Baylander Summer 2023 Launch Party
Arete Board of Directors welcomed 50 guests to the Baylander Steel Beach for a happy hour fundraising event in Harlem this past Sunday, May 21. 2023. We had an incredible showing of support from the Board, staff, family, colleagues, and new Arete supporters. It was a beautiful evening to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2022-2023 school year and bring awareness to our Summer 2023 Program offerings. Please consider donating today to support 500 students in the Bronx and Harlem receive access to free summer programming in academics, enrichment, and career exposure.
Eid Celebration 2023
Last month, we welcomed the Mott Haven community to join us and the local Muslim community at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology for a celebratory Eid-al-Fitr event! Attendees engaged in various activities like playing dominoes, taking pictures, enjoying food and snacks, and ultimately spent valuable time with one another. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Eid celebration!
Leaders of Dynamic Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental sense of awareness that allows one to pay attention to purpose and being in the present moment. Mindfulness is not just meditation, reflection, concentration exercises, or a quick fix for stress. It is the nature of being conscious of personal sensations and feelings and attending to them.
The Mindful Stress Buffering Account presented by Creswell and Lindsay (2014) proposes that mindfulness alters stress appraisals to reduce stress reactivity and strengthens stress coping mechanisms. Furthermore, they present that mindfulness can activate the SAM-axis (a stress-response system) in one of two ways: reducing the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response to stress) or increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (network of nerves that relaxes the body after experiencing stress). This biological evidence communicated that mindfulness can help mitigate the effect stress has on human health.
Moreover, applications of Mindfulness-Based Programming have observed increases in well-being, improved behavior regulation, and reduced stress and psychological symptoms. Stress and trauma can have direct (onset of diseases) and indirect (impair cognitive function and performance) effects. Implementing mindfulness practices can help reduce stress and support health.
Arete President Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg plans to use a Niroga Dynamic Mindfulness Training to implement mindfulness practices within Arete to help not just students but staff and leaders too!
Why this training?
The work from the Niroga Institute has developed from using their training in groups with students in Oakland. It was tailored for youth who are in serious distressing circumstances and focuses on addressing their trauma. Niroga specializes in an integrative approach that involves social emotional learning, social emotional teaching, and social emotional parenting.
Materials from Niroga are not new to Arete as we have used their approach in the past when piloting and designing the SEL curriculum 2019. It started with training students and afterschool staff with Transformative Life Skills sessions with the help of Niroga. This work resembled a bottom-up design where the Arete SEL pilot team saw how students took the lead in mindfulness-based programming like deciding when they wanted to take the time to do breathing exercises. Four years since the SEL pilot, Sarah wants to layer in a top-down design where leaders within Arete receive training through Niroga’s Dynamic Mindfulness sessions.
“The intent of this training is to give you more oxygen to survive with your work,” Sarah coaches the leadership team. She underscores the importance of providing her staff with the necessary tools to help and support their needs as human beings and educators. She intends for this training to help Arete's leaders deal with their trauma, whether it be vicarious trauma or acute trauma. This is a call for Arete’s leaders to know how to support themselves and find ways to address their stress. Down the line, they will be transferring the skills learned through Niroga to their work within Arete.
What do you hope your employees gain from this training? How will progress and learning be tracked?
“I want them to feel comfortable breathing. I want them to feel comfortable creating a space for mindfulness.” Sarah hopes to see these mindful behaviors happening in all Arete meetings, classrooms, and across the organization's culture. The leadership group will finish the intensive training period by June and subsequently have working products that are manifested at the partnership schools.
In terms of assessment, there is a plan to have our leaders working on designing a curriculum for this summer that implements what they have learned in their Niroga training. Engaging Arete's leaders in some form of design work will put their skills to the test. This is imperative for implementing their new learnings for the upcoming school year at all of Arete's four expansion sites. Their learning will be observed, and they will be coached to integrate Niroga's dynamic mindfulness skills into their staff trainings and regular team meetings. From there, the dynamic mindfulness skills gained from this spring's trainings can serve as a model for future work. Niroga is well known on the West Coast but not in New York. Arete can serve as an example for others to see how powerful integrating Niroga's trainings can be within an organization and at community school sites.
