New High-Tech Classroom Opens Door to Digital Careers

Left to right: Abby Jo Sigal, Cameron Koffman of City Councilmember Julie Menin's office, Isaacs Center President Roderick L. Jones, Abe Mendez of Per Scholas and Gale Brewer look on as Mark Levine cuts the ribbon
Left to right: Abby Jo Sigal, Cameron Koffman of City Councilmember Julie Menin's office, Isaacs Center President Roderick L. Jones, Abe Mendez of Per Scholas and Gale Brewer look on as Mark Levine cuts the ribbon
Left to right: Abby Jo Sigal, Cameron Koffman of City Councilmember Julie Menin’s office, Isaacs Center President Roderick L. Jones, Abe Mendez of Per Scholas and Gale Brewer look on as Mark Levine cuts the ribbon

The Isaacs Center cut the ribbon on a new high-tech classroom in May, paving the way for community members to get training for good jobs in the technology sector.

The new classroom is the result of a partnership with Per Scholas, a national organization that helps people from diverse backgrounds become qualified for high-growth careers in the tech industry.

“This Per Scholas classroom will be transformational. After three months of training, participants graduate with one of the most in-demand, dynamic skill sets that will open new doors to career possibilities and financial security,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine at the ribbon-cutting.

“As one of the institutions most committed to bridging the digital divide in Manhattan, the Isaacs Center could not be a better partner for this collaboration.”

City Councilmember Gale Brewer and a representative from City Councilor Julie Menin’s office also attended the ceremony, along with Abby Jo Sigal, who heads the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development.

The first class, which started this week, is a 12-week IT Support program culminating in a CompTIA A+ Certification and Google IT Support Professional Certificate. The free program also provides workplace exposure and connections to employers to help place students in jobs.

The technology career path will join other successful offerings in the Isaacs Center’s Education and Workforce Training program, including culinary studies and health care.

“At the Isaacs Center, the goal is for our Education & Workforce program to become a ‘one-stop shop’ for clients that offers a multitude of services to young and older adults at one location,” said Shayla Simpson, Isaacs Center director of education and workforce development.

“There is Hope”

John Woodrow Cox describes the widespread impact of gun violence on children, and says change is still possible

Chad Franklin and John Woodrow Cox

Watch our online Book Chat with John Woodrow Cox

Ava was a first grader when her best friend Jacob was shot on their playground at school. “Ava adored Jacob. She envisioned marrying him when they got older,” said author John Woodrow Cox in a recent online book chat with Goddard Riverside’s Chad Franklin. “She was devastated—she is devastated.”

Tyshaun was in the first grade too when his father was shot. The two children’s backgrounds are different—he’s black, from a Southeast DC block where gun violence is commonplace; she is white and from a tiny South Carolina town. But they struggled in similar ways after the shootings. Tyshaun had outbursts at school, once flipping over a desk, and another time shoving a fellow student into the wall. Ava had periods of white-hot rage. “She began to harm herself, she would dig her nails into her ellbow and pull out her eyelashes and bang her head against the wall,” Cox recounted.

Both of these children had their lives torn apart. But they have another thing in common: they were not seen as victims of gun violence by law or popular opinion.

“The scope of this problem is so much larger than Americans realize,” Cox explained. “We look at the 45,000 people who died last year in shootings—it’s a staggering number, but it doesn’t come close to the number of people affected.”

That number is in the millions, Cox said, and young people are particularly vulnerable—even if they don’t lose a loved one. He cited a Chicago study of children who lived in neighborhoods where a gun homicide had occurred. It found that the violence had an immediate impact on their school performance: “They didn’t have to know the person, they didn’t have to see it or hear it, they just had to know someone in their neighborhood was shot to death—and it affected how well they did on their test scores the following week.”

Cox is a reporter at the Washington Post. He won our Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice last year with his first book, Children Under Fire: An American Crisis.

Far more children should receive support when they’re touched by gun violence, Cox argued—and the amount of support should not vary according to the child’s background. He pointed out that when there’s a shooting at a majority-white school in the suburbs, resources come flooding in. But shootings in poorer Black and brown neighborhoods get overlooked. “There’s a belief that says it’s just the way it is for those kids, because they live in this zip code, because of the color of their skin,” he said. “It’s a lie. And it’s racism. I don’t know any other way to describe it.”

