Congratulations to Ayodele Saromi – Wheat Ridge Ministries’ Newest Emerging Leader Grant Recipient!
The New LIFE School (TNLS) is abuzz with news that their own Ayodele Saromi, Office Administrator and Attendance Teacher, has been selected by Wheat Ridge Ministries to receive its Emerging Leader grant. The grant is in recognition of Ayo’s leadership at TNLS, where his positive presence has been felt by students and staff alike as he spurs students to make positive choices and take care of their bodies and minds through healthy eating and fitness. “Since joining the staff in 2016, Ayo has broadened his role to become a valued teacher, mentor and community health advocate for our students,” said Rachel Levine-Kornfeld, TNLS Principal and Executive Director of Education Services.
Beginning in September, Ayo will be the program leader for the school’s new afterschool program for high school students, called Fit Minds/Fit Bodies. The grant money will help fund the program, which focuses on two goals: to foster academic growth by improving study skills and to improve overall fitness through the practice of martial arts. “With the support of Wheat Ridge Ministries and this grant, I want to help our students embrace the opportunities within their community to get physically, emotionally and spiritually fit,” said Ayo.
Ayo, who received a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology/Biological Sciences from CUNY’s Lehman College and a Master of Arts in Healthcare Administration, also holds a first-degree black belt rank in karate. The Nigerian-American, who was born and raised in the Bronx, says his love of martial arts has always been a positive force in his life, and with his family’s encouragement, he embraced a healthy life by utilizing opportunities within his community to get involved in fitness activities. Now, coming full circle, he is giving back to the youth in his neighborhood to provide better access to achieving the life-affirming goals of better fitness and academic achievement.
We congratulate Ayo on this milestone, and are eager to see the amazing results that will surely result from this new afterschool program!
Early LIFE Family Child Care Network’s Appreciation Luncheon Celebrates Providers of Excellence
LSSNY’s early childhood education program, Early LIFE, provides both center-based and home-based child care to children six weeks to four years of age. In addition to 10 centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, the Family Child Care Network (FCCN) provides family and group family child care in all five boroughs. The network relies on a group of trained professionals who provide nurturing care in their homes, while supporting the whole family with links to community resources. The mission of the FCCN is to partner with families and community, to provide developmentally- and age-appropriate experiences to children in a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment so that they leave the FCCN ready to learn and succeed in school and life. On Friday, August 11th, the Early LIFE program took time to honor its providers with a special recognition luncheon.
Some 75 providers, and their families, attended the event held at the Early LIFE Center at 2125 Watson Avenue (Bronx, NY). LSSNY’s CEO and President, Damyn Kelly, and Early LIFE Executive Director, Khamele McLeod-Cato, praised the providers for creating loving, home-based environments within which to care for infants and toddlers. It was a day when the providers took center stage, receiving awards for exemplary service, with award categories including “Building Positive Relationships with Families,” “Creativity & Innovation” and “Overall Excellence.” Top honors went to Tomekia Caddle, who received the “Most Valuable Provider” award. FCCN Director, Jenifer Barriteau, said “Ms. Caddle epitomizes what it means to be a child care professional. She seeks out opportunities to enhance her services…she engages the children in age-appropriate, fun activities, and maintains a stimulating environment in which children feel safe and secure.” Ms. Caddle was praised for her passion, energy and compassion in working with children and families.
Adorning the walls at the Center were stars printed with parent testimonials. Parents expressed their gratitude to the FCCN providers, writing messages such as: “She is like a second mom to my son” and “She is very patient, very alert and very caring. She is someone I can truly count on.”
The FCCN is a valuable resource for parents of young children, providing quality child care and enrichment to young infants and toddlers, while offering equal support to families.
Meet Demetri Gregory: A Summer Youth Employee and Recent Graduate of The New LIFE School
This summer, LSSNY had a wonderful group of summer youth who worked for us as part of the Department of Youth and Community Development’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The young men and women worked for seven weeks as clerical aides, several of who were placed at LSSNY’s main office. One of these youth, Demetri Gregory, was also a former student at The New LIFE School (TNLS), LSSNY’s non-public special education school. Demetri found out about the SYEP program through his guidance counselor at TNLS; he applied, and then was placed in our main office.
Demetri was initially hesitant to take the job. “I originally just wanted to work at the school because it’s familiar ground. I know who does what, where and why. I wanted to stay comfortable, but people told me it would be good to get out of my comfort zone because it would be a good life experience,” said Demetri. From July through August, Demetri worked at the front desk, answering phones and providing clerical support. Demetri fit in nicely and said he felt comfortable with his new job after just a few days. He commented, “I didn’t know how much I would like it here.”
Demetri’s other milestone this summer was graduating from high school. He graduated on August 4th, with six other students, as the valedictorian of the 2017 class of TNLS. “It’s the beginning of the rest of our lives,” he told his fellow graduates. Rachel Levine-Kornfeld, the Principal and Executive Director of Education Services, congratulated Demetri during the graduation ceremony, saying that he topped the list of students who participated in the most positive activities in school, including participation in the school’s Mai-Hall Leadership Society and theater productions. But she was most proud of his summer job at LSSNY. “Seeing you in a suit working alongside seasoned professionals in an office building in New York City—that is a career-high for me and every other staff member who has had the pleasure of growing with you over the past 10 years.”
