Michael A. Roberts takes helm as CDI’s Executive Director

Students and alumni with CDI's Executive Director Michael A. Roberts.

Students and alumni with Michael A. Roberts.

Comprehensive Development, Inc. (CDI) is pleased to announce that Michael A. Roberts is CDI’s new Executive Director. Michael has served as the Assistant Executive Director since September 2013 and has dedicated his career to serving and working in partnership with young men and women to ensure they achieve their goals for success beyond high school and break generational poverty.

“Michael has such an energy and passion for our mission and the young people we serve. It’s evident in all that he leads on behalf of CDI, and we are excited to move forward into this next stage of growth and development with Michael at the helm,” said Pamela J. Craig, Chair of CDI’s Board of Directors.

While at CDI, Michael has managed programming for young adults ages 14 to 24 at The High School for Health Professions and Human Services and City-As-School High School and overseen the launch of the CDI Career Academy—a sectoral-based training certificate program for recent graduates, now in its second year. He brings more than 20 years experience of youth development and nonprofit management to the role, first from Safe Horizon and later from The Children’s Aid Society. Michael has spoken and provided trainings around the U.S. and has worked at both federal and local levels to develop strategies, programs and positive outcomes for young people to become leaders in their homes, schools and communities while developing the skills needed to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.

Michael earned his Masters of Social Work from Hunter College. He succeeds John J. Mancuso, Jr. who retired after a successful 10 year tenure which included the expansion of CDI from one site to form a network of schools.


CAS’ Internships Offer Experiences and Spark Passions

IMG_9664Twice a year at City-As-School, students gather in the library for the Student Learning Expo to present their portfolio projects – the comprehensive output of their internship work and a requirement for graduation. Internships are an integral part of the CAS curriculum. Students split their time between classes and internships where they get real-world experience. They can chose from hundreds of internships all over New York City, from businesses and organizations, to schools and art galleries. Jennifer Matos has always dreamed of being an animal activist, but wanted to broaden her understanding of human rights issues, so she interned at the Museum of Tolerance. “It really opened up my eyes to the history and ongoing issues that people face around the world. I was a docent and teaching groups of students about the museum gave me so much confidence to speak publicly. I want to pursue wildlife management next year in college, but I also want to continue to be involved in promoting human rights because of this internship.”

Emily Dorta inteEmily Dortarned as an Art Teacher Assistant at her old middle school in the Bronx. “I was interested in working with children with developmental issues and helping them gain confidence and understanding through art. But I”ve never worked in a classroom before, so I wanted to know what it”s really like to be a teacher. I discovered you really need a lot of patience! I”m still really interested in being a teacher but I”m also considering being a pediatrician.”

The Eagles take flight!

The Eagles take flight

MC’s first soccer team at the Small School Athletic League championship game

Congratulations to the The Eagles, the brand new Manhattan Comprehensive Soccer Team, which has just finished their season with a bang! They made it all the way to the final championships of the Small School’s Athletic League in October. “There are so many kids from all around the world at this school who have grown up playing soccer,” says Mark Dorman, MC’s Physical Education teacher, who got the team together. “There are a lot of talented students and there was a real thirst to have an official team. Now we’ve finally been able to make that happen and we can attract more young people to the school because of it. Hadji was the one who was out on the field making it happen.”

El Hadji Diop, the team’s Field Coach, graduated from Manhattan Comprehensive in 2004 and came back as soon as he heard about the new team. “I was playing and coaching the NYC Senegal team when one of my players, who was also a student at MC, told me that the school was looking for a field coach for their very first soccer team. I thought: ‘I have to go back and help those kids!'” He met with Dorman and within weeks they were all out on Randall’s Island having their first practice.

