Thursday, July 26, 2012

GED Plus Program Spotlight: Jason

The Red Hook Community Justice Center has hosted an on-site GED program since its founding in 2000. We recognize the strong link between justice system involvement and a lack of educational opportunities, and are able to provide this opportunity to youth, both court-involved and not, thanks to a partnership with the NYC Department of Education, and to the contributions of the members of the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, an AmeriCorps service program that seeks to prevent young people in New York City from becoming enmeshed in the criminal justice system.
Josh Pacheco, NY Juvenile Justice Corps GED Teaching Assistant with the Justice Center's onsite GED classroom's wall of diplomas
Some of our best success stories this year have been due to the relationships formed between Juvenile Justice Corps members and the young people they work with. Although academically very strong, Jason, one of our GED students, was having great difficulty expressing himself in writing. Writing is not only a component on the GED test, but also a major component in the portfolio requirement. Past attempts to reach Jason had failed, and had led to alienation and spotty attendance. It seemed that we could not effectively communicate with him, and left unchecked, this student was headed for a discharge due to frequent absences.
However, Jason was able to successfully work one-on-one with a member of the Juvenile Justice Corps. In a short period of time, the member was able to establish communication with Jason, and he became engaged and eager to reach his goal of attaining his GED. He became invested in his work and enjoyed discussing everything from music to math and history. They began to  build a sense of trust between them, and Jason started to drop his defenses and ease more into his writing. He began formulating ideas for essays and completed the writing components for the required portfolio, which included a personal statement and an academic research paper. Jason soon qualified to take his GED exam, which resulted in a diploma in March. He continues to be in close contact with the Corps member that he worked with previously, and has plans to pursue a college degree. Last month, Jason walked across the stage for the GED Plus graduation at Hunter College with his family, Juvenile Justice Corps members, and Justice Center staff in attendance to cheer him on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

AmeriCorps Member Lee Serrano honored for her service to AIDS Walk and Relay for Life

For the past 2 years, AmeriCorps member Lee Serrano has not gone straight home when she's done for the day at her placement site (New York City Community Clean-Up and Bronx Community Solutions). Instead, second-year member Ms. Serrano leaves the office to go volunteer at another location for causes near and dear to her heart: finding cures for HIV/Aids and breast cancer. Not only has Ms. Serrano shared her time and passion to these important causes, she has made a name for herself as a stellar volunteer in both Aids Walk NYC and Relay for Life.

Lee, in her own words:
"On Saturday, June 2, 2012 myself and a group of my friends were asked to cook some Spanish food as a fundraiser for "Relay 4 Life"; we raised about $500.00. At this same event my picture was taken and was in a motorcycle magazine.

This Saturday, July 23 I will be in New Rochelle volunteering to help in the registration booth. This event is called "Latin Bikers Against Cancer" which means everyone that rides a motorcycles can ride to raise money for Breast Cancer. There will also be Cancer Survivors and food at the event.
For the Aids Walk I received an award for "outstanding contributions" as a volunteer. I volunteered between February all the through the day of the event. I volunteered phone banking and pamphlet preparation for the teams that attended the Aids Walk.

If it wasn't for AmeriCorps I would not have the opportunity to volunteer for these 2 organizations that are for a positive cause and continue to fight and find a cure. They have been fighting for such a long time to save lives and will not stop spreading the word."
Keep up your amazing work, Lee. You inspire us all.
Lee with AIDS Walk NYC coordinator, Shaun Sheppard

 Lee at AIDS Walk NYC 2011 with AmeriCorps coordinator, Viviana Gordon

Lee with fellow AmeriCorps members at AIDS Walk NYC

Lee's award for outstanding contributions to AIDS Walk NYC

Lee's service to "Relay for Life" was recognized in Full Throttle magazine

A dramatic finish for the Red Hook Youth Baseball season

The Red Hook Youth Baseball League concluded it’s 15th season last Saturday with the underdog, BYA Royals, sweeping the previously undefeated Southern Trucking squad in a best of three championship series, two games to none. AmeriCorps members helped to found the League 15 years ago and continue to support every aspect of the League through their service today through coaching, recruiting, maintaining the ballfields or planning championship day festivities.

After the Royals took the first game on Monday night, the teams faced off Saturday morning to conclude the series. The hard fought game was knotted at 3 at the end of regulation, forcing the game into extra innings as the sun moved high in the sky and temperatures inched passed 100. Southern Trucking made quick business of reclaiming their lead, posting 3 runs on the scoreboard. Things were looking bleak for the BYA, down 3-6 at the bottom of the inning with two outs and no one on base. Two consecutive hits set the table for Brian Velasquez to hit a two RBI triple and pull within one. The next batter, Paul Deceglie got a base hit, driving Brian home to tie the game. Paul subsequently stole second on a wild pitch. The Royals dugout was already on their feet when the next batter, catcher Leo Mota knocked a game winning walk-off single up the middle to clinch the championship in a thrilling 7-6 come-from-behind victory. The BYA win was unquestionably aided by their pitcher, Tommy Camarda, who hurled 6 strong innings and notched 13 strikeouts.
On the other diamond, the battle for third place between Hynes’ Heroes and the Defenders also had a dramatic conclusion with a photo finish play at the plate to end the game. Tied at 3, with two outs and a runner on first, Hynes’ coach Paul Vitale took a risk, banking on a Defender error, and called for 3b Raheem Bernard to steal second. The throw from the catcher sailed over the second baseman’s outstretched hand into center field and the runner rounded second, took third and sped for home on the overthrow. A well-executed relay nailed the runner with C Alex Ruiz applying the game-saving tag.  Both teams’ coaches agreed to call the game a draw due to the heat and to allow the players go watch the thrilling end of the championship game.
After the Royals doused their coaches with buckets of ice water and claimed their championship trophies, the young ballplayers were reminded that the game is about more than winning and losing, and what really matters is showing up, playing hard, and being a good teammate. This year, the League instituted the “Ray and James Brodick Award,” named in honor of the League founder and his father, which honors these qualities by recognizing one player from each team who most exemplifies the “'Love for Baseball' through sportsmanship, hard work and dedication throughout the season." This year the award was given to four inspirational young leaders: Leo Mota of the BYA Royals, Xavier Rivera of the Defenders, Harold Bandouveris of Hynes’ Heroes, and Michael Bosch of Southern Trucking. The award will be permanently displayed in the Red Hook Community Justice Center and serve as a reminder to the young ballplayers that lessons learned on the ballfields can be valuable in the off-season and serve them in life.  
Defender, Luis, in perfect form, pitched all 6 innings of the first round playoff game and came within 3 outs of knocking out #1 seed Southern Trucking.

Southern Trucker, Tatiana, got her share of RBI's (including an in the park grand slam!) to help clinch her team's undefeated (9-0) regular season.

After a 3 hour game in 100+ heat, the BYA Royals celebrate their "come from behind walk-off victory" over Southern Trucking scoring 5 runs with 2 outs in the last inning.