Wall Street Journal features former CDI board member’s mission of warmth

Gueye Cheikh, Min Zheng, Kacper Szarejko Mercy KoteyLari Stanton has long been on a mission to keep New Yorkers warm. As the retired head of one of the world’s largest glove manufacturers, Aris Isotonor, he’s been giving away hats and gloves to Manhattan Comprehensive students and many other young people throughout the city, for years. His generosity was recently acknowledged in the Wall Street Journal which ran a profile on him. Mr. Stanton served on CDI’s Board of Advisors for five years and has been a longtime, enthusiastic supporter of CDI and its students. Apart from his generous apparel donations, he supports Manhattan Comprehensive’s internship at Cooper Union which each year gives 15 students hands-on experience in engineering.  

CDI board member, Andrew Wang, remembers receiving gloves from Mr. Stanton when he was a student at Manhattan Comprehensive: “I worked at CDI while I was in school and each year he would give all the student aides a pair of Isotoner groves. I still have them today. They kept me warm during the cold winters in upstate New York when I studied at Hamilton College, and they still keep me warm every winter morning when I wait for my bus to commute to work. Thanks, Lari!”   

Welcome to a new year!

We’re off to a great start at CDI and at our partner schools. With so many new things going on, we asked each of the principals to tell us about what’s coming up this year at their school.

Alan Cheng
Principal, City-As-School High School 
“This fall we’re welcoming over 250 new new students. As a transfer school, our students come from over 100 different high schools across New York City and across the country. The CDI College and Career Office has already been busy with campus visits to Queensborough and John Jay Colleges this month. And they’ll have an exciting week of college and career events on October 20-24 with fairs, panel discussions, parent workshops and more trips. They’ve also been working closely with new students to help them navigate their first semester and explore college and career opportunities.”

Robert Gentile
Principal, High School for Health Professions and Human Services
“We’re looking forward to our fourth year partnering with CDI! The first cohort of the CVS Pharmacy Tech program was a success and we are happy that there is a second cohort starting this fall. We’ve been working with CDI on fostering more partnerships that will allow our students to gain valuable industry standard certificates. Another new initiative this year is the peer advising program. The College and Career Offices are training students to help their peers complete CUNY applications, edit college essays, complete SAT registration, and host events to help students look for jobs.”

Michael Toise
Principal, Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School
“This year we’re welcoming nine new teachers and one new assistant principal. There are also big changes to our schedule. For the first time, the school will operate on a Monday-Friday schedule. This is a change from our previous Sunday-Thursday schedule, and we feel this will give students additional classroom time which will help with the increased difficulty of DOE standards. In addition, we’re starting the day a little earlier and ending a little later and we’ll offer clubs on Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate students better. We’re really excited to have our first men’s varsity soccer team as part of the Small Schools Athletic League, and they won their first game against the International Community High School 4-1! We’re also starting our first full year working with CUNY’s Students for Success program that matches MC alums attending BMCC with recent MC graduates entering the college, to help with the transition and navigating the system.”

Welcome Bleema Bershad!


Bershad B photo 2014We are delighted that Bleema Bershad has joined CDI as the newest member of the Board of Directors. Bershad’s connection to CDI goes back over a decade when she was a volunteer tutor at Manhattan Comprehensive from 2000-2003. “The act that brought me back to CDI proves the power of CDI,” says Bershad. “A student I tutored over 10 years ago reached out to me to reconnect.  Today she is a hard working, successful young woman and mother.  After spending time with her, I reached out to John Mancuso to learn more about current CDI efforts and was extremely impressed.  I’m thrilled to join the Board and hope to apply my professional experience to help support CDI’s marketing and communications efforts.”

Today Bleema Bershad is a Partner at MomFocus Marketing LLC, a consultancy specializing in helping businesses optimize their marketing to mothers. Prior to joining MomFocus Marketing, Bleema was a Vice President at Citigroup, specializing in credit card marketing. She holds a BS from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Northwestern University. Her recent volunteer work includes tutoring math at Learning Leaders and serving as the President of her children’s school Parents’ Association.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014!



During the last week of June, 561 students graduated from CDI’s three partner schools! They hail from all over the city, come from many different backgrounds and are on their way to many different and exciting futures. Just a few months ago, Rose Fleurant did not think she would be one of those students. She had dropped out of school at the age of 18, just a few credits shy of graduating. “I didn’t think I needed a piece of paper to tell the world that I could get a job at some fast food restaurant. And that’s exactly where I thought I’d be,” she says. 

Rose Fleurant

Three years went by until Rose discovered a love for environmental conservation, and realized that she needed that diploma after all. “For a while, I did look at other high schools, but nothing felt right until City-As-School. Here, I could learn by doing and get some work experience. I want to help mankind and I know now that education is essential to getting to do what I love.” After completing her final credits over the spring, Rose graduated from CAS and will be attending SUNY’s Tompkins Cortland Community College in the fall where she’ll be majoring in environmental science.

Jonathan Ramos

Jonathan Ramos” path to graduation has always been fueled by his love of medicine. “I’ve loved neuroscience ever since I was introduced to the brain as a kid,” he says. During his senior year at HPHS, Jonathan participated in CDI’s new CVS Pharmacy Technician Program. When he completes the program this summer, he will be certified to work at retail, hospital and clinic settings across the country. For Jonathan, it’s a valuable springboard for his future career and it will also allow him to earn above minimum wage while he’s attending the College of Staten Island this fall. “A main concern of mine was being able to work while in college. And, this training also allows me to focus on a goal that I’ve been looking forward to since middle school – it was a major step.”

