When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Young men from all three of CDI’s partner schools gathered with business professionals at BNY Mellon on Wednesday night for a workshop on preparing themselves for future success. They gained insight into the world of work as speakers and panelists shared their own paths to success before working with students one on one to review resumes and teach the power of the power tie!

CDI is grateful to our generous hosts the BNY Mellon IMPACT Business Resource Group.

Heading to college with a four-year scholarship

Ester Appaih and Sultana Bhuiyan show their school pride

Two seniors from The High School for Health Professions and Human Services are proud winners of full, four-year scholarships from The Posse Foundation. Ester Appaih and Sultana Bhuiyan had some help along the way. The nationally competitive Posse Scholarship is awarded to students with high leadership potential from multicultural backgrounds who are often overlooked by the traditional college application process.

“My parents weren’t going to be like ‘Have you done this yet? Have you done that yet? They didn’t even know about it until later, after I won it. My CDI advisor Fatimah Shalash was so helpful; she helped us prepare for the interviews and told us everything we needed to know.” Ester said. “Now I’ll be going to Trinity College in the fall and studying liberal arts with my eye on getting a Ph.D.” Ester moved to New York City from Ghana when she was 8 years old.

For Sultana Bhuiyan the college decision involved more than meeting deadlines. It was emotional. Originally I was not happy about being nominated because I always thought I would stay in the city to be near my family. I dress culturally. I had a fear of forgetting I was from Bangladesh and forgetting my culture if I moved away.”

Her family also had some reservations, and there were several times where Sultana hesitated and considered not continuing the application process. Fatimah and HPHS Principal Robert Gentile met with Sultana and her parents to talk through her options. That meeting became a turning point and with her parents full support Sultana pursued the scholarship.

“Posse called to tell me I had won at 9:46 p.m. on a weeknight. My mom was listening in the kitchen. After I hung up, we started crying and we hugged it out. That hug was like a symbol of her letting me go but also a symbol of her support.” Sultana will be attending Brandeis University this fall to study biochemistry with the long-term goal of pursing an M.D. or Ph.D.

As part of CDI’s intensive college preparation for students, staff holds information sessions, workshops, and one-on-one sessions with all seniors and potential graduates informing students and their families about the college process, requirements, deadlines and financial obligations. An area of focus is scholarship funding for students who aspire to go to four-year colleges. This is especially important for many students who are the first to attend college or whose parents are from another country  and may not be fully aware of the opportunities available to them to pay for school.

The Posse Scholarship is one of many scholarships students will be hearing back from over the next few months. CDI will be highlighting more students as they prepare for college. This spring we are also hosting a scholarship luncheon to celebrate those who’ve been awarded scholarships and those who have helped fund their college dreams. If you’d like to learn more about CDI’s scholarships, please contact Director of Development Andrée Lockwood at andreelockwood@cdi-ny.org.




Oh, thank heaven for 7-Eleven!

Sal Napolitano presenting the check to Coach Mark Dorman with soccer, volleyball and table tennis members

Good sportsmanship on and off the court has paid off for student athletes at Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School. “The students from Manhattan Comprehensive are always in here, and they are always respectful and well behaved,” said Sal Napolitano, the owner of the local 7-Eleven store on 14th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. “I’m big into the community and this was one way of giving back.” Napolitano applied to 7-Eleven corporate headquarters for a grant to support the school’s athletic teams as part of Project A-Game, a corporate initiative supporting youth sports programming. And the award? $711. CDI and Manhattan Comprehensive thanks Mr. Napolitano and 7-Eleven for this generous support!

Principal takeover at MCNDHS

Student athletes and CDI staff pose for a post-lunch photo with Principal Michael Toise and Principal for a Day Bob Delaney, Jr.

Students and staff may have noticed a new face strolling the halls of Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School this past December when special guest Bob Delaney, Jr. became Principal for a Day.

“I’ve heard so much about what a great educational experience Manhattan Comprehensive provides from my father over the years and my wife keeps me pretty well updated, but I decided it was time to come see for myself,” Bob said. His father is longtime CDI supporter Bob Delaney, Sr. and his wife is Pam Craig, Chair of CDI’s Board of Directors. Bob is a Partner at Crestview Partners in Manhattan.

“It was great to learn how closely the staffs of CDI and MCNDHS work together to address the unique needs of each student. I was so impressed by how deeply everyone I met cared for the students’ well being,” he said.

