Photos: Attitude of Gratitude

From Michael Roberts, Executive Director: Excelsior Scholarships– A good step forward, but not yet free


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The headlines have been exuberant: SUNY and CUNY are now “free!” As you have probably recently read, Governor Cuomo has expanded the income requirement for students to qualify for funding for college in New York State with the Excelsior Scholarship. That is good news. We want to explain, however, that although this can be a big help to some, it doesn’t address all the financial needs students and families face, particularly those that CDI serves.

Some issues about Excelsior requirements that affect CDI schools’ graduates:

  • Undergraduates must be enrolled full-time at a SUNY or CUNY school, taking 30 credits a year. Many of our schools’ graduates enroll part-time to accommodate work schedules, so they would not be eligible.
  • Students must be on track to graduate within two to four years, depending on the degree they are seeking. Our alumni often need to interrupt their studies to work, and often take four to six  years or longer to finish their degrees. In fact, the New York Times estimates that 90% of the state’s community college students would not currently meet this requirement.
  • Scholarship and financial aid funds that a student receives must be used first; then the Excelsior Scholarship kicks in to cover the remaining tuition. Excelsior funds cannot be used to cover fees or room and board. Many of our students receive financial aid, so their tuition is often fully covered. Where they need help is with living expenses – housing, transportation, food and books –which Excelsior doesn’t cover.

Overall, Excelsior is a great step forward. Our hope is that as it rolls out, the Governor and the state legislation will modify the requirements so that low-income students will be more likely to benefit from the program.

This New York Times’ April 11th article summarizes the issues well.

More information is also available on the FAQ page for the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.

Michael Roberts
Executive Director, CDI


Thank you for BEE-ing part of our Spelling Bee

How do you spell success?


Thank YOU to the 100+ community members who came together to support our students in pursuing their college aspirations at our first ever Spelling Bee!  The funds raised at the event go toward providing college preparation services to nearly 900 seniors each year – everything from college exploration and campus trips to filling out financial aid forms and submitting applications. You make it possible for our students to receive the support and guidance they need to succeed. See event photos >

It’s not too late to contribute! Your gift will help support our students’ college success.

I want to support CDI’s college preparation programs!

To contribute by check, please send to
Comprehensive Development, Inc.
240 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Congratulations to our winners

Student Teams
1st Place – Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School
2nd Place – City-As-School High School
3rd Place – The High School for Health Professions and Human Services

Adult Teams
1st Place – Spellcheck, NYC Writers
2nd Place – Board Report, CDI Board
3rd Place – Extra Credit, Credit Suisse

A special thank you goes to our generous corporate sponsors
Goldman Sachs
Credit Suisse

And to those who sponsored student and school teams
Michael Braun
Pam Craig
Energy Capital Partners
Tim Ettenheim
The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

Photos: Spelling Bee 2017

Congratulations Jeremiah!


Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School Alumni Jeremiah Perez-Torres is not simply a BMOC  at Buffalo State College—he’s a standout senior across New York! Jeremiah was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award, the highest honor for undergraduates, at a ceremony in early April for his achievement, leadership and community service.

While he was at MCNDHS, CDI staff helped Jeremiah find housing, finish high school and prepare for college. He graduated in January 2014 and attended Borough of Manhattan Community College before transferring upstate. He received the Delaney Scholarship awarded to exceptional alumni of CDI schools who are pursuing higher education at a four-year university.

Jeremiah graduates from Buffalo State this June with a B.S. in Criminal Justice and Intelligence Analysis and will be returning to the city in the fall to begin his Ph.D. at John Jay College focusing on terrorism and homeland security.

From the ED: In times like these…be involved!

Volunteer Andrew Darcovich from Goldman Sachs with City-As-School student Kevin Martinez at a recent corporate career preparation event

At CDI we serve a diverse group of young people from 14-24 and prepare them for life after high school. Much of our work is done with older youth, those 19 years and up, and immigrants from across the globe. Our students depend on federal aid for school meals, employment, college, and other benefits. As a nonprofit organization, we receive funding from government, private foundation and individual sources. We, along with many others in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, are concerned about potential changes in both immigration policy and in available funding for underserved populations and communities.

