Congratulations to the Class of 2014!

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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, Thai government bodies raided a little island from the coast of Phuket once they received a tipoff the leaseholder, one John Baldwin, was while establishing an unauthorized best casino around the property. 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.

1 Summer, 2 Schools, 700 Students

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Elijah Hickson

Elijah Hickson

It”s the busiest summer school ever at MC thanks to the addition of students from City-As-School. “It”s great to be able to get credits here at MC,” said CAS student Elijah Hickson on his way to gym class. “I”m also taking economics and earth science so I can graduate in January. I”ve always wanted to be a video game designer, so I”m planning on working after graduation to save up money for college.”

A combined 700 students from the two schools are taking summer classes together for the first time at MC while CAS is undergoing renovations. “It”s been very interesting to have students from two different schools in class together, sharing their different backgrounds and perspectives,” says MC Principal Michael Toise.

First day of summer school - MC 2013

Some students are taking summer classes in order to graduate earlier while others are retaking classes they did not pass or taking extra classes to prepare for Regents exams. Students from both schools are also participating in several internships offered by CAS at locations including the Brooklyn Children”s Museum, the Armory Cat and Dog Hospital, the summer camp at P.S. 30 and at Mixed-Up Mosaics, a design store.Veel spelers vinden het gemakkelijk om te ontspannen en zweren bij het spelen van Online Gokkasten.

“With about 100 summer students, we usually offer 5 classes during the summer session,” says CAS Principal Alan Cheng. Because of MC”s larger student population, they can offer a much larger scope of classes. “Our students can choose from 77 classes at MC. That means they can earn credits faster, and some will even be able to graduate earlier.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!

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Friends and family gather to celebrate the HPHS class of 2013 at the Apollo Theater

Friends and family gather to celebrate the HPHS class of 2013 at the Apollo Theater

549 CDI network students walked across three different stages last week to receive their high school diplomas! The graduating classes of 2013 at MC, HPHS and CAS celebrated their achievements at inspiring commencement ceremonies across the city. At the historic Apollo Theater, Tremayne Richard sat in his cap and gown waiting for the ceremony to start. He came to HPHS as a Junior because he was interested in the health fields. “I want to study radiology in college because several of my family members have been affected by cancer,” he said.  “Alexis and the CDI college advisors helped me pick LaGuardia because it’s one of the top community colleges that offers a Radiology major.” The commencement address was given by CDI Board of Advisors Chair, Kevin Walker, who, like many of the graduates, was raised by an extended family where money was tight. “For many here today, you’ve accomplished what you thought you couldn’t do.”  Wary of wrath of the English teachers in the audience, he urged students to “do things good and do good things.”

 

Aziza Akhmatova, CAS ’13

Aziza Akhmatova, CAS ’13

Downtown at FIT, students faculty, friends and family gathered in the auditorium to celebrate the CAS graduating class. As her classmates put on their gowns backstage before the ceremony, Aziza Akhmatova played at a grand piano. “I transferred to CAS because I was having a rough time at my old school,” she said between notes. “CAS was the greatest experience. It really prepares you for life. Jon and Jay at the CDI College Office helped me through the whole college process and I got into my first choice school, Brooklyn College. I want to double major in Biology and English and minor in Music. I also want to study abroad in France. I’m really excited.” The commencement speech was given by Ethan Hunt, CAS ’79, who today is the owner of Lucky Strike Bowling in Midtown. His message to students was: “Monday mornings. If you find something you are passionate about, then Monday mornings are pretty great.”

 

Luis Rivas, MC '13

Luis Rivas, MC ’13

Luis Rivas was among the 137 graduates who sat in the packed auditorium at the MC commencement. Luis transferred to MC after dropping out of high school when his father had a stoke and became handicapped. “After two years of working at McDonald’s, I decided it wasn’t enough,” he said. “When I got to MC, so many people had my back. The CDI advisors kept me focused and put me on a path to college. I’m going to LaGuardia Community College in the fall and it feels really good to be excited about the future.”  At the ceremony, Tim Ettenheim, a member of CDI’s Board, gave the commencement address, leaving students with the words of Bob Dylan: “May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong. May you stay forever young.” More graduation photos here.

 

Welcome Susan Fellner

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Susan Fellner

For Susan Fellner, CDI’s newest board member, the world of finance in downtown Manhattan was a distant one from her childhood home in Brooklyn. “I was a scholarship kid,” says Fellner, who today is COO of two departments in the investment bank division at Credit Suisse. Fellner’s father was an English teacher from Brooklyn and her mother came from Peru knowing no English. “They always emphasized education so I grabbed every opportunity I could. I worked 40 hours a week to put myself through NYU where I majored in math with the help of scholarships. But I always knew I was going to work in business. I went on to get my MBA at Columbia University then worked as an investment banker for 8 years after that.”

“I started a mentoring program for middle school girls several years ago,” says Fellner. “I felt that I could make an impact working with young adults. When I found out about CDI though the Robin Hood Foundation, I was really inspired. I remember when I first walked through the doors at Manhattan Comprehensive; the energy was contagious. And I’m even more thrilled now I’ve met students from HPHS and CAS. I’m really excited to be part of providing a positive influence for students from all over the world and from right here in NYC.”

Fellner’s co-workers at Credit Suisse hail from all over the world, many from Latin America. Some already know MC students from participating in a mentoring program at Credit Suisse. The mentors advise students on workplace etiquette and other professional skills. Fellner was eager to open up Credit Suisse to students even more. “One of the first things I wanted to do when I joined the board was for my team to meet the students and give them a taste of working at a large investment bank. So I though it would be a good idea to host a day at Credit Suisse for students to get an inside peek.”

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