Why this group? Do you hope it’ll have a trickle down effect?
Sarah’s vision for this session was to have a pilot to start with an influential group. She states that this approach is partially in response to Arete's expansion as the organization is living through the question: “How do we want this culture to expand with the other boroughs?”
Arete is a relatively small organization with over a decade of experience at the The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, which serves as a model for new partnerships. This training allows for a monthly leadership series to build a leadership cohort. Then, at each community school site, there will be a cohort that will be able to lead the school's dynamic mindfulness work. Sarah notes that these leaders have been through a lot by being an organization within a big city that serves marginalized students and families. Niroga gives Arete a way to power up its employees to help them lead and create a great culture to serve the community. After having gone through the training, she anticipates that these individuals are able to lead others in the work. The goal is to have leaders that are comfortable with leading dynamic mindfulness practices and learning how to self-regulate themselves as they engage their staff, students, and families. This is a beneficial way of providing support to the leaders of our organization by offering opportunities to properly address their stress and trauma to then suitably serve our communities. This work fully embraces the mission of seeing our employees, students, and families prosper!
What did you notice within the organization that led to adopting this training?
Sarah encountered Niroga five years ago when attending a women's leadership conference in California. One of the Niroga staff members was leading a workshop where he had attendees participate in dynamic mindfulness practices while also learning about impacts of trauma on the work of education leaders. All of the attendees at the conference were working in urban settings that dealt with chronic stress, direct trauma, and vicarious trauma. Since the pandemic, everyone has experienced trauma and stress while also leading with complex issues of working within an urban community.
With this in mind, she acknowledges that trauma is real and prevalent within Arete and wants to help address that with the help of Niroga! A benefit of using Niroga is that their practices are refined in urban settings which is helpful for Arete implementing mindful actions to help reduce the impact of trauma. One thing that Sarah finds crucial in the work Niroga does that will be beneficial for Arete is the focus on trauma as a somatic definition.
“Trauma freezes within our body! I want to provide a sort of first aid for our educators and leaders. Post pandemic, it is clear to all of us that we’re fragile! We are still processing what has happened and figuring out how to effectively move forward.” She finds it vital for trauma not only to be addressed through thinking and processing, but also through movement. This is what Niroga brings to us: dynamic mindfulness - transformative behaviors that require mindful movement, breathing, and centering. Niroga is a call to action! It is a breath of fresh air, a time to pause and take care of yourself! As she puts it, it is a simple way to do some self regulation that can take as little as 15 minutes. It is feasible and asks her staff to partake in these helpful practices.
Citizenship Legal Aid Partnership with CUNY
Arete Education staff and Board Director Raymond Sanchez joined the City University of New York Citizenship Now! initiative and Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. to provide legal support to 84 community members in the South Bronx to prepare citizenship applications. Thank you to our staff Gabriel Hernandez, Lizzette Cheatwood, Amy Arizmendi, Noe Carrillo and our Board Director Raymond Sanchez for leading the charge.
Arete Alumni Feature - Leslie Rivas
Meet Leslie Rivas - a third year student at Lehman College studying English Creative Writing with a minor in Middle and High School Education!
Her journey with Arete started during high school at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology where she and her friend, Chanel (also an Arete employee), started up an afterschool Book Club. This idea came to be after Leslie and Chanel happened to be discussing about books they previously had read in middle and high school. Both had the brilliant idea to organize a space where a group of students could gather together and read books they’ve heard about and give an honest review of what they thought as they read.