Demetri, and two other students, received scholarships toward tuition at the college of their choice. Demetri is deciding whether to attend college now, or enter the Navy, like his dad, and go to college later. While he weighs his options this summer, he’ll keep busy with a variety of hobbies. He enjoys LARP (live action role-play) games and playing on a paintball team. No matter what comes next for Demetri, he says he’s happy he tried something new and came to work at LSSNY. We wish Demetri much success in his future career and educational endeavors!
Favorite movie: Goodfellas
Favorite song: Dreamer (Ozzy Osbourne)
Favorite food: Gyros
Admires: David Bowie
Volunteer Spotlight: Herman Mensing, Affectionately known as the “Comma King,” Shares his Time and Talents as LSSNY’s Editor & Proof Reader
To provide a broad array of social services—foster care, housing, early childhood education, community services, special education—our staff relies on the support of some 62 volunteers a month who work across the agency at any given time. While some assist social workers or teachers, or volunteer at our food pantry—having a direct connection to the provision of social services—others play a behind-the-scenes role that’s no less valuable.
One such volunteer, Herman Mensing, provides assistance to our Advancement and Communications Department by proofreading and editing our marketing and communications materials. Herman, a dedicated professional, has shared his gift for editing with us for the last four years. Whether he’s editing our annual report and marketing brochures, proofreading our thank you letters to donors, or working to enhance the content and style of our invitations and press releases, Herman makes it his mission to help us ensure that we communicate to all of you using clear, accurate language—he even proofed this article for our newsletter!
Herman worked at AT&T for more than 40 years, much of that time as an Account Manager. Before retiring, he dabbled in editing as part of his work in AT&T’s International Department, where he had an opportunity to scan company brochures. It was during this time that he realized his fondness for proofing. After his retirement, Herman kept in touch with several co-workers, one of who thought he would be perfect as a contract editor/proofer for AT&T’s Outsourcing Department. Herman would do this contract work for another 10 years before retiring again.
Herman jokes that he has an “over-the-top zeal” for seeking to express the written word as correctly, accurately and professionally as possible—it can even interfere during an occasional dinner out with his wife when he scrutinizes the menu for mistakes! His love of the English language is really at the root of his care and dedication. “Our English language deserves our best efforts,” he says. We at LSSNY are lucky to have him preview our written materials so that all those we serve can clearly understand the information we disseminate about our programs. For Herman, helping others in need is at the root of his commitment to service. He would often tell his children when they were growing up, “You don’t want to pass up an opportunity to serve.”
Herman practices what he preaches, demonstrating a strong dedication in his service to several other Lutheran organizations. In addition to providing editing/proofreading services to LSSNY, he volunteers his services for Lutheran Social Services Southern California, Lutheran Services New York Alliance (LSNYA), Lutheran Community Services (Delaware), Koinonia (Highland Lake, NY), and his home church, Good Shepherd Lutheran (Pearl River, NY). John Havrilla, LSNYA’s Executive Director says Herman has been a tremendous help in proofreading his organization’s communication and marketing materials. “He’s sharp as a tack with his skill…Herman is blessed in body and mind, but also in spirit. At the heart of Herman’s Christian faith is generosity in tithing time, talents and financial resources.”
We give thanks for Herman’s generosity in sharing his considerable editing/proofreading skills with our organization. He reminds us that what we say—and how we say it—matters, and with his help, we can spread the word about our services to reach ever greater numbers of people in need.
Back-to-School Supplies for Long Island Students in Need
As students across the tri-state area head back to school, many parents are tasked with purchasing a long list of school supplies that can include notebooks, erasers, pencils and markers, to help them get off to a good start. But for some parents, the cost of backpacks and supplies is too great, given their other daily expenses like food, rent, utilities and clothing. Increasingly, parents are struggling to bridge the gap between their income and their expenses. To help overcome the shortfall, the New LIFE Center—Long Island food pantry, a mission of the Community Services division of LSSNY, created a special school supplies program. For many years, the food pantry has provided backpacks for kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school students during the months of August and September.
This year, the food pantry will distribute 550-600 backpacks, thanks to the generosity of a network of some 45 Nassau County Lutheran churches, individuals and volunteers who donate items and help pack up a variety of supplies. Kindergarten students get 11 different items in their backpack, including crayons, glue sticks and lunch boxes, while high school students receive highlighters, rulers and loose-leaf binders.
On a recent visit, a group of volunteers from four area churches: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (Rockville Centre), St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Lynbrook), Grace Lutheran Church (North Bellmore) and Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (Seaford), were on hand to organize donated items in preparation for the creation of the backpacks. Volunteers from many other area churches come to help throughout the week.
As a way of giving back, some clients volunteer at the Center when they are able. Jonathan, a rising Hempstead high school senior (and a food pantry client himself) decided to fulfill his school’s community service requirement by volunteering at the food pantry over the summer. “My mom has been coming to the food pantry for a few years, so we should help the food pantry and give back to help other people,” Jonathan said. He helps load and unload food donations and organizes food on the shelves.
Thanks to the Center’s loving supporters and friends, many Long Island students will have a spring in their step, and a smile on their face, as they head off to their first day of school!