Volunteers

2018 Holiday Celebration

CPNYC would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of our incredible partners who collaborated with CPNYC for our annual Holiday Celebration. With the support of WGirls, FPWA, Madison International Realty, Alexis Clark, Da'Nashja Davis, Kijafa Fowler, Young Black & Brooklyn, PS139, Community Partners, Roller Rabbit, Timberlands, and DYCD we were able to distribute multiple personalized gifts to over 180 children and families. The Urban Mosaic Center for Social Justice also participated in the event, providing a special holiday meal for our students. Finally, CPNYC would like to thank Justin Aharoni for the photographs and all of the volunteers who spent hours wrapping presents, decorating the facility, preparing for the event and working one-on-one with our participants.

Happy Holidays to all!

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.

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.

VICTORIA UREN | Design Volunteer

Victoria Uren volunteers her design skills at CPNYC and has played a large role in launching "Art from the Heart," a new initiative centered around art therapy.
I’ve learned how much of a difference you can make just by deciding to be there, to offer yourself and to let others know you’re working for the same goals.

Bio:  Victoria Uren is a rising senior at Wellesley College originally from Beijing, China.

Date you started volunteering:  
February 2016.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
Community outreach and service have always been a significant part of my life, and when my mom and I were looking for an opportunity in New York and found CPNYC, the organization’s focus made it an obvious choice.

How have you served as a volunteer?
I began by tutoring at the Saturday Resource Center last winter, when it launched. After that, I worked with my mom, as well as CPNYC’s own Development team, to put together “Art from the Heart”, an arts publication oriented exclusively towards promoting art-related opportunities for the kids at CPNYC.

Share your most memorable moment as a volunteer.
So much of my experience with CPNYC has been memorable, but it’s been particularly special to work with kids during the Saturday tutoring sessions. Seeing that someone I’ve been working with has improved, and maybe understands better now something they didn’t when they walked into the tutoring room earlier that day—it’s small, but you remember it.

What are some lessons you have learned through this process?
I’ve learned a lot by seeing how you can contribute so much by being proactive and searching for ways you can offer yourself. More than that, though, I’ve learned by seeing the dedication and passion that CPNYC’s staff bring to their work all the time. And then, through both of these things, I’ve learned how much of a difference you can make just by deciding to be there, to offer yourself, and to let others know you’re working for the same goals.

What advice would you offer to future volunteers?
One thing I would suggest is that if you find yourself wanting to work on a specific project—maybe something that you came up with—you shouldn’t be shy about it. If there’s something that your skill set or background or interests give you preparation for, then being able to offer those resources is a great thing. The initiative to drive a project is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

KIM ZIEGLER | Saturday Volunteer

Bed-Stuy-based Kim Zielger is committed to giving back to her community.
Last spring I worked mostly with kids from kindergarten to second grade, helping them with their homework. We read lots of books, learned shapes, counted by tens, did addition and subtraction, colored and played board games!

Bio: Kim Ziegler has a PhD in Italian Studies from NYU where she is a teaching fellow in the College Core Curriculum program. When not teaching or volunteering at CPNYC, she loves going to Brooklyn Bridge Park with her husband, cooking and (most importantly!) eating good food, especially dishes from her home state of Louisiana.

Date you started volunteering
March 2016.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
I live in Bed-Stuy and was looking for a way to become more involved in the neighborhood and to work with kids in the process. I was inspired by CPNYC’s mission, especially how the program focuses on children as whole people, offering them support in everything from after-school programs to mental health.

How have you served as a volunteer?
I am a regular volunteer at the Saturday Resource Tutoring Center. Last spring I worked mostly with kids from kindergarten to second grade, helping them with their homework. We read lots of books, learned shapes, counted by tens, did addition and subtraction, colored and played board games!

Share your most memorable moment as a volunteer.
I am constantly entertained and impressed by the kids. After we did a school worksheet one Saturday, Nicholas asked to color. So we found a coloring book, and soon he was cutting out characters and telling a story about them. We set up a table and chairs, and he put on a play using the characters as puppets. He was so creative! It really was fun. Other times, I have run into kids in the neighborhood, and they say hi and give me a big hug. They seem happy to see me, but what they don’t know is that seeing them makes my day!

What are some lessons you have learned through this process?
Doing school work on a Saturday is not an easy thing, so it is really important to acknowledge this and to share with the kids how we are proud of them for coming in and trying to get work done. I think the organization of the day, where we work and have periodic breaks for the kids to play in the gym all together is key. It’s natural that some kids, especially the younger ones, may have difficulty concentrating. At the same time, I have learned that we volunteers have to be patient and keep encouraging them even when they try to avoid doing work at all costs. Some kids repeat over and over that it’s too hard or that they can’t do it, and you worry about upsetting them. But I’ve realized that we are also teaching them how to stick with a task. As long as the tutor sits by the child’s side and offers encouragement, she or he can do it. It’s amazing to point out to the students after they’ve completed a whole assignment, “Look at what you did. That’s awesome!”

What advice would you offer to future volunteers?
Brush-up on your superhero and cartoon characters beforehand so that you can impress the kids with everything you know! I feel so old sometimes, but the kids are happy to explain new shows and characters to you. Get a good night’s sleep before you come. Young people have a ton of energy!

JESSICA JAHN | Saturday Volunteer

Bed-Stuy-based Jessica Jahn volunteers as a Saturday Volunteer, directly impacting the children CPNYC serves.
A few weeks after I started volunteering, I ran into one of the children that I worked with on my street. It was great to see how excited she was to see me, and the hug I got gave me energy for the rest of the day.
— Jessica Jahn

Bio: Jessica Jahn is a Costume Designer who lives in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and works in Theatre/Opera. She has lived in Brooklyn for 20 years, and has become a die-hard New Yorker.  

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?  
I came across CPNYC on a walk in the neighborhood, and after looking into the work that they do, understood it to be a valuable and worthy organization that I wanted to be a part of. I felt that they were (and are) dedicated to erasing inequity and advancing the needs of children by supporting a sometimes invisible but extremely important part of our population.  

How have you served as a volunteer?  
I worked with CPNYC as a tutor during the Saturday Resource Center/Homework Help during the school year.  

Share your most memorable moment as a volunteer.  
A few weeks after I started volunteering, I ran into one of the children that I worked with on my street. It was great to see how excited she was to see me (and I her), and the hug I got gave me energy for the rest of the day.  

What are some lessons you have learned through this process?  
The most wonderful thing that I have learned while working with CPNYC is the art of zen. It’s made me realize how important it is to be able to have patience, release the need to control every situation, and how to support and love children through the simple act of consistency.  

What advice would you offer to future volunteers?  
To be open to different ways of being, to have fun, to share yourself, to not be afraid to look silly, to be honest and truthful.