JobsFirstNYC’s recent article, What the President’s Proposed Budget Would Mean for Young New Yorkers summarizes some of the potential impact.

“The proposed federal budget includes a 13% cut in funding for the Department of Education’s budget. These cuts would include at least a $4.6 billion decrease in funding for student financial aid, as well as significant cuts in federal work-study funding. It would also result in a total decrease of $140 million from New York City schools and after-school programs. The President proposes to eliminate the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development which contributes to (among other programs):

  • Free breakfast in New York City public schools, which was recently expanded to serve 339,000 students at all of the city’s public elementary schools;
  • More than $5 million in job training through the NYC Department of Small Business Services;
  • Summer youth employment funding through NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, which serves approximately 60,000 young New Yorkers each year; and
  • Child care programs through the Administration for Children’s Services.”

These cuts deal a particular blow to the poor living in cities, reducing funding from federal agencies that lend assistance including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. “This budget seriously harms low-income people and communities at the expense of everyone else,” said Elyse Cherry, CEO of Boston Community Capital, in a recent article from The Atlantic. Her nonprofit provides funding to organizations that work on affordable housing and jobs in low-income communities.

You can read the full White House budget blueprint here.

At CDI we are working with our schools, stakeholders, volunteers, families, and students to ensure that during these unsure times we develop the leadership and capacity to weather the potential storm. The potential cuts will affect many of our young people and their families, especially in the areas of public education, afterschool programs and immigrant support. Here is a quick list of what we are doing:

  • Our Board and staff are working harder and smarter to identify resources and supports for our students.
  • Volunteers have been hosting College and Career Development Events at corporations, tutors are working with students after school and are assisting in the classroom.
  • Students are working with our College and Career Offices to develop clear plans for life after high school and the possible shifts in support.
  • We are adding Financial Literacy to our programming to help students and families understand what is happening and how it could affect them financially.
  • The Immigrant Legal Clinic has significantly increased its services and is providing clear and up to date information as we receive it.
  • We are in constant conversation and working together with the larger New York City nonprofit community.

What can you do?

Be involved! Individuals make a difference, and we see it every day in the actions above.

  • Help a community based organization find new resources.
  • Volunteer your time to help a young person develop a plan for the future.
  • Be a thought partner to help nonprofits with ideas, vision, and planning.
  • Advocate with local politicians to help our young people have the best education and financial supports for college and postsecondary training.
  • And of course, CDI loves your support! Come to our Spring Spelling Bee for Grownups on May 24th and help us raise funds to assist youth with college preparation, or attend our June Volunteer Appreciation Event, an “Attitude of Gratitude” to learn how you can be more personally involved in a young person’s journey.

It takes our entire community to provide the best possible opportunities and outcomes for our young men and women and to ensure a rewarding future for us all. Join us and take action.

Michael Roberts
Executive Director, CDI

Celebrating women, professionals lead the way

Accenture panelists with students attendees who all received a notebook gift to journal and track their goals.

March marked Women’s History Month and also included International Women’s Day. The Young Women’s Leadership Group at The High School for Health Professions and Human Services planned a series of events to celebrate female trailblazers across different industries and focus on their own career aspirations and life goals. HPHS welcomed a career panel from Accenture and hosted Arlene Adler, a finance professional as Principal for the Day.

CDI Board Member Nellie Borrero, Managing Director of Global Inclusion and Diversity at Accenture put together a diverse group of professional women for a career panel. “I totally could relate to the panelists. It felt like they were telling my same stories about high school experiences and not knowing what career they wanted. I keep to myself a lot and have to remind myself to speak up. They talked a lot about having their voices heard too and being a strong woman,” said sophomore Kaleema A. Maye.