Giuseppe Rescica

Giuseppe Rescica usually finds himself on the other side of the camera as one of Manhattan Comprehensive’s yearbook photographers. During his senior year, he was inspired by MC’s diverse student body to create and document a cultural exchange program for student ambassadors to present on their countries of origin to the school community. He was a finalist for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for this initiative. Giuseppe came to MC after having spent the past 12 years living in Italy with his family. Back in New York at 18, he had few options for high school. “When I came to MC the first thing that struck me was the diversity of the students. That was really exciting to be a part of.” Giuseppe completed all his high school credits in just a year and a half, and is off to Bard College in the fall through their Educational Opportunities Program which provides students with full-tuition scholarships and social and academic support. “Some day I want to come back to CDI and MC and contribute in some way. For now, I’m really looking forward to college. Final thought: Woohoo!” 

Check out more graduation photos here.

Shop at Amazon and support CDI!


Amazon-Smile-Graphic1Next time you shop on Amazon, you can give 0.5% of your purchase total to support CDI. AND until March, 31 Amazon will donate an extra $5 for each customer who makes an eligible purchase!

Just go to smile.amazon.com and select Comprehensive Development Inc. as your chosen charitable organization, then shop as usual. A percentage of all eligible purchases will go right to CDI. This offer is good throughout the year!

As always, those proceeds will help us pay for the services that our nearly 3,500 students rely on all year.

Happy shopping!

From Courtroom to Classroom: A Graduation Story

Left to right: Judge Lynn Kotler, Jessica Williams, Attorney Eliza Orlins

Left to right: Judge Lynn Kotler, Jessica Williams, Attorney Eliza Orlins

Jessica Williams beamed as she sat in her cap and gown among her graduating class on February 27 listening to her story being told up at the podium by her attorney Eliza Orlins and Judge Lynn Kotler. Just three years ago Jessica was barely attending high school when she got picked up on gun possession charges and suddenly found herself facing the possibility of a year in prison. “When I first met Jessica she was really scared,” says Orlins, an attorney with The Legal Aid Society. “But she was determined to turn her life around.” Orlins took Jessica’s case and they eventually found themselves in the courtroom of Judge Kotler who also recognized that same determination and decided that Jessica would be far better served in a mentoring program for at-risk youth rather than in jail. “I remember the day she came into the courtroom with her completion certificate from the program. She was so happy – everyone was moved. That’s so unusual. It was a test for her, and she passed it.”

The next step was for Jessica to enroll at Manhattan Comprehensive where she was met with a community of caring and watchful teachers and staff. “Everything changed when I came here,” says Jessica. Though she had the support of her grandmother and her girlfriend, she felt isolated in her neighborhood as she tried to distance herself from her old friends. “For the first time at school I had real support and people saying to me ‘I believe in you.'” Jessica attended school at night and worked at CVS during the day – a CDI internship that will soon turn into a part-time job. Her CDI advisors have also worked closely with her over the past two and a half years to help her get a driver’s license. “I really love to drive – it’s so liberating,” Jessica says. “My goal is to work as a delivery driver and I hope to be accepted into the UPS training program. But I’m also applying to college.”

“Jessica couldn’t be invisible here,” says Margaret Aylward, a CDI Assistant Executive Director. “CDI and school staff took the time to give her the positive reinforcement she needed at every possible chance.” Judge Kotler sees Jessica’s story as a source of hope for many young people. “She had an opportunity and she took it, and this school and CDI gave her the support to stay on track.” Read more about Jessica’s story in The New York Times.

Support CDI and Shop On Amazon!


Amazon-Smile-Graphic1 (411x116)If you shop on Amazon – and who doesn’t? – you can now allocate 0.5% of your purchase total to support CDI!

Just go to smile.amazon.com and select Comprehensive Development Inc. as your chosen charitable organization, then shop as usual. A percentage of all eligible purchases will go right to CDI. This offer is good throughout the year!

As always, those proceeds will help us pay for the services that our nearly 3,500 students rely on all year.

Happy shopping!

Michael Roberts Appointed as an Assistant Executive Director at CDI

Michael Roberts, CDI

Michael Roberts, CDI’s newest Assistant Executive Director

CDI is pleased to announce that Michael Roberts will be joining CDI as an Assistant Executive Director on September 3. Michael will direct all of CDI’s programming and staff at HPHS and CAS, lead the development and implementation of post-secondary program models and play a major role in deepening communication and collaboration among network partners. Michael comes to us with more than 22 years of nonprofit management and program experience. The common thread woven through Michael’s entire career is a deep commitment to helping youth find opportunities to express their distinctive “voice,” and develop the skills needed to articulate it.

Before coming to CDI, Michael was the Assistant Division Director for City and Country Branches at The Children’s Aid Society for 11 years where he developed educational, college and career, workforce development, clinical and substance abuse prevention services for young adults across the city. In this role he partnered with the DOE, Students in Temporary Housing, The United Way and several foundations to create innovative programming to help at-risk youth in poverty to become self-sufficient leaders in their homes and communities. Prior Last year, he served as Director of Youth Development Services at Children’s Aid for five years.

Michael began his career at Safe Horizons where he was Director of Training and Youth Development. He also directed East New York United for Safety, a multi-faceted research-based project funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This five-year evaluation project examined a variety of interventions to reduce violence in one of the most violent communities in New York City.Last year.The evaluation led to a reduction of violence in the community, and was a model for collaboration for many programs nationwide.

In 2010 Michael received the Hero Award given by Madison Square Garden and the Garden of Dreams Foundation recognizing leaders who make a significant impact on the lives of children in crisis in New York City. He has appeared as an expert on youth issues on Good Day New York and has presented at conferences across the United States. Michael received his Master of Social Work from Hunter College, School of Social Work.

© Copyright 2014 Comprehensive Development, Inc. :: Site by Lakefront Media, Inc.
Site photography : ©Vance Jacobs Photography