A few changes in the law could make a big difference, he added. We can stem the flood of guns across the country by requiring a background check for every gun purchase. We can help keep them out of the hands of children by passing tough laws requiring parents to secure them at home. Small and inexpensive safes are now available that can be opened in seconds in an emergency, he explained: “There is no excuse to have a gun in a bedside table.”

While the human cost of gun violence is overwhelming, Cox holds out hope that the end is in sight. He says grassroots groups like Moms Demand Action are increasingly effective at shaping public opinion and pressuring Congress. Meanwhile, young people like the Parkland survivors who formed March for Our Lives are poised to shake things up.

“This whole generation of kids who’ve grown up cowering in their hallways and thinking they might die in school—they’re going to be voters and they’re going to be lawmakers and leaders, and I don’t think they’re going to allow that culture to continue,” he concluded.

“There is hope. And I think young people in particular are the ones who are going to change things.”

Leading with Words

Side by side photos of a man holding a book and a woman smiling with a copy of her article
A diptych showing a man holding a book and a woman smiling with a copy of her article
Rooney and Matloff-Nieves with their most recent publications

Writing for publication is a great way to share your ideas and influence your field—and it also strengthens your own work, according to two of our recently published senior leaders.

“It was good for me as a teacher, as a clinician, as a supervisor, to write something that’s academic and peer-reviewed—because it’s hard!” said Aaron Rooney, who oversees all programs for older adults at the Isaacs Center and Goddard Riverside. “It’s like writing a college paper times ten, because it’s real.”

Rooney co-wrote a chapter on case management for the Social Workers’ Desk Reference, a standard text used in universities and in the field. He describes case management as one-on-one work to meet a client’s needs—from food and housing, to making sure they’re up to date on their government benefits, to helping them figure out a confusing letter they got in the mail. He says he and his writing partner updated the chapter from the previous edition and added their own insights.

“The way I think about case management is through the lens of food security, financial security and housing security. And then we tried to look at it from a diversity perspective as well. The previous chapter didn’t have anything about working with LGBT older adults and thinking about how to adjust case management programs from one neighborhood to the next.”

Deputy Executive Director Susan Matloff-Nieves has been publishing articles for years—and even co-wrote a book on how to help girls succeed in science, technology, engineering and math. Her latest piece is “Partnering for Literacy Impact” in the journal Afterschool Matters. It’s about the partnership between Goddard Riverside and Writopia Lab, which provides writing programs for young people. Matloff-Nieves, writing with Writopia Lab’s Rebecca Wallace-Segall, describes the alliance as combining the strengths of both organizations to create a culture of literacy, learning and joy.

“Basically we told the story of how it developed, but I think in the process we were trying to articulate what makes a good partnership, because partnerships can be instrumental,” she said.

Matloff-Nieves loves writing and says it enriches her work: “The writing that I do as a researcher is really reflective. You look at challenges, you learn from other people. It’s inquiry.”

She adds that it’s important for people working in the field to research and write. “Research is political. Who decides the questions that we answer? Our participants should be posing questions, and we should as practicioners should be posing questions, that we then seek answers to.”

Rooney and Matloff-Nieves both plan to continue writing, and say the partnership between Goddard Riverside and the Isaacs Center should provide even more opportunities to pioneer new approaches and report on them to a broader audience.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to do interesting things, and we’d be remiss not to write about those things,” said Rooney.

Isaacs Center, Goddard Riverside Leaders Honored as Whole Health Heroes

Rod Jones and Greg Morris in front of the Isaacs Center

Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Crain’s New York Business have honored Gregory J. Morris and Roderick Jones, executive directors of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center and Goddard Riverside, as 2021 Whole Health Heroes.

Morris and Jones were listed as a team in recognition of the strategic partnership between the two organizations. The award highlighted the work both have done to support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Under Morris’ leadership, the Stanley Isaacs Center more than tripled the average number of meals produced monthly, to 6,100. During the first few weeks of ramping up the campaign, the center reached 92% of the 704 clients reporting acute food insecurity because of the pandemic, and it connected the others to nearby providers,” the award webpage notes.