Arlene took time out from her work as Vice President of Neuberger Berman to serve as Principal for a Day. She started the day with morning announcements and a meeting with student leaders before joining students and Sameera Savarla, a research analyst from the U.N., in a “Lunch and Learn” session focused on career development for young women.

“Coming to these events, made me aware there’s more out there, but you need to go out there and find it. No one is just going to hand it to you. You need to reach out and connect with people. Meeting these women and hearing what they had to say was motivating,” said Kaleema.

Arlene Adler (standing) with guest speaker Sameera Savarala (kneeling, center) and students

See more photos from HPHS Women’s History Week.

Photos: HPHS Women’s History Week

As real as it gets

CDI Career Academy students get three days each term of hands on experience at NYSIM,  a simulated real-work experience laboratory conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center and CUNY that provides a collaborative approach to health profession training, and improves communication, teamwork, and effectiveness in critical, high stress situations. Students practice clinical skills on responsive dummies that talk, sit up and may go into cardiac arrest. “It was so much harder than I expected! It was scary!” says Jessica C. “But it gave us a real idea of what a real patient emergency is like.” Students are videotaped and doctors and emergency workers debrief the scenario after each “patient” interaction.

Essay Editing at Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse employees provide one-on-one feedback to students on their college application essays.

Students from Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School did not waste any time getting to work during a recent Essay Editing Workshop hosted by CDI Board Member Jackie Krese and Credit Suisse’s IT Women’s Council. The room was abuzz within minutes as 20 students paired off with Credit Suisse employees from first year Technical Analysts to directors and VPs who volunteered their afternoons to go over early drafts of the students’ college admissions essays.

The essays allowed students and volunteers to connect as they worked together to refine their essays and draw upon each students’ unique experiences. “The best part was just talking and getting to know someone. I learned about Ms. Jodi’s experience and how she got her job. Your experience is so important, and you can’t learn stuff like that from a book! The feedback I got was really helpful,” says Adam (Jun Zhang) Law.

It was this personal nature of working with students one-on-one that drew in Tanju Degirmencioglu, a Director at Credit Suisse.

“I’ve never done an event like this, and wasn’t sure how helpful it would be. It exceeded my expectations. I only hope it was as rewarding and beneficial for the students as it was to us and that they walked away feeling as good as I do right now,” she said.

Many of CDI’s students come from incredibly diverse backgrounds with a breadth of experience. CDI staff at MCNDHS work with students to prepare around 900 college applications every year and aren’t always able to provide each student with in-person feedback that helps them identify what to share about themselves that will help differentiate them to admissions officers. Events like this give students a leg-up on their essays and allow them to connect to career mentors.

“I worked with a young man who is from Guinea, and learned a lot about him. At first he was quiet, but I shared some of my own story and he started opening up. We both share a lot in our background as immigrants, our family circumstances and the obstacles we’ve experienced. It felt good for him to hear what’s possible from someone he can identify with and for me to be able to be a positive role model,” said Nadya Pena, a software engineer.

Credit Suisse’s IT Women’s Council is hosting another event in April for students from all three of CDI’s schools that shifts the focus from college preparation to careers  with a focus on careers in IT and finance. See more photos from the event. 


Photos: Essay Editing at Credit Suisse

Students from Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School got a jump start on their college applications yesterday with one-on-one feedback from Credit Suisse employees at an Essay Editing Workshop hosted by CDI Board Member Jackie Krese and Credit Suisse’s IT Women’s Council.

There IS life after high school!

Once a year the College and Career Office at City-As-School invites former students to come back and share their successes and personal journeys with current students as part of an alumni panel. Over two days in February, more than a dozen alumni made their return to the school from industries including film, medicine, technology, and fashion. The auditorium was full and the networking went on until the lights had to be turned out.

CAS student breaks into broadcast with Wolverine!

City-As-School student and comic book fan Tatiana Alvarez hit the red carpet to interview Hugh Jackman during a Logan movie fan event. See how she did in her on-screen premiere which aired this weekend on FOX and friends.