“Starting up a book club made me realize that I actually enjoyed reading and it also made me realize that academically, I did well in my English classes,” exclaimed Leslie. In retrospect, this experience, that Arete fostered, allowed for Leslie to grow a passion for literature and become an English major in college and aspiring to become an English teacher. From this moment forward, she began to feel connected with Arete as they helped fund the program and gave them the opportunity to propose different ideas for their book club. On top of that, she was able to see first-hand what Arete’s mission was - acquire brand new books that may not have been accessible through LSFT and receive small journals for note taking.
During her senior year of high school, Leslie also formed part of the tutoring internship program. She recalls that being part of the internship helped her grow as a person and professionally. Around the time she had joined the program, she was still confused on what college she wanted to attend and what she wanted to major in. However, being able to work with students one-on-one made her realize that maybe she could go into the field of education. As a tutor, she also developed leadership and effective communication skills while also learning how to multitask.
Not only has Arete helped Leslie academically, socially, and professionally grow within the organization, but also through external partnerships. During the summer of 2022, Leslie was able to work with Funfab where she gained more experience in working with high school students. Leslie is grateful to Arete for presenting her with an excellent opportunity where she could network outside of Arete. Here, she would apply the experience she had gained through her previous work within Arete while also gaining new skills necessary for the education field.
Now, she is currently a Book Club and Table Tennis instructor for Arete. Her scope of work as Book Club instructor consists of getting students to have an interest in different books and increase their reading scores. As for table tennis, she facilitates an environment where students are able to learn a new sport and develop many different skills, such as hand-eye coordination.
“Through Arete, I am able to solidify my leadership and organizational skills by working with students and being able to run a club.” Leslie reiterates that these roles helped her flourish professionally by also challenging her to work with different kinds of kids, making her figure out and use different methods that work with each kid individually. Not only is she gaining personal skills, but also gaining insight on different age groups and teaching styles that she can use to approach others!
Arete Alumni Feature - Chanel de los Santos
Meet Chanel de los Santos - a third year student at Barnard College majoring in Africana Studies and English!
Her journey with Arete started when she was a high school student at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology. Her and her friend, Leslie (another Arete employee) had the amazing idea to start up a book club. Chanel asserts that starting up this club gave her a sense of responsibility as she had the tasks of curating and giving out topics for each session, sending out professional outreach emails for books and supplies, and coordinating events for the club. This would not have been possible without the support of Arete!
On top of starting up a book club in high school, Chanel also became a tutor. She wanted to become a tutor because she wanted to explore different fields and tutoring was something new to her. As a tutor, she developed the ability to be a leader and acquire skills such as outreach, problem solving, and initiative.
During her sophomore year of college, Chanel formed part of the Arete Alumni Council. As secretary, she scheduled meetings, met with committee members and the president of the council, and kept an organized system to effectively coordinate events. Now, she is a supervisor for the Teaching Internship program where outside of logistical work, she helps interns in the program learn valuable skills such as lesson planning, mentoring, initiative and the ability to teach a student with various strategies.
Chanel is grateful for the environment Arete fostered where she was able to professionally develop and gain different necessary skills like communication and networking. She has done a lot of communicating with various types of people in various industries and learned how to navigate a more professional space, as well as build connections along the way, thanks to the roles she has had!
Arete Alumni Feature - Stephanie Polanco Serrano
Meet Stephanie Polanco Serrano - a third year student at Lehman College studying Psychology!
Her journey with Arete started when she was a high school student at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology where she had the brilliant idea to start up the Self Care Club! Stephanie recounts that starting up this club helped her emotionally because the focus of the club was to offer a space where one would take care of themselves through different artistic activities. This outlet allowed her and other participants to learn of various ways to practice self care! Professionally, she gained communication skills and learned how to take initiative when she had to propose the idea to Arete Executive Director at the time, Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg, in order to get the club up and running. She also mentions that she felt connected to Arete and our mission because she felt that her voice was heard and as a student she felt that her idea of starting up a club was validated and taken seriously.