“During the height of the pandemic, Goddard Riverside provided some 1,000 meals per day to homebound seniors and their supportive housing tenants. Goddard Riverside launched programs to help clients meet emergency needs, including financial and legal counseling,” it continues.

The awards went to 25 individuals and teams from numerous high-profile organizations including Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the New York Army National Guard, City Winery, American Museum of Natural History, the National Tennis Center and Actors’ Equity Association

Isaacs Family Homecoming Fundraiser a Success

On September 30, we shared music, champagne, a delicious meal prepared by our very own Soup’s Up team, and the long-awaited pleasure of one another’s company in our senior center “home.”

Greg Morris, who has led us thoughtfully and with passion for the last 7+ years as executive director, toasted the Isaacs Center’s long history of compassion and service, and the important work that lies ahead as we continue to promote dignity and self-reliance across generations of New Yorkers in partnership with Goddard Riverside.

We honored outgoing Isaacs Center board president Richard Nesson and longest-serving board member Gretchen Stone, who have given – and continue to give – their time, expertise, and devotion to our organization for many years.

Damion Samuels, who heads education and workforce development – including the culinary arts training program that prepares vulnerable young adults for sustainable careers – engaged celebrity chef JJ Johnson on leveraging his success to mentor trainees.

Finally, we enjoyed canapés and a beautiful, three-course meal prepared in our kitchen by Chef Cori Boudreaux and the training program grads now employed on our Soup’s Up team.

Thanks to those who attended, sponsored tables, donated, and bid on our silent auction items, we exceeded our fundraising goal, raising $100,000 for programs and services that will help sustain and uplift our neighbors in need.

Thanks…

…to Chef JJ Johnson for donating his time, his cookbook “Between Harlem and Heaven,” and his FIELDTRIP gift certificate for our event and silent auction, and for being an active source of support and employment for our young adults.

…to Our Honorees Richard and Gretchen, who continue to lead us graciously and powerfully

…to the Junior Board for sourcing some seriously fabulous auction items

To the Volunteers who transformed our humble home into an elegant event space for the evening and who welcomed and served our guests with grace

…to the student jazz musicians of Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School who dazzled during cocktail hour

…to the Planning Committee – Ashley Higgins Dieck, Marion Hedges, Gail Berry O’Neill, Lee Wareham, and Amy Zeng – you are invaluable to this organization and so much fun to work with

Record your message of thanks to the honorees, board members, staff, and other members of the Isaacs Center family here!

Leaders of the Isaacs Center and Goddard Riverside stand smiling in front of a banner bearing the logos of both organizations

View photos from our Isaacs Family Homecoming!

 

Fiscal Year 2021 Update

Thanks to the individual donors and foundations who help fund our work, we were able to meet the increased need triggered by the pandemic and sustained by its economic effects.

With your support, we continue:

Addressing food insecurity

Our Meals on Wheels program provides 7 nutritious, home-delivered meals to more than 2,000 seniors each week. Menus include hot and frozen meals, as well as vegetarian, Latin American, and kosher options. Senior center members can also access meals to “Grab and Go” at our center or enjoy them in our socially distanced dining room. Pantry items are offered weekly, and our Soup’s Up program, which launched this summer, is already serving nearly 200 households with health-conscious, easy-to-prep meal kits.

Serving seniors

Before we reopened our facilities this summer, we provided full, virtual services to more than 2,000 clients, with 1,394 clients receiving case assistance, 135 receiving financial counseling/assistance, 180 receiving healthcare management/assistance, and 867 participating in recreational/educational activities.

With covid-19 precautions in place, our center is now bustling again, with indoor activities like yoga, barre class, table games, and discussion groups. We have at least 2 full-time social workers onsite each day, as well as in-person nursing, health coaching, and technology assistance.

Providing pathways for young adults

Though educational programming was entirely virtual, 8 earned their high-school equivalency, and 20 grade gains were made in reading and math.