Exploring the options

Student Sebastian Atiencia speaks to a representative from Manhattan’s Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences

For CDI students not sure of their plans after high school, there are plenty of options. Sometimes it’s straight to college after graduation, other times it might make more sense for a student to get vocational training, take on a service learning opportunity, apprenticeship or gain other work experience before hitting the books again.  CDI College and Career Advisors work with students to find the right fit. One of the ways they do that is through introducing students to what’s out there with a combination of College and Career Fairs hosted at each of the schools throughout the year.

Last week, students from The High School for Health Professions and Human Services gathered in the auditorium for a Career Options Fair to meet with representatives from the New York City Police and Fire Departments, U.S. Army, NPower, The Door, Year Up and several other organizations looking for bright students eager to jumpstart their careers after graduation.

“I have some friends who school isn’t so much their thing. We talked to the army and the New York Fire Department.  It was interesting and seems like those could be good career paths,” says Sebastian Atiencia, a junior. “It’s good to know there are a bunch of choices and more school isn’t the only way to go.”

The Career Options Fair is just one way students explore different careers. CDI Advisors also bring professionals in for panel discussions, connect students to internships and take student groups to visit local companies so they get a first-hand look at a wide selection of professional fields.

“We strive to ensure that all of our students are equipped with the necessary options and resources to plan the best post-secondary plan for themselves. It’s about developing a career, not just landing a job,” says Cristina Iavarone, a HPHS Career Advisor.

Next up is the City-As-School Career Options Fair in early May.   Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School hosts its  College and Career Fair every fall.



Preparation Meets Opportunity with BNY Mellon

CDI thanks BNY Mellon for a wonderful evening of mentorship

BNY Mellon hosted an evening of mentorship and career planning with CDI’s own up and coming business leaders last month during Preparation Meets Opportunity. The event was hosted by the BNY Mellon IMPACT Business Resource Group, part of BNY Mellon’s Affinity Network that provides career development and support for multicultural employees. Corporate volunteers met with members of CDI’s Young Men’s Leadership Program, making it the first time the young men from all three of CDI’s partner schools came together to plan for their career success.  CDI Board member Clara Brooks, a VP at BNY Mellon Wealth, brought together a committed group of professionals across BNY Mellon locations to make it happen.

“It was great to see young men taking an active role in their education and career paths at a young age, very inspiring.” said Ajene Oden, a Relationship Manager from Pershing, LLC, a BNY Mellon Company.

BNY Mellon panel moderator Lenue (Lenny) Singletary with panelists Christopher Sauer, Walter Smith and Ajene Oden

Ajene was part of the BNY Mellon panel that shared the triumphs and missteps that come with carving out a career. Students asked questions and opened up about their current struggles like failing classes. They heard from Walter Smith, Managing Director of BNY Mellon Wealth Management Finance and connected with professionals in various stages of their careers from other companies like Accenture, Goldman Sachs, HBO and Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York. The keynote speaker was Sonni Holland, Senior Program Director at The Charles Hayden Foundation who gave his ten guidelines to getting ahead… Number 1:  Be on time. He talked about how a strong work ethic, having the right attitude, and taking extra steps helped him progress when he was early in his career as a professional basketball player and his talents and skills weren’t yet fully developed. The event culminated when each student paired off with a mentor who taught an important rite of passage—how to tie a tie.

Student Erik Rudnicki from Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School said it was his first time networking and mingling with business people.

“I was nervous before, but it was great to get in that state of mind and thinking about preparing for interviews and our careers,” he said. “That night gave students like me an opportunity to step up.”

CDI has been working to increase events that develop youth leaders and give more students the opportunity to foster their aspirations in business settings with real insight and feedback from working professionals across industries. This month, women step into the spotlight with career events planned at The High School for Health Professions and Human Services for Women’s History Month.

BNY Mellon Wealth Managing Director Walter Smith and City-As-School student Kevin Martinez

See more photos from the event.

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