Meet Sanayi Beckles-Canton:
Working to Improve Access to Quality Education through Parent Support and Community Advocacy

Sanayi Beckles-Canton on the day of her Hooding Ceremony, May 19, 2017.

I want parents to have access to good schools, like my children had, because I know that a good education can change a family’s future.”
-Sanayi Beckles-Canton

As the Director of Family Services & Community Partnerships, Sanayi Beckles-Canton plays a vital role in LSSNY’s Early LIFE program. The program, which provides home-based and center-based care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, is as much about supporting parents as it is about educating young children. “I think my work at LSSNY is important because I get to help parents at the beginning of their child’s educational journey.” Sanayi’s role is broad—one day she may be conducting a workshop on parenting skills, and the next day, she’ll be meeting with a local, community partner to bring a new educational experience to kids in one of our center-based classrooms. “Parenting has no job description, but it all starts with parents…We make room for parents from the time they enter a center. They are the first and most important teacher for their child,” says Sanayi.

With six sons of her own, Sanayi is no stranger to parenting; her personal journey with the Head Start program came when she was a teen mother within the program. She says she knows the model works, because it worked for her. A family worker inspired her to get her degree. “Once I made it, I wanted to go back and help others.” Over the years, she has kept that promise, giving back to family, clients and the community. Just last month, she received her doctoral degree from the New York Theological Seminary; her dissertation was entitled Implementing a Holistic Parenting Program to Increase Spiritual Awareness, Advocacy and Parent Involvement in Public Education.

Sanayi is also very active in education advocacy work in her community. In the fall of 2015, Sanayi was appointed to the Community Education Council for District 5 by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Sanayi currently serves as President, and is a positive force of change for area public schools. Hoping to win another term as President, Sanayi says she wants to take on issues including accountability for charter schools and addressing a lack of funding for the arts and music programs in her district. She recently hosted the Parents Leaders Choice Awards, honoring community, parent and student leaders who have served alongside her to better District 5 schools.

With all that is on her plate, Sanayi continues to strive to reach new goals. But all her efforts, she says, are in the service of improving access to quality education. “What I enjoy most about working for LSSNY is that I do not have to hide my faith, and I work with a great team that shares my values and passion for early childhood education,” says Sanayi. Her long-term goal is to become an executive director of an early childhood program and to one day sit on the State Board of Regents. For now, LSSNY is lucky to have such a talented member on the Early LIFE team.

JetBlue Donates Bikes to LSSNY’s Foster Care Program

JetBlue recently delivered 10 bicycles to our foster care program through a partnership with Together We Rise, a nonprofit that supports kids in the foster care system. They also donated 20 “Sweet Cases”—duffel bags filled with essentials for children who move often, including teddy bears, coloring books and personal care products. Antonnette Taylor, Executive Director of Children’s Services, plans to present the bikes and “Sweet Cases” to children in her program during an upcoming graduation ceremony that will highlight students who have done exceptional work.

The donation was made as part of the second annual JetBlue For Good Bike Build program. Each year, the program honors Aviation Maintenance Technician Day by celebrating the legacy of the Wright Brothers’ mechanic, Charles Taylor. Taylor was initially hired to fix bicycles—as a nod to this work, the Tech Ops and Corporate Social Responsibility teams at JetBlue created the bike program.

This year, they’ve donated 275 bikes to children in the foster care system. The bicycles are a wonderful reminder of Taylor’s role in aviation history; at the same time, they help children in the foster care system enjoy the simple, childhood pleasure of riding a bike.

Our special thanks to JetBlue and Together We Rise for this generous donation!

Leaders in the Making: Young Daisy Girl Scouts Donate the Ever-Popular Cookies to The New LIFE Center—Long Island Food Pantry

Girls from Daisy Girl Scout Troop 3444 in Hicksville demonstrated an act of kindness when they visited The New LIFE Center—Long Island food pantry last month to donate 50 boxes of Girl Scout cookies for Long Island families in need. The newly-formed troop of kindergarten and first graders, led by parents and Co-Leaders, Diana Scala and Laura Terry, ran their first booth sales project, collecting donations of Girl Scout cookies to give to food pantry clients. The girls mustered up their courage to ask passersby at local Lowe’s and Stop & Shop stores to donate cookies through Girl Scout’s Gift of Caring program. “The girls learned a few things from the experience—decision-making and confidence. They gained confidence by speaking up and approaching family, friends and strangers when selling the cookies,” says Diana. “It was a nice feeling to see girls who would normally be shy, ask someone if they would like to buy cookies.”