Even in a fully remote setting, our culinary arts training program is on track to significantly eclipse every performance target. Our Community Kitchen and Soup’s Up programs employ young adult graduates of this program to support our increased kitchen output.

Our scholarship program helped 18 students pursue a college degree and our mentor program engages recipients with young professionals from our junior board. We are assembling an alumni advisory council to center the voice of the underrepresented job seeker in program development, and launching a managerial apprenticeship so that program alumni can cultivate marketable skills.

We placed 159 participants in jobs.

Supporting school children

Our Beacon after school programs faced multple challenges, including reaching students and families after the onset of the pandemic, engaging children in virtual learning, and dealing with school closures even once students returned to classrooms. Our staff focused heavily on providing social and emotional supports to children and their families.

Events engaged 475 participants, however, and 200 elementary students moved up a grade on time. We are preparing to launch in early 2022 the Jack August Learning Program, a privately-funded, comprehensive, partner-based, multi-year program for children and their families. More details will follow.

[maxbutton id=”1″ url=”https://isaacscenter.org//get-involved/” text=”SUPPORT OUR WORK” ]

Isaacs Center Partners with Goddard Riverside

In May 2021, the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center (Isaacs Center) entered into a strategic partnership with Goddard Riverside (Goddard) with the purpose of enhancing the services that both organizations provide to New Yorkers. Joining forces with Goddard, at this critical moment in the City’s history, will expand access to economic security and housing stability for thousands of low-income New Yorkers (from Lincoln Square to East Harlem) and support a just and fair recovery for communities most affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

This partnership has been a long time in the making. Since the Isaacs Center was the beneficiary of Morgan Stanley’s pro bono Strategy Challenge program, which assessed the Isaacs Center’s mission and aspirations, and offered insight into sustainability strategies, the board explored opportunities for partnership that would position the organization to create change on local and city-wide level. In Goddard, we found an organization with similar values and vision, whose long history (since the 1800s) and present leadership demonstrates an enduring commitment to serving vulnerable New Yorkers with sensitivity and integrity. Our mutual alliance was made official in May with an eye toward demonstrating efficiency and effectiveness while building the capacity and leverage necessary to influence the City’s ability to improve the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers.

Who is Goddard?

Goddard supports families at every stage of life, serving more than 20,000 people a year on the Upper West Side and throughout New York City. Like the Isaacs Center, Goddard is an active member of the settlement house community. They prioritize dignity and respect, and work within a social justice framework to create a fair and just society where all people have the opportunity to make choices that lead to better lives for themselves and their families.

Dr. Roderick (Rod) Jones has served as Goddard Executive Director since February 2017. Rod grew up in New York City public housing and went into social services, first in Rochester and then in St. Louis. He was named Not-for-Profit Leader of the Year in 2011 by the Regional Chamber of Commerce and The St. Louis American. Rod has a doctorate in Education from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York and a Master’s in Public Administration from SUNY-Brockport. He sees the role of settlement houses like Goddard and the Isaacs Center as “enabling people to make the best choices they can for themselves and their families.”

What has changed?

The agreement between the Isaacs Center and Goddard allows the Isaacs Center to maintain its independent non-profit status while becoming a membership organization under Goddard. As a subsidiary of Goddard, the Isaacs Center can also offer better benefits and more growth opportunities to its staff, who are essential to our good work and deserving of the best possible compensation.

The Isaacs Center now has a single, corporate board member: Goddard, and its reconstituted board comprises five Goddard board members. Eight of the previous Isaacs Center board members joined the Goddard board, ensuring continuity of governance and oversight. Other previous Isaacs Center board members wishing to continue their service to the Isaacs Center were invited to join Goddard board committees.

During the summer, our administrative offices (human resources, development, finance, and operations) began migrating to Goddard. For these teams, the move to Goddard means a larger staff and access to more resources. The cost savings of combining our respective back office functions are complemented by greater capacity to execute those functions. In the coming months, the senior leaders of Isaacs Center programs will be migrated under the Goddard umbrella to lead the alignment of Goddard and Isaacs Center programs. Isaacs Center Executive Director Gregory J (Greg) Morris will serve under Rod as Chief Program Officer (for both Isaacs Center and Goddard programs).

What stays the same?