Stephanie also became a tutor as a high school student during the pandemic. Stephanie chose to become a tutor because she felt that helping students academically would not be challenging to her as she was in good academic standing. Another big factor in taking up this opportunity was being motivated by a former middle school teacher, Ed Martinez, who presented this opportunity and encouraged her to form part of the program. In the end, it worked well as she was able to solidify her teaching and time-management skills and gain different service skills. As Stephanie puts it, “this role helped me grow because I learned how to serve my community!”
Now, her role within Arete is Senior Program Coordinator. Stephanie oversees Arete's afterschool programs at their various sites, on top of many other responsibilities! Currently, she is located at P.S./I.S. 155 to help the program function and flourish.
Stephanie is grateful for Arete because they foster an environment where she can develop professionally. They provide her with opportunities like participating in trainings and professional development sessions. Being part of those things has helped her realize what it takes to be a part of a successful working environment. She continues to benefit from Arete because she feels security in the role she currently has and underscores that within the organization, there is a sense of trust and unity amongst her coworkers! As a college student, she is also extremely thankful that Arete works around her school schedule and does not penalize her for being a student unlike other college students her age who do not have the same privilege.
Feed Our Needs Etiquette Luncheon at PS 59
Every last Wednesday of the month, Arete hosts an Etiquette Luncheon at PS 59 where students are invited to go out to eat at a local restaurant and participate in an etiquette class.
Students are invited through a selection process that involves observing their behavior during their daily lunch periods. If students adhere to cafeteria and playground rules during the regular school lunch periods, they are called to participate in the Etiquette Luncheon.
On Wednesday, selected students are gathered together during their lunch period for an etiquette class with Alejandra Figueroa (Community School Director) and Ms. Crawford (Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialist). This class consists of basic table manners, appropriate body language, and properly greeting others. Moreover, students are prompted to have meaningful conversations and make friends - positive table talk.
2023 Table Tennis Tournament
On Saturday, January 28, Arete hosted a table tennis tournament at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology for the middle school and high school students!
The tournament was split into two different groups: middle school participants and high school participants.
Both groups played against each other until there were three participants left. Congratulations to the following for making it to the top three of their respective divisions:
Middle School Group:
1st - Evelyn Cuatle
2nd - Amy Chavez
3rd - Desmond Figueroa
High School Group:
1st - Angel Vargas
2nd - Safiatou Haidara
3rd - Delilah Barreto
The first place winners of each group went face-to-face to determine a winner for the entire tournament. Congratulations to Angel Vargas (9th grade) for winning the entire tournament!
Arete Alumni Feature - Kailyn Espinosa
Meet Kailyn Espinosa - a third-year college student (technically a lower senior) at Hunter College double majoring in Adolescent Education grades 7-12 and English Language Arts. Combined, these two majors work towards equipping her with the skills to do work in the field of Adolescent English.
Kailyn’s journey started off in her senior year of high school, during the pandemic where she worked as a middle school tutor. She tutored middle school students in different subjects such as English, Math, Science, History, and did other work like social emotional learning. On top of that, she often had to communicate with parents to discuss the progress of the students.
As she entered her first year of college, she took on the role of Learning Advocate. As a Learning Advocate, she conducted family outreach which meant she helped families connect with different resources. She often helped families acquire access to chromebooks and wifi during this tough period of time of online learning. Additionally, in order to build community through the pandemic, she hosted movie and game nights to unite students even through a screen. At some point during this point in time as a first-year student and as a worker within the organization, she took on both roles simultaneously.
Even through her roles within Arete as a newcomer, Kailyn underscores her growth as a student but also as a worker. While in high school, she never envisioned herself becoming a teacher; however, after becoming a tutor, she found out it was not as bad as she thought it would be. “Maybe I could become a teacher!” asserted Kailyn as she recounted that upon entering college, she declared an undecided major but her initial roles within Arete allowed her to develop a strong interest in teaching and education. Her professional development also consisted of figuring out her strengths and weaknesses. She found out that she was pretty good at teaching and advocating for families and had the necessary skills to go into the profession of teaching. On top of that, Kailyn was able to narrow down the age group of students she felt most suited to teach through her work as a tutor and Learning Advocate.