Acting Principal Delaney started the day over coffee with Principal Michael Toise who prepped him for the role with some school history before handing off the reins. Delaney then took a school tour and made several classroom visits. “This reminds me of my days in high school! It’s been a while since I had to work through these kinds of equations. Sine, cosine… I’ll leave the students to it,” he laughed while visiting Mr. Jurney’s math class. He ended the day swapping stories with students from the soccer, volleyball and table tennis teams on victories, rivals and what is takes to be a great student athlete.

CDI welcomes visitors! If you’d like to come by for a tour or to learn more about CDI’s students and programs, please contact CDI’s Director of Development Andrée Lockwood at andreelockwood@cdi-ny.org.


International Thanksgiving Celebration at MCNDHS

A feast from around the world! Students hosted an International Thanksgiving Celebration at Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School on Wednesday, November 23rd. Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall College and Career Fair at City-As-School

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.


Here Comes Min!

IMG_2015-001CDI offers students dozens of internships around the city. But some of the most rewarding internships happen right at CDI’s offices. Min Zheng is a student at Manhattan Comprehensive and a CDI intern helping to coordinate the tutoring services. When Min came to NYC from China a year and a half ago and enrolled at MC, she was determined to do well, improve her English skills and get some professional skills.

“As the Tutoring Coordinator I do some data entry so that we know who received tutoring that day. But a lot of what I do is reminding students to come down to CDI for tutoring. Every day I go into classrooms with a list of all the students who signed up to receive tutoring – as many as 40 a day. At first, it was hard to get the courage to stand in front of the whole class and talk, but now I’m used to it. When I read out the names I can see right away on their faces which students are  going to make excuses for why they can’t come. Then I start my convincing. I remind them that it’s a free resource offered by CDI and that they should take advantage of it because it really helps. I know most of the students in the school now and I try to get students who I know are struggling, to get tutoring. This internship has really changed me – I’ve learned to become more assertive and I can advocate for myself. ” 

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.”

As College Costs Soar, a Chance for Students to Learn and Earn

Diana Woo

Diana Wu

“My parents are from China and my dad works at a restaurant. I always wanted to go to college, but I couldn’t figure out a way to pay for it. Even books are expensive!” says Diana Wu. Diana is a 2014 graduate of The High School for Health Professions and Human Services. She has always loved science and wants to do something in the medical field. “I want to have a career that helps people. But the more I learned about what doctors and nurs­es do, I realized that dealing with blood and needles isn’t for me. So, I wasn’t really sure what to do.”

 Last fall during Diana’s senior year, she heard about a new program that CDI was launching to train students as Certified Pharmacy Technicians through Lehman College and CVS Health. “When I met with my CDI college and career advisor to talk about my interests and goals and my worries about paying for college, she told me about the program. I thought: This is perfect for me! It means that at the end of it I’ll be able to have a job that pays well. And, I couldn’t believe that the program was free. Normally something like this would costs thousands of dollars.”

Diana completed the program coursework and her externship, and then she was offered a job at CVS. “The salary I get from the pharmacy means that I can help pay for my book and Metrocards,” she says. Diana is now a freshman at Hunter College and works at CVS twice a week. “I have my first professional job working in the field I’ve always wanted to and it pays enough to make a difference.”

Demystifying Math One Tutoring Session at a Time

Terieke Anthony and William Aiken

Terieke Anthony and William Aiken

“The first time I saw the Pythagorean Theorem all those symbols looked like upside down Chinese to me!” says Terieke Anthony, a student at Manhattan Comprehensive. “I hadn”t taken Algebra back home so I had no idea what to expect.” Home is the island of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean. Terieke came to New York on his own two years ago having never traveled outside his country before. At MC, he struggled with math and last year after he didn”t pass the Regents Exam, his CDI advisor suggested one-on-one tutoring.

Around the same time, William Aiken was walking past MC and spotted a sign posted in the window of the school advertising volunteer tutors needed. “I was an adult student in the city and I wanted to give back to other adult students, so I walked in.” He and Terieke have been working together ever since. William became one of CDI”s 65 volunteer tutors who teach across all subject areas. Though he had never tutored before, he knew what it felt like to struggle in a class. “Math was something that was not easy for me as a student, so I felt I could very much relate. Tutoring has made me realize how we all learn in different ways. Sometimes the way that I think and understand concepts is not the way that Terieke does, so I come up with different ways to present the material to him.”

Over the course of the year, William and Terieke met once or twice a week to work on concepts from class and homework material. At first, Algebra remained a foreign language to Terieke, and then things began to click. “It”s pretty amazing the amount of progress that he”s made over the course of our year working together. I”m blown away,” says William. Terieke took his Algebra Regents Exam last month, and this time he passed! “I never thought I”d understand math so well and now I actually kind of like it! At least, I definitely like it better.”

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!”   
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