Interviews

ANDREW GILCHRIST

 Andrew and Jaden have been mentor and mentee for many years, forming a unique and rewarding bond.
It’s an amazing experience. Jaden inspires me and it’s additionally inspiring to know that I inspire Jaden as well.

Date you became a mentor:
September 2013.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
I wanted to give something back to the community I lived in.

What is it like to be a mentor?
It’s an amazing experience. Jaden inspires me, and it’s additionally inspiring to  know that I inspire Jaden as well.

Share your most memorable moment as a mentor.
When we were at a Yankees game, Jaden turned to me and told me, “Andy, I like you man, I love hanging out with you.” On the way back from the game on the subway, Jaden fell asleep on my shoulder. I just about cried.

How has your mentee transformed in your time together?
Jaden is a young man now. He listens to me and looks up to me in ways he never had before.

What advice would you offer to future mentors?
Listen to them and they will listen to you.

BABATUNDE | Young Professionals Council Member

 Babatunde, a young change maker, dedicates his time and energy to furthering CPNYC's mission.
As a former social worker, I have personally witnessed the long term effects of incarceration on families. My promise is to be an advocate, mentor and role model for our children.

How did you first find out about Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC)?
I was introduced to Children of Promise by Board Member Oma Holloway. We work together on various social, political and community efforts throughout central Brooklyn. 


What made you want to join the Young Professionals Council (YPC)?
I believe in the mission and vision of Children of Promise, NYC and wanted to help to raise awareness by using my personal and professional network to financially support the great work of the organization. 


What skills or assets do you bring to the team?
I feel that my varied service, problem solving and team building experience has been a valuable asset to the Children of Promise family. For almost two years, I've have had the opportunity to create, implement and produce fun and positive programs for the children we serve in our community.  
 

What have you found to be the most rewarding part of being on the YPC so far?
The most rewarding aspect of the YPC is being involved with a group of like minded young professionals dedicated to making a positive impact to the children of incarcerated parents
within my community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  


Are you involved in CPNYC in any other capacities?
Recently, I organized a holiday gift drive with my fraternity and I also volunteer for the Saturday Resource Center. 

TIFFANY NESBIT | After-School Volunteer

 Tiffany Nesbit volunteers her time to provide our children with support during the school week.
My mother was incarcerated when I was growing up. I understand what the CPNYC families are going through and wanted to offer my assistance to make their lives easier in any way I can.

Bio: Tiffany Nesbit was born and raised in the South Bronx but currently resides in Brooklyn. She is a fiction, fashion and beauty writer; educator; and editor currently working for New York State. Her passions include reading, writing, shopping, and traveling.

Date you started volunteering:
November 2015.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
My mother was incarcerated when I was growing up. I understand what the CPNYC families are going through and wanted to offer my assistance to make their lives easier in any way I can. I also think I am a good role model and want CPNYC students to see what they can achieve if they break the cycle.

How have you served as a volunteer?
I volunteer once a week, assisting group leaders with homework help and special activities such as art therapy, magic, and dance.

Share your most memorable moment as a volunteer.
For Christmas, CPNYC students were able to pick out two gifts and were featured on News 12. They were so excited that they were receiving more than one toy, and were over the moon when they heard they would be on TV. Their smiles have stayed with me since.

What are some lessons you have learned through this process?
Flexibility is key! It’s good to have a plan prepared for what you’d like to accomplish for the day, but you have to be able to read the room and make adjustments as necessary.

What advice would you offer to future volunteers?
Be open and honest. Children are able to tell when you’re not letting your true self show, and if they don’t feel that you are they won’t allow themselves to open up to you.

EMILY | Young Professionals Council Member

 Emily brings a unique set of skills to the YPC and promises to be an advocate for the children CPNYC serves.
I promise to be an advocate for the extraordinary children that CPNYC supports and to devote my time to furthering the agency’s mission.

What inspired you to join the Young Professionals Council (YPC)?
After speaking with members of the CPNYC staff, I was impressed by the organization’s mission to embrace children of incarcerated parents and empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system. As a member of the YPC, I work to further this mission.


What skills or assets do you bring to the team?
Before joining the YPC team, I worked for a transnational NGO based in Paris, France that supports children with imprisoned parents. The experience has given me insight into how another organization with a similar mission as CPNYC’s operates. 


What have you found to be the most rewarding part of being on the YPC so far?
Learning how other members came to be involved with CPNYC and hearing why they have been inspired to join. We are a diverse group working towards a common goal.


Which upcoming event are you most excited about?
I love to cook, so it would have to be a toss-up between the Cooking Contest and The Chef’s Dinner.

ADAM COUNTEE | Saturday Volunteer

 Saturday volunteer Adam Countee assists CPNYC program participants with a variety of work, proving that contributions of all sizes make a difference.
It is my sincere belief and hope in life that anyone can make a difference just by showing up. These kids are worth it!

Bio:  Adam Countee was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. After studying English at Georgetown University, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in filmmaking. He currently resides there with his wife and works as a screenwriter and television producer. His credits include the shows "Community," "The Mindy Project" and "Silicon Valley." 

