On September 11th, 2017 The Catalog and its alumni member program Opening Act joined Cantor Fitzgerald and its affiliate BGC Partners for their annual Charity Day which commemorates the 648 employees Cantor Fitzgerald lost on 9/11. Cantor donates 100% of the day’s global revenues to dozens of charities like the Catalog for Giving and its own Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, turning a tragic day in America’s history into one of positivity and hope. This year’s celebrity supporters, Uzo Aduba and Christopher Jackson, of Opening Act took to the trading floor and made dozens of trades to help support this great cause.
In June 2015, thanks in very much large part to unrestricted support and a multi-year commitment from The Catalog for Giving, Atlas: DIY was able to move into a 3,000 square-foot space just nine blocks north of Atlas’ former facility, ensuring that we stayed within the Sunset Park community. Our new location boasts:
- a legal suite to accommodate our growing legal team and to ensure confidentiality for immigration, education, and family court cases;
- administrative offices with cubicles for administrative staff members;
- a private counseling room to be utilized by our on-staff social worker;
- computers for members to use;
- a closet of donated casual and professional clothing;
- a library;
- three small kitchens stocked with snacks and small meals;
- a balcony furnished with hammocks and a garden tended by our members; and,
- “CASA,” our signature activity room where young people have the space to connect, relax and simply be.
During construction, Atlas members poured their time, energy, and hearts into turning our new facility into a space that is truly theirs. Take, for example, the balcony garden. The west-facing balcony was full of Atlas members breaking down wood pallets and using the wood to build planting boxes and benches, creating a nature-filled sanctuary for themselves and future members. The south-facing balcony now features a mural of a sunset and the city skyline painting by Cesar, one of our members. When asked why he was inspired to create a mural for Atlas, he said, “Here in New York, in the United States, I have no family. Atlas is my family. Atlas isn’t my second home, it is my home.”
Perhaps one of the greatest features of our new space is a clear view of the Manhattan skyline. A member currently working towards her green card said this when she first stepped out onto the balcony and saw the skyscrapers stretching out across the horizon:
…standing on the balcony at Atlas and looking out at the skyline, it reminds me of everything that is made possible with the resources and assistance that Atlas provides. I feel more empowered, more visible, and have a certain contentment in knowing that even though I’ve been through so much, there are so many opportunities.
Today, our headquarters and community center is a thriving hub and refuge for immigrant youth of all backgrounds from across New York City with fast growing members and attendance. We may have to expand our space again very soon!
We’re delighted to announce that Catalog member program STOKED has been recognized as one of the best run nonprofit organizations in NYC! STOKED is one of ten nonprofit groups that have been chosen as semifinalists for The New York Community Trust 2017 Nonprofit Excellence Awards! STOKED is a two-time Catalog grantee and throughout our work with them we’ve been able to see first hand what an outstanding organization they are. We look forward the announcement of the finalists and wish STOKED the best of luck!
As she prepares to graduate high school, Jocelyn looks forward to the next stage of her life with confidence and excitement. She will be attending Dickinson College as a POSSE Scholar, and she plans to study computer science. “I now know what it’s like to work at a company as a software developer, and I know that’s what I want.”
Jocelyn was exposed to careers in technology through Catalog member program ScriptEd. She took a coding course offered by ScriptEd at her school, the Young Women’s Leadership Academy of East Harlem. After her first year in the course, Jocelyn signed up for the ScriptEd internship program and spent the summer as an intern at ThoughtWorks, a technology consulting firm. “I got to network with people and get a glimpse of what my future could be like.”
Jocelyn’s second year with ScriptEd exposed her to even more opportunities in the field of software development. She attended advanced classes after-school at a company called Teachers Pay Teachers, where she expanded her coding skills and her network of professional contacts. She also signed up for another summer internship, and is excited to build more transferable skills. “I am really proud of the app I developed [in my internship], because it was the first time I built an app in that language. My managers told me that if I can do what ScriptEd taught me, I can build an app in any new language and use the same concepts and skills.”
