Ricardo was sure that his “morning teacher” had chosen him to join the children in the afternoon session so that he could teach the afternoon children what he had learned each morning. In fact, Ricardo had come to the Bloomingdale Family Program as a three-year-old whose speech, whether in Spanish or English, was very limited. Placing him in a double session doubled his exposure to a rich bilingual environment. Twice-weekly one-to-one play therapy also provided opportunities to help Ricardo develop his language skills. He soon began to thrive. Today Ricardo is a high school student, doing well in all his classes. When Bloomingdale’s Executive Director was honored recently at Bank Street College, the former student who gave the speech in her honor was Ricardo.
Tyrone and his kid sister Kim are bright and motivated children. Yet when they began at Bloomingdale, they were fearful and had a hard time connecting with other children. Both children benefited from one-to-one services. Their Play Therapist helped with their social and emotional development, while the Family Services Coordinator helped their great-grandmother, their loving caregiver, to establish a strong connection to the school. She became a frequent and valued classroom volunteer.
When Tyrone entered elementary school, Bloomingdale was there to support his progress and communicate with his new teachers. He took part in our weekly tutoring program; his great-grandmother participated as well. We continue to be there for him and for all of his family members.
When Columbia University was recruiting students for its new elementary school, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for Tyrone and Kim. With the help of Bloomingdale’s support team, both children were accepted to The School at Columbia University on full scholarships. They are doing well, and Tyrone now comes back to Bloomingdale to help tutor other students.
Maria enrolled her four-year-old daughter in 1998 when a friend recommended the school and told her that it was “for the whole family.” From the very beginning, her child’s teachers invited her into the classroom together with her 9-month-old baby, and Maria soon became involved as a volunteer. She spoke no English, but when one of the teachers offered to help Maria learn English in exchange for Maria teaching her Spanish, she was off and running. From volunteer she was promoted first to Substitute, and then to part-time Assistant Teacher. She returned to school, and will soon receive her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts at Hostos Community College. Her goal is to gain additional academic credentials and contribute to the field of human services.
Through Bloomingdale, Maria became involved with the Center for Immigrant Families (CIF), which she how calls her second home. She has become a passionate and eloquent advocate for ending discriminatory practices in our local public schools. She has spoken at several public school events, published an article in a CIF news bulletin, and has been interviewed frequently on Channel One TV. Her two daughters are honors students at their magnet Middle School, well prepared to succeed at one of New York City’s academically challenging high schools.
Alexandra left her home in Puerto Rico and came to New York City in 1976. She had no immediate family here, and when she gave birth to a boy in 1977, she was a single parent, alone and lonely. One day she saw a Bloomingdale flyer posted at the local library. She read about all the services the program offered but had decided, “It was too good to be true.”
Alexandra took her son, Juan, to the park every morning. One day, in the spring of 1981, she saw a group of children with their teachers. She loved the way the teachers related to the children, and was sure that the children were from an expensive private school. Finally she found the courage to approach a teacher who wrote down Bloomingdale’s address for her. When Alexandra and Juan appeared at school the next morning, they were expected and welcomed. Juan started at Bloomingdale that September. By the end of Juan’s year at Bloomingdale, Alexandra had bonded with the program. She volunteered regularly, showing a special talent for working with children and parents. She was hired as an Assistant Teacher in 1983, and when a Family Assistant position became available in 1988, she applied and was accepted. Alexandra is still with us 20 years later.
Juan went straight from Bloomingdale Head Start to parochial school. He earned his BA from Binghamton University and his MS in Education from the New School University, thanks to a combination of financial aid, loans, and work/study programs. Today Juan is a high school teacher. Like his mother, he is deeply committed to the cause of social justice.
Gina was a young student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1994 when she enrolled her three-year-old son, Miguel, at Bloomingdale. When an assistant teacher position became available later that year, Gina was selected from among many applicants to work in a Fours classroom. By the time Miguel graduated from Bloomingdale, Gina had earned an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. By this point, her career goals were clear. She enrolled at City College to earn her BA, was promoted to Head Teacher on a Study Plan, and in 2008 graduated from City College with an MS degree and permanent New York State certification in Early Childhood Education.
The entire family — including her younger daughter Ginel — succeeded along with Gina. Son Miguel Jr. is a high school student who is thriving academically, already taking college courses, and getting ready to start his college career in 2010 at age 17. Ginel is now in second grade. While at Bloomingdale, Ginel received support with speech and language development, and during a period when the family experienced a devastating loss, Ginel received play therapy twice weekly. She returns to Bloomingdale for tutoring after school, and is on track to be promoted to the next grade. Gina’s husband Miguel became an active volunteer at Bloomingdale. He was encouraged to go back to school, earned his Associate Degree and joined the staff as an Assistant Teacher in 1996. Upon Gina’s graduation with a Masters degree it became his turn to go back to school. They’re on their way.
* Some names and photos have been changed for confidentiality.