Many of the girls attended St. Stephen’s Nursery School in Hicksville. While at St. Stephen’s, they participated in food drives for the food pantry, so they were familiar with the good work of the pantry and its role in the community. In addition to collecting cookies for the food pantry, the girls sold enough cookies to fund a trip to Adventureland and to buy toys for sick children.

The girls of Troop 3444 may be young, but they are now accomplished fundraisers—and remarkable examples of how we can do more when we work together in service!

West African Mission Trip Extends a Helping Hand

LSSNY’s Payroll Director, Assi E. Koki, recently returned from a missionary trip to West Africa. Assi, who organized the trip with several church partners, was accompanied by two LSSNY staff members, Antonnette Taylor (Executive Director of Children’s Services) and Ebony Jones (Early LIFE Teacher’s Aide). The group visited the border between the Ivory Coast and Ghana, as well as Senegal, to assist children and staff at an orphanage and several schools. They pitched in wherever they could to clean and ready classrooms; they also brought gifts to donate to the orphanage, including clothing and shoes for children and adults, and baby items.

While in Senegal, Assi and his missionary group went to Slave Island. “It was a very emotional moment for the group because of the terrible conditions of poverty and poor health,” said Assi. Nonetheless, the trip was a positive experience for everyone, and they felt a sense of accomplishment and connection with their partners abroad.

Back at home, Assi’s co-workers were reminded of the important mission work that our staff is called to do, with the hope of enriching the lives of others both near and far.

Meet LSSNY Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow Lindsay Mullet

Lindsay’s recipe for social change: engaging and empowering youth.

With so many recent changes in immigration policy, it’s more important than ever that immigrants across New York City have reliable, accurate information and legal advice to navigate their legal rights when pursuing immigration legal options, including citizenship and asylum. Since 1999, our Immigration Legal Program (ILP) has provided quality legal advice and representation. An important part of their work is educating immigrants about their rights by conducting “Know Your Rights” presentations at local community organizations and churches. Through this work, they have become a trusted voice in a time of uncertainty.

The ILP is staffed by a group of highly-qualified lawyers with expertise in immigration law. Since 2016, Lindsay Mullett, a recent graduate from Harvard Law School, has been working as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow* at the ILP. Along with the ILP legal staff, she provides direct representation for immigrants on humanitarian cases, including victims of domestic violence, child abuse and torture. Lindsay also presents “Know Your Rights” presentations at churches and social services programs throughout New York City.

Lindsay says the need to engage youth is critical to effecting social change in the current political climate. In April, she sat on a panel discussion called “Brooklyn in Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees.” The event was a collaboration between the Arab-American Family Support Center and several local schools, including The Berkeley Carroll School. The student-led conversation on solidarity sought to spur young people to support their local immigrant community. Lindsay spoke, along with several immigrants, activists and a representative from Brooklyn Community Foundation. “Engaging and empowering our youth to take the time to understand one another, to be empathic to the needs of others, and to fight for each other is key to effecting social change,” said Lindsay.

She adds, “These kinds of community conversations are an important way to build awareness and equip community members who are not directly affected to get involved in advocating for immigrants.” The panel is a great launching point for future community action and gives everyone an opportunity to hear directly from immigrants about their experiences.

Lindsay fits right in at the ILP, and says she is “humbled and inspired by the resilience of our immigrant clients.” LSSNY is grateful for her contribution as a Justice Fellow.

*In September 2016, LSSNY was awarded two fellows from the prestigious Immigrant Justice Corps, the country’s first fellowship program dedicated to providing high-quality legal assistance for immigrants seeking citizenship. Talented law graduates, like Lindsay, are paired with nonprofit legal service providers and community-based organizations, to provide the highest-quality advocacy and legal support possible. Learn more here: http://justicecorps.org/.

New Additions to the LSSNY Family!

Rachel Bleecker, LSSNY Director of the Muhlenberg Residence, recently welcomed beautiful twins, Isabella and Noah. The new mom is doing well with her two bundles of joy! Blessings to the babies, and welcome to the LSSNY family!

Interested in Working in LSSNY’s Immigration Legal Program? Staff Attorney Position Available

LSSNY’s Immigration Legal Program is seeking a Staff Attorney to oversee a team of Community Navigators and provide eligibility determinations, review applications for relief, and provide direct legal representation to immigrants.

Learn More and Apply