichment, and recreation programs all spent the year emphasizing hands-on learning through field trips, interactive activities, and a supportive environment dedicated to sparking the natural curiosity of young people in HFH programming. At Prospect and Saratoga early childhood education centers, children had the opportunity to pet live chinchillas, geckos, and snakes during an in-class presentation by The Nature Company. At Williamsbridge Recreation, students explored monthly themes often underserved in the classroom including farming and music through interactive activities and experiments. Meanwhile, children enrolled in Saratoga afterschool had the opportunity to participate in the Young Sharks entrepreneurship competition.

This year’s fifth anniversary cohort of the HFH Summer Camps Teen Leader Program boasted 19 teen leaders, the largest cohort since its inception in 2014. The program invests in teens aging out of HFH Summer Camps who show leadership potential by offering youth development and leadership training, while also allowing them the opportunity to serve as mentors for other campers. Throughout the year, program participants attended a spring training event hosted by the Leadership Program, met with other youth camp leaders at the ACA Leads Conference at Bank Street College, and engaged in team-building activities in the fall at the annual Teen Leader Retreat in Princeton, New Jersey.

Throughout 2018, students in HFH afterschool and recreation programs got a taste for the importance of nutrition and healthy choices through partnerships and hands-on demonstrations. Over the summer, Tamara Shenkle, Owner and Executive Chef of Amoraco Catering, visited summer day campers for an interactive cooking class, where young chefs from Prospect and Williamsbridge helped her prepare scrambled egg burritos and gluten free waffles. Throughout the year, dietitians from CHEFF visited Prospect afterschool every week to discuss healthy lifestyle choices and share nutritious snacks.

Over the course of a multi-week creative writing residence at Saratoga, Writopia Lab encouraged children to express themselves creatively through poems, short stories, plays, and comics. One student’s play was picked to be featured in Writopia’s annual Worldwide Plays Festival, where a cast of actors brought her words to life on-stage at a theater in New York City. A fellow student performed a live reading of his insightful poem, “Black People to Pitbulls,” at the famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan, for which he later won the Silver Key prize in the presitigious 2018 Scholastic Writing Award Competition.

In 2018, representatives from HFH and our sister organization the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness (ICPH) served as advisors to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, and Sesame Street in Communities, an online and social media toolkit, in the development a new initiative focused on understanding both the quantitative and lived experience of family homelessness, especially as it impacts young children. In December 2018, Sesame Street debuted the storyline of Lily, a 7-year-old muppet experiencing homelessness, accompanied by a set of videos, workshops and resources available on the Sesame in Communities website. In addition to serving on the national advisory group, families and administrators from Saratoga and Prospect participated in bilingual parent and provider focus groups, in order to provide direct input on storylines for future storybooks, videos, and other messaging.

Throughout the year, Saratoga, Prospect, and Williamsbridge graduated several cohorts from Family Works, a 10-week long job-readiness program, which equips participants with the resources to re-enter the workforce through an on-site internship, classes, and assistance with job placement. Each cohort is tailored to participants’ interests and skill sets, with July’s cohort at Saratoga receiving training in the Safety Department and securing New York State licenses, which gave participants a leg up in the job market. Of the class of eight graduates, four received job offers and three continued training in off-site education programs.

At HFH afterschool and recreation programs, instructors sparked students’ curiosity for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through hands-on activities. At Prospect, Rokenbok Education’s Mobile STEM Labs exposed students to engineering through innovative modules while LEGO Education sets helped children explore core STEM concepts like problem-solving and creativity. Likewise, students in Williamsbridge afterschool learned about chemistry by making and erupting their own volcanoes and taking a field trip to the Liberty Science Center. A field trip to NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s MakerSpace allowed students from Saratoga to participate in a coding exercise and build their own keychains using a 3-D printer.

Throughout 2018, HFH partnered with corporations and individuals to provide unique opportunities for children to enjoy excursions to special destinations in New York City and beyond. Staff often took advantage of the diversity of nearby museums, cultural centers, and natural wonders to organize trips that captivated kids’ imaginations and transformed the city and its surroundings into their classroom. Students in Williamsbridge Afterschool honed their culinary (and math) skills on a trip to Uno’s Pizzeria, where they toured the restaurant and made their own personal pizzas. Children from Prospect’s early childhood education center enjoyed apple picking at Dr. Davies Farm in upstate New York while accompanied by volunteers from New York Cares. Children enrolled in Prospect and Williamsbridge’s Summer Day Camps also enjoyed trips to the Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium, The Paint Place, and Modern Pinball NY.

Family engagement events at the Family Residences offered a special opportunity for families to strengthen bonds, learn together, and enjoy themselves with the wider community, including HFH staff. At Saratoga’s second annual Family Safety Day, members of the FDNY’s Safety Education Unit shared fire prevention tips with families as they walked through its Mobile Fire Safety Experience Trailer, while members of NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau helped with harnesses and safety ropes as kids took turns scampering up a rock climbing wall. At Prospect, families celebrated the beginning of fall together when staff set up a pumpkin patch in the backyard. Afterwards, parents and kids flexed their creative juices decorating their selections with spooky stickers and accessories.

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