Both organizations are maintaining our respective 501c3 designations, meaning that our programs and finances will be kept separate. Importantly, donors who wish to support Isaacs Center programs are welcome to continue to do so. Both donors and volunteers continue to be essential to the programs and services Isaacs Center provides in our community.

In joining forces with Goddard, we will continue our tremendous history of strengthening the communities we serve while we launch collaborative efforts that improve access to economic security and housing stability for New Yorkers in need. We invite you, our Isaacs Center family, to continue that long history with us.

Pride Month 2021

During LGBTQIA+ Pride month, we commemorate the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and the beginning of the modern Gay Rights movement.  As we honor and celebrate those trailblazing individuals – from Marsha P. Johnson to Dr. Rachel Levine – whose passion and persistence have drawn us closer to full equality, we are called upon to stand in solidarity for the systemic change required to prevent all discrimination and injustice. “The Fight Continues,” the official theme of NYC Pride, reflects the extraordinary contributions of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and the support of allies to achieve remarkable results since Stonewall- passing of workplace protections and hate crime legislation, and guaranteeing the right to marry to same-sex couples. Yet, only 21 states and the District of Columbia, protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations and a record number of state legislatures proposed anti-LGBTQ laws – many with a specific focus on reducing the rights of transgender people. [According to the Human Rights Campaign, 28 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the United States so far this year, putting 2021 on pace to be one of the worst years on record for anti-trans violence. The victims were overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic trans women.]

As noted by our tremendous guest speaker at today’s Isaacs Center Pride event, David Rothenberg, the intersection of honesty and love makes it possible for each of us to be total human beings, and Pride month is a reminder of what is possible when each of us reaches this intersection and what we hold and what we share is embraced, protected, and celebrated.

#IsaacsPride Virtual Celebration recording with special guest David Rothenberg, veteran Broadway producer, prisoners’ rights activist, and author of “Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour Social Justice and Political Passion” and “When I’m Her,” a PBS short documentary from Emily Shuman featuring Michael Cusumano, Madame Olga, and Michael Apuzzo.
Watch celebration

Juneteenth 2021

This week, President Biden signed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and enshrined June 19 as a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. While the mammoth impact of slavery on our nation’s history cannot be fully measured in a day, nor the toll that it continues to take be remedied by the signing of one bill, the acknowledgment of this stain on our history by our federal government, and the extraordinary activism, sacrifice, and perseverance of advocates to make Juneteenth possible is a demonstration of our collective potential to become ‘a more perfect’ Union.

Juneteenth is the first new national holiday established since Martin Luther King Day in 1983. To King, “Slavery was perpetuated in America not merely by human badness but also by human blindness.” As we share our first national Juneteenth, it is essential that we reflect on how deeply racism is embedded in American policies and how it still affects education, health care, jobs, housing…

We must continually fight to dismantle these inequitable structures and to implement policies that serve us all. It is the effort we make to call out and confront what is unjust and inequitable that defines us, and it is the commitment we make to struggle and overcome that heals us and brings us hope.

PRIDE 2021: #IsaacsPride

Led by the Isaacs Center Junior Board and Out at Isaacs, we are honoring and celebrating diverse expressions of gender and sexuality, and the quest for equality and liberty of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people in our community and everywhere.

Throughout the month of June:

Post your boldest, most fun Pride selfie, mini-video, or gif and tag #isaacspride.
Visit our Pride banner near the entrance to our Senior Center at 415 E 93rd St. It’s a great spot to take your selfie!
Make a donation in honor of someone who inspires you to be your authentic self.

On Tuesday, June 29th:

Join the Isaacs Center community on Zoom at 12pm for a virtual Pride Celebration hosted by the Isaacs Center Junior Board and Out at Isaacs. All are welcome!
Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87119063430

Special guest Michael Cusumano will appear as Madame Olga to headline the event. Community members will share poems, stories, songs, and art, and we’ll enjoy a Virtual Pride Parade, highlighting selfies submitted throughout the month.

Help us reach our goal of $2,021 in honor of all things #isaacspride!

Facebook Fundraiser link: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1196015940848121/

Isaacs Pride Poster

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