At the age of 15, without any family members, Derrick Cordova left La Ceiba, Honduras on a treacherous 2,000-mile trek to the United States. He followed in the path of thousands of other Central American youth, who were fleeing gangs, violence, and a lack of jobs and opportunities, to seek a better life for themselves and their families. At South Bronx United (SBU), his love for soccer enabled him to find family again. In addition to leading his SBU soccer team in scoring, he attended English classes and SAT Prep and improved his grades after his initial struggles in school. He worked with SBU’s Legal Services Coordinator to gain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which put him on the path towards legal permanent residency.
Derrick was recently admitted to the College of Mount Saint Vincent on a full scholarship. He will be playing on college soccer and has the goal of one day becoming an immigration attorney. In January, ESPN Deportes and ESPN SportsCenter aired a segment titled “El Camino,” covering Derrick’s journey.
When David Silva was called in for Catalog for Giving member program Breakthrough NY’s (BTNY) info session as a 6th grader, he thought he was in trouble so didn’t respond to his name being called over the loud speaker. Eventually, a school staff member went to find him and explained that he wasn’t in trouble, so he went to the info session and loved what he heard. He was in a middle school where only some of his classmates were academically minded, so he liked the idea of getting to learn more over the summer and meet other kids who were equally excited about learning.
He believes that he was chosen to join BTNY because of his demeanor, drive, and vulnerability. He was always open about who he is, and was able to share the truth about himself during his interview. For example, he felt comfortable enough to talk about how his parents were splitting up at the time, which was a very sensitive topic and not something every kid would have willingly shared.
David, now a senior in high school, was recently accepted as a POSSE scholar to Babson College. He has always taken advantage of any and every opportunity that has come his way because of BTNY and/or other resources in his life. He has taken the leadership and teamwork skills that he’s learned at BTNY, to create both a swim club and math club at his high school.
On a personal level, he really thrived in the BTNY’s academic summer program, where everyone was engaged and committed to academics. Before, he was a very shy person, and found it difficult to make new friends, but being at BTNY helped him grow. He also learned the value of caring for others (such as celebrating their accomplishments) and the importance of community to one’s success.
On Tuesday, May 9th we had the opportunity to serve as judges at another great Civics Day as the students from alumni member organization Generation Citizen, presented their civics projects from their semester long class! The students, taught by volunteer college students who serve as “democracy coaches,” select an issue of importance to their communities, study and coalesce around the root causes of the issue, identify the change-makers they need to engage, and work on tactics to make change happen.
In the picture above middle school students explain their research and outreach to curb racially motivated violence to Catalog friend, Stuart Post, Executive Director of The Meringoff Family Foundation. Other projects we judged included a proposal to reduce bus and subway fares for low income residents, and a program to bridge the serious trust divide between police and high school students. The student presenters were enthusiastic to understand their privilege and obligation to be engaged citizens and to make change happen in their communities.
Since joining The Catalog’s 6th cohort, GC has nearly tripled its number of participants and expanded to three additional cities. We continue to strategize with Founder and Executive Director, Scott Warren and his team and are proud of our early support of this amazing program.
On July 20th Catalog Executive Director, Florence Wiener and 2016 Urban Heroes co-honoree, Ed Adler and his wife Cheryl visited Catalog alumni program Row New York at the Peter J. Sharp Boathouse on the Harlem River, home to the program’s Manhattan site. During the early morning visit they went out on boats to watch coaches providing instruction to prepare participants for a regatta in Philadelphia. They also talked to students about their intensive physical training and the academic tutoring and college readiness that are hallmarks of the program. Row New York, which began as an all-girls program in Corona Park, Queens, and opened its coed program in Manhattan five years ago, is poised to open its third location in Brooklyn. The program is especially proud of its record of sending all of its graduates on to college.
