WHDC and Kinvolved Bring Attendance-Boosting App to West Harlem Schools

September 23, 2014

Pilot in 16 Schools to Bring Real-time Communication between Parents and Teachers

West Harlem Development Corporation and Kinvolved, in collaboration with School Districts 5 and 6, announce an innovative app launch in West Harlem that promises to improve attendance records and grades by letting teachers swipe a child as absent or late on a device and immediately notify parents via text message or email.

The pilot program, Every Minute Matters in West Harlem, will be tested in 16 schools and four after-school programs in Community District 9 (CD9). The program uses Kinvolved’s unique app that allows teachers to mark a student absent or late with a swipe of a finger, sending out real-time messages to parents and tracking reasons for absence and number of minutes late to determine trends or crises. Class and school-wide messages, reminders, and announcements can also be sent out via the app; parents need only a basic phone that receives text messages. The app also supports safe and secure two-way messaging between teachers and parents so they can be in touch seamlessly.

“The best educational activities are useless to the absent student. This pilot project will ensure we set up West Harlem children for success by making sure that they are present and learning,” said Kofi A. Boateng, PhD, West Harlem Development Corporation Executive Director. “Every Minute Matters in West Harlem is poised to improve students’ grades by increasing attendance.”

Kinvolved’s app will link parents directly with their children’s attendance records and with teachers and after school program leaders. It provides a safety net that lets parents know if their child did not show up to school but also builds a better support system that will affect grades and communication across all parts of a child’s education.

“As a teacher, I learned that attendance problems are often overlooked, and that many parents are not informed by schools when their kids are absent,” said Miriam Altman, co-founder of Kinvolved. “By establishing communication and partnership with families, coaches, and mentors, we can change the status quo by sharing collective responsibility for students’ success. This has to start with making sure students show up to school on time, every day. While technology alone will not solve attendance challenges, we are raising awareness about the importance of tracking attendance information more effectively, and highlighting the extremely important role parents have in education.”

The attendance rates in 2013-14 in Districts 5 and 6 were 89 percent and 92 percent, respectively, compared to a 98 percent attendance rate at a selective high school in the area. While the percentage of third through eighth graders (excluding selective school students) passing the state standardized exams in Districts 5 and 6 for Math and ELA are 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

“Failure rates in excess of 80 percent for our public school children are simply unacceptable,” said Donald C. Notice, WHDC Board Chairman.“Our initiative with Kinvolved is a first necessary step to stem the tide.”

Research shows that attendance rates and high school graduation are directly linked. Citywide, 25 percent of students in NYC miss 30 or more days of school each year. At that rate, students only have a 20 percent chance of graduating. WHDC and Kinvovled’s Every Minute Matters in West Harlem program want to change that by increasing attendance records and student achievement.

“We want our kids to go to college, we want our test scores to improve, but more importantly we want our children to be present to learn,” saidReginald Higgins, principal of P.S. 125, which tested Kinvolved last year.

West Harlem Development Corporation funded the program with $30,000 with matching funds of $30,000 raised by Kinvolved. Each participating school makes a small contribution. Kinvolved’s app will be used across 60 sites nationally this fall, and in NYC through partnerships with the Children’s Aid Society, the Children’s Health Fund, ScriptEd, and Hip Hop 4 Life.

Kinvolved has trained teachers and other staff of the West Harlem schools and after school programs in the technology and best practices in improving attendance, which will be used throughout the 2014-2015 school year. If successful, WHDC could expand the pilot to additional schools and programs in the future.

On September 23, WHDC and Kinvolved will hold a kick-off celebration at P.S. 125. Attendance experts Peter Bergman, Assistant Professor of Economics in Education at Columbia University/Teacher’s College, Drema Brown, Vice-President of the School-Age Division at Children’s Aid Society and Principal Higgins will be part of a panel discussing the effect of attendance on graduation and future success.

Miriam Altman and Alexandra Meis met and founded Kinvolved while studying Public Policy at The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU. They were inspired to develop technology to improve attendance and family engagement based on their first-hand experiences in the classroom and the community. Miriam, a former NYC Dept. of Education high school history teacher, witnessed the effects of attendance and family engagement on her students’ academic outcomes. A former project manager at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center’s Autism Center, Alexandra taught underserved parents to access and advocate for special education services for their children.