Date you started Volunteering
March 2016.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
I was in New York on a temporary basis and was looking to get involved with an organization dedicated to helping kids. I’d heard through a friend about the incredible work that CPNYC was doing and I was eager to join up!

How have you served as a volunteer?
I attended Saturday tutoring sessions with the kids of CPNYC at the Bedford-Stuyvesant location. Together we did homework, read books and had a little fun on the basketball court.

Share your most memorable moment as a volunteer.
My most memorable moment as a volunteer was probably when Angelia, the student I was working with, finally stopped saying she “didn’t get” her math homework and finally decided to give it a try. She realized she knew a lot more than she thought she did. It was exciting to see Angelia surprise even herself and discover just how bright she truly is!

What are some lessons you have learned through this process?
My time at CPNYC was shorter than I had hoped, since I had to return to my home in Los Angeles. But in the short time I was there I learned so much from the incredible students and staff. Most notably, I learned that, as with most things in life, patience is key. The students were more often than not resistant to doing their homework… what kid wouldn’t be?! But I found that when I stayed on them and showed them I wasn’t going anywhere, they ultimately came around and applied themselves.

What advice would you offer to future volunteers?
I only was able to offer a small contribution to this great program, so I’d like to think that every little bit helps. It is my sincere belief and hope in life that anyone can make a difference just by showing up. These kids are worth it!

LESLIE LYONS | Photo Volunteer

 Leslie Lyons, CPNYC Photo Volunteer, brings a variety of artistic experience to the organization.
Children will always surprise you and, if given the right environment and freedom to do so, they will usually surprise you in the most profound ways.

Bio:  Leslie Lyons is a multi media creator of art and content. As a Photographer, Leslie has produced images for major music labels (Atlantic Records, Columbia Records, Universal Music Group), indie labels (Rough Trade, Mute Records) and worked with talent that includes Sonic Youth, Pharaoh Sanders, the Strokes, Julee Cruise and Esperanza Spalding among others. Leslie’s image of acoustic punk heroine, Laura Jane Grace, helped brand the AOL Originals series, TRUE TRANS, which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2015. As a Creator and Director of artistic content since 2011, Leslie has been commissioned by arts festivals from Brooklyn to Seattle to produce engaging, experiential projects that document and present creative collaboration.

Date you started volunteering
Spring 2016.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
The overwhelming mass incarceration going on in our country is of concern to me as a citizen and as an artist. Through photography, I have participated in projects that address this problem as a social issue but often those efforts feel conceptual and in the moment. In late 2015, I read an interview with CPNYC founder, Sharon Content, and realized that the organization’s effort is a direct, practical and successful model that should be supported in every way. Children are not to blame for the ills of society.

How have you served as a volunteer?
I learned about the dynamic aspects of CPNYC’s program by volunteering as a Saturday tutor at first. This gave me the opportunity to make personal connections with some of the kids and permanent staff. Then I began shooting images for the newsletters and web site. My hope is to work with the Programming Division to bring some of my contacts from the music industry and art world in to present enrichment workshops in the future.

Share your most memorable moment as a volunteer.
One day during the after school computer class, I was taking pictures and moving around the room like I usually do. Nobody was paying much attention to me except for a young boy named Fadari; he kept asking to see my pictures. But he wouldn’t just look and go away. He kept telling me how to do it better! Finally, I just put the camera around his neck and helped him with the camera settings for each shot while he took the pictures. Some people say that there is natural talent with creativity but it usually refers to music or painting or, perhaps, writing. To see this natural ability with photography—with a way of SEEING—was astounding to me. It was obvious Fadari had vision. 

What are some lessons you have learned through this process?
The biggest lesson I have learned and continue to learn is to never assume anything. Children will always surprise you and, if given the right environment and freedom to do so, they will usually surprise you in the most profound ways.

What advice would you offer to future volunteers?
Just being in the room where the magic is happening at CPNYC is inspiring and helpful as so many people are needed to sustain this kind of effort. But my advice would be to try and identify the unique aspect of yourself, of your experience, of your knowledge that you could bring to the table as a volunteer. This will make the experience deep and rich both for you and for the kids.

KUMANAN | Young Professionals Council Member

 YPC member Kumanan brings finance and business experience to the team, furthering CPNYC's mission.
I first started at CPNYC as a mentor and quickly discovered that joining the YPC was necessary to effectuate change and assist in expanding the organization.

How did you first learn about CPNYC?
I was making the move from Toronto over to New York City in 2014 and I heard about CPNYC through a colleague at another non-profit I work with. I came by for one of their orientation weekends and have been here ever since.

What inspired you to join the Young Professionals Council (YPC)?
I first started at CPNYC as a mentor and quickly discovered that joining the YPC was necessary to effectuate change and assist in expanding the organization.

Which skills do you bring to the team?
Finance and business experience.

What has been the most rewarding part of being on the YPC?
Seeing kids in the break rooms or playing basketball at CPNYC, knowing that we’re helping shape this amazing organization.

Describe your personal promise to CPNYC.
To remain dedicated to bettering the lives of children of incarcerated parents.