On June 29th The Real Estate Committee of , led by James Nelson (Cushman Wakefield), convened a breakfast panel on the state of NYC’s commercial real estate market, hosted by L&L Holding Company and sponsored by Cushman & Wakefield, RESA, W Financial, McGowan Builders, CrowdComfort, and Crown Architecture and Consulting. All ticket proceeds benefitted The Catalog. Over 100 attendees listened to Paul J. Massey, Jr. provide opening remarks highlighting the importance of the New York City real estate community continuing to invest in programs and organizations like The Catalog that provide vital support in underserved communities. The panel was moderated by Steve Kohn (Cushman & Wakefield), and featured Catalog Board Members Rob Lapidus (L&L Holdings), Richard Wagman (Madison Capital),and Marty Burger (Silverstein Properties). The panelists provided guests with insight into the opportunities and challenges that commercial real estate market, and in particular the special challenges of large retail spaces in NYC’s current market. Sponsorships and ticket sales from the panel raised nearly $20,000 to benefit The Catalog’s 15 member programs and the youth they assist. Future panels are being planned for the fall and winter on other topics of interest to the real estate community.
At The Catalog we talk constantly to our supporters and the broader community about the impact our member programs have on the lives of thousands of young New Yorkers. We rejoice at every outcome and achievement that our member programs reach. However, it is the individual stories from the young people themselves that we delight in the most.
Below is the college essay of Jackson Gonzales who was a participant in member program I Challenge Myself’s (ICM) College Bike Tour and Cycling Smarts program. I Challenge Myself provides opportunities for public high school students to strengthen their bodies, minds and spirits. Their school-based fitness programs in New York City public high schools introduce students to endurance sports (cycling and cross fitness) that help students develop socially, academically and physically through self-challenge and goal-setting. ICM’s College Bike Tour is a 400-mile 7-day New York State college bike tour that exposes students 7 very different colleges. The goal of the Tour is to further challenge ICM students to aspire, focus and prepare for college and life after high school. Since ICM’s launch in 2005 they have served over 1000 public high school students in New York City. Jackson is just one of their success stories.
“Sure we wish that those situations that happened that were sad or difficult didn’t happen but everything happens when it’s supposed to happen even if it takes us by surprise.” – Christopher Gonzales, My Dad
Thirty-eight days after my dad posted this quote to his Facebook account, he passed away. It would be an understatement to say 2015 has been an eventful year. Losing the most important person in my life, especially during my junior year of high school, made a huge impact on my academic career. When I think back to all that I’ve learned, most of it came from him. Whether it was how to tie my shoes, how to build a shelf, or how to season chicken; but most importantly, he taught me how to be a good man. Having the man whom I could rely on for anything pass away in an instant took an immense toll on my life. However, as much as I mourned I also grew a substantial amount. I took a tragic life-changing event and used it to push me further.
In July 2015, I was given the opportunity to ride a bike 400 miles to visit 7 colleges in 7 days with 10 other students. This was a task that required waking up at 5:30 in the morning every day to get on a bike and ride. Having no objective other than to get from point A to point B. We rode up mountains and through dirt paths traveling a range of 50 to 80 miles a day. The nine other students, whom I now call friends, and I rode together, each with a different reason to keep pushing through this empowering and intimate experience. Throughout this bike tour, I constantly doubted my abilities and at times, found my muscles locking up and my lungs feeling tight. Sweat and tears ran down my face as I pressed my feet down on the pedals and felt as if I only took one step into a journey that demanded leaps; yet I couldn’t wait until the ride was over just so we could finally see the college we worked so hard to get to. I knew I wasn’t doing this ride for nothing, I wanted to visit these colleges. Not only that, but I wanted to push myself, I wanted to improve myself. Though my father was not there to see me do it, I knew I was making him proud.
The weeks after my father passed away I lost all hope, I felt helpless, like my life was falling down around me. However, I found the ability to keep pushing forward, using his own words as my personal compass. I found the ability to use these events so they empower me, fuel me, and motivate me to keep doing better than I did the day before. I’m not the same person I was at the beginning of 2015. I’ve grown, I’ve learned, I’ve felt, and most importantly, I’ve challenged myself. I’ve managed to experience both the best and the worst things I could experience in my life within the span of 7 months. Though he is not here with me physically, I know he would tell me to treat this next chapter of my life, college, as I did the bike tour. He would tell me to continue to grow, to challenge myself, and to push forward in order to become a better person; something I will never stop doing, like my father.