During her second semester of freshman year, Kailyn got promoted to a supervisor of the tutoring program. She essentially overlooked high school tutors and helped foster a stable environment for the tutor-tutee relationships. This meant she created breakout rooms, welcomed both tutors and tutees, and conducted observation sessions during ongoing tutoring sessions. During these sessions, she observed the relationship between tutors and students and gave tutors feedback to help them improve on their tutoring skills. Kailyn’s previous experience as a tutor gave her the expertise to know what was working and what was not working during tutoring sessions. Her promotion from tutor to supervisor gave her insight into the management of tutors and gave her the opportunity to professionally develop and gain competence as someone in a higher position.
Later on, during summer bridge, Kailyn became a literacy educator. As a literacy educator, her focus was on students who were behind in literacy. Her responsibility was to help bridge the gap between on-level students and students who were struggling in literature. In order to do so, Kailyn helped students by reading and testing their comprehension skills in small groups. One thing that Kailyn learned as a tutoring program supervisor and literacy educator was that she could work with older students and professionals. Her previous experience revolved around a younger demographic, but these two new roles allowed for her to experience what it would be like to work with older students and also take on roles that were higher up within the organization.
Currently, Kailyn works as a Specialized Reading Intervention Facilitator. She administers and facilitates specialized lessons to help students’ comprehension skills through different activities like SEL, writing prompts, and discussions about the books they read. In conjunction with this first role, Kailyn is also a Program Coordinator and Data Specialist. She reports data for middle school and high school students through two different platforms - EZ Reports and CitySpan. The data she handles and reports is fundamental to the funding Arete receives. It is worthy noting that Kailyn started off with just reporting data for one community school (The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology) but has now transitioned to managing data for all of Arete’s community schools.
“Before Arete, I did not know what social emotional learning was!” One thing that Kailyn pointed out as something she appreciates and makes Arete distinct is that they exposed her to SEL. She was shown different activities to conduct SEL. She then became equipped with the skills to host her own SEL sessions and activities. Through this, Kailyn learned that social emotional learning is an integral part of learning and development which ties back to her career aspirations of working with children and education.
Kailyn acknowledges that her work with Arete as of now delves into a more administrative field, but still maintains the essence of working with kids. She benefited from the flexibility that Arete granted to her as a college student. Arete was able to accommodate to her schedule and helped her gain social skills through her various roles. Her exceptional journey within Arete highlights how she was given the opportunity to professionally, socially, and emotionally grow as an individual.
Feed Our Needs - 2022 Round Up
Over Two Years: 1,700 Families Served
As the year comes to a close, Arete Education and The Collective Black Employee Resource Group (CFBERG) wanted to thank you for your generosity and support for the Feed Our Needs campaign. For the last two years were we able to raise $40,250 that was critical in supporting disenfranchised communities, as food insecurity continues to increase.
Your contributions during challenging times enabled us to support Black- and Brown-owned restaurants who were key in sourcing meals that were distributed in the Bronx and Harlem. To date we have been able to feed over 1700 families and students, and in 2022 we partnered with JFFNYC who helped us to reach more families in need. We hope to continue this partnership and drive our mission investing in youth across New York City, we need your support to fulfill this mission in our communities.
How You Can Help
We have several upcoming events that we need your help with in January! You can help pack warm clothing bags for families and serve hot meals at our next Feed Our Needs events during MLK Jr. Weekend (January 16th). Find out more ››
Across the city, you have helped make a difference in our communities! Since 2020, we have partnered with local NYC restaurants, The Collective CF BERG, South Bronx Mutual Aid, The Lab School, Harlem Police Athletic League, Harlem Lacrosse, Carvers Savings Bank, and Zeta Boule Fraternity.
Help Raise Funds for 2023 Events
We are actively fundraising now for our 2023 events. Please consider supporting us by or volunteering or OR making a donation..
Volunteer today with Arete Education.
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