Diop playing on Central Connecticut State College's Division 1 soccer team

Diop playing on Central Connecticut State College’s Division 1 soccer team

Diop remembers his first soccer ball back home in Senegal – it was made of cheap plastic. “Growing up in Africa, soccer is a huge part of life. We play all the time, even barefoot if we have to.” Diop came to the U.S. alone at the age of 18, with a few words of English and dreams of going to college. He soon enrolled at Manhattan Comprehensive and after two years, he received his high school diploma and went on to BMCC for an accounting degree. His high grades and skills on the soccer field attracted the notice of some college recruiters. He received a full scholarship to play at Central Connecticut State University, a Division 1 school. But his chances to go pro were cut short after he suffered several injuries. He put his Accounting degree to work at City Group, all the while coaching and playing on amateur soccer teams in the city.

Diop playing on Central Connecticut State College’s Division 1 soccer team “I love playing soccer but I love coaching more because I get to teach these young guys. I am always reminding the MC team that they are student players; their education is what matters first. And they listen. Some students have really turned around their grades this year and several have been offered scholarships. I am so proud of what they’ve accomplished. To come so far the first year is amazing!” Diop is looking forward to next season already, but in the meantime, he’s harnessing his relationship with the students by working with the school’s counselors and CDI’s college advisors to mentor the players through the overwhelming college application process. “I’ve been where they are, and I want to help them use their talent and dedication to soccer for their life after high school.”

A bridge to school success

Bridge Program

City-As-School students in the new Bridge Program

This October, 80 new students began their high school careers at City-As-School by taking part in a new program created jointly by CAS and CDI. The Bridge Program helps all new students make a smooth transition into the school and prepares them to fulfill CAS’s unique requirements and meet its high standards. “Our students come from schools all over the city,” says Jon Saul, CDI’s College and Career Advisor at CAS. “They are bright and creative and individual, but they don’t fit the typical high school mold. Sitting in a classroom for hours and only writing papers isn’t for them. CAS gives them an alternative way to learn through experiences that speak directly to their interests. But jumping right in can be difficult.” CAS requires that all students complete a portfolio that is a comprehensive account of all their work at the school, as well as college applications, and internships that provide exposure and practical experience.

The month-long Bridge Program includes a school readiness class with intensive writing and math, and a college and career readiness class in which CDI advisors teach professionalism and conflict resolution, and help with applications for college and job training programs. “We want all our students to have the habits necessary to succeed at CAS and beyond,” says Saul. The students go through the entire program as a cohort, attending all classes and an internship together. The cohort model provides a built-in community and the support of their peers. Once they complete the program, they begin taking regular classes and internships with the rest of the students. “Before I took this class, I didn’t think I was ready for college because my grades were low,” says Zakiyyah Timmons. “Then my CDI college and career advisors helped me understand that I could still get accepted, so now I’ve been applying to SUNY schools left and right! I really enjoyed the class and now I feel ready to go to college and start my career.”


CDI’s youngest donor

Aiden Rahaim giving his donation to CDI's Executive Director, John Mancuso

Aiden Rahaim giving his donation to CDI’s Executive Director, John Mancuso

When 10-year-old Aiden Rahaim came from North Carolina to visit his grandfather, Jack, in New York over the sumer, they went to visit one of Jack’s old friends: CDI’s Executive Director, John Mancuso. Jack has been a long time consultant to CDI, offering much of his time pro-bono. “I’ve taught a couple of courses at Manhattan Comprehensive and I love the school and CDI’s mission. I wanted to share that with my grandson.”

John took them on a tour of Manhattan Comprehensive and when they got to the chemistry lab, John mentioned that CDI had raised money to purchase lab equipment and furnishings. Aiden surveyed the classroom and then he pulled his grandfather aside and told him he wanted to donate some of his own money that he’d saved from birthday gifts, to CDI. “I hope my donation, along with others, can help CDI help kids get their education,” says Aiden.

Aiden has always been a generous kid. “Many times we have to encourage him to spend some of his money on something fun for himself, like Legos,” says Cheryl Rahaim, Aiden’s mother. “But more times than not, he prefers to give it to others instead.” Aiden is happy his contribution will make a difference. “I think that every kid deserves a great education. Besides, I know if I was a CDI student, I’d hope someone would want to help me.”

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.

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