WHDC is charged with implementing the Community Benefits Agreement signed with Columbia University in 2009. WHDC has granted $4 million to 119 nonprofits that serve West Harlem/Community District 9 with programs in education, housing, workforce development and other important areas.

WHDC has also contributed $2 million in funding to youth and senior summer employment programs. WHDC’s mission is to promote increased economic opportunities and quality of life to sustain a vibrant West Harlem community.

WHDC Unifies Grant and Manhattanville Residents After Mass Arrests

September 13, 2014

Residents tell WHDC what permanent solutions to violence and lack of resources they would like funded

West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) brought residents of Grant and Manhattanville Houses together at a meeting that fostered a dialog between the residents of the housing complexes and offered an opportunity for the residents to tell WHDC what programs they would benefit from.

“This meeting is just the first step in the path to nonviolence and better quality of life for the youth and other residents at Grant and Manhattanville Houses,” said WHDC Executive Director Kofi A. Boateng, PhD. “We do not pretend to have the answers, so we sought them from the residents themselves. We will now take these ideas and form them into realistic benefits.”

WHDC hosted the unifying gathering at Manhattan Pentecostal Church, located between the two complexes, in response to the much-publicized history of violence and the biggest gang takedown in New York City history at the complexes on June 4, 2014. WHDC has banded with parents of youth arrested in the takedown, leadership from both complexes, ministers, community-based organizations and law enforcement in a broad attempt to come up with permanent solutions to issues like violence and lack of resources that have permeated the community for decades.

“One of my dreams and aspirations is that we can come together and get the young people and community involved and move forward to revitalize our community,” said Taylonn Murphy, father of Tayshana (Chicken) Murphy who was gunned down during the Grant and Manhattanville conflict on September 11, 2011.

Impact Repertory Theatre, a WHDC grant recipient, started off the show with songs from its Off-Broadway musical Peace Warriors with real-life situations and themes that reflect the lives of Grant and Manhattanville youth. Impact opened up the conversation with a talk-back session about the songs.

The Brotherhood/Sister Sol moderated the discussions between residents. Youth from both complexes were able to voice their opinions in one room while adults also talked about solutions and programming they needed in a separate room. All residents, youth and adults, came together to share conclusions.

WHDC will help direct services to the residents through its grant activities, and also ensure the residents use a $3-million fund available to Grant and Manhattanville Houses in the 2009 Community Benefits Agreement. Some of WHDC’s grant recipients were at the meeting to sign up residents for programs in education and workforce development.

WHDC is charged with implementing the Community Benefits Agreement signed with Columbia University in 2009. WHDC has granted $4 million to 119 nonprofits that serve West Harlem/Community District 9 with programs in education, housing, workforce development and other important areas.

WHDC has also contributed $2 million in funding to youth and senior summer employment programs. WHDC’s mission is to promote increased economic opportunities and quality of life to sustain a vibrant West Harlem community.

WHDC’s Pre-grant Application for Cycle 2 of 2014 is Now Available!

September 1, 2014

West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) released the pre-grant application for the second grant cycle of 2014 on Monday, September 1, 2014. The application is available here. New applicants will have to create an online account to complete the application. Previous recipients need to login and click on “Apply” on their dashboard. Grant recipients from Cycle 1 of 2014 are not eligible to apply during this cycle. If you have any questions about the application, please email dmorris@westharlemdc.org.

WHDC is following a new direction to invest for measurable impact. In line with its strategic vision, residents of Community Board 9 are WHDC’s customers, not the nonprofit organizations. This deliberate emphasis is designed to ensure that needs are met and lives are improved while giving WHDC quantifiable data to use in leveraging additional funds for the community’s human capacity development.

In 2014, WHDC’s funding priorities shifted dollars towards areas of priorities, defined in our Sustainable Community Development Goals, and to good performers that will help the organization to solve the community’s problems. The priority areas will include education, workforce development, housing and health, while respecting the eight areas of need—which also include arts and culture, historical preservation, transportation and the environment—outlined in Community Benefits Agreement.

WHDC will use these priority areas as guides in its investing for impact while requiring measurable data that show who in Community District 9 is impacted and how. This move allows the organization to apply for additional funds from the government and foundations that require such measurable proof of impact in the community. Find out more information about how WHDC has begun to implement this strategy with our first cycle grantees here.

Important dates of the grant cycle include:

  • Monday, September 1, 2014: Pre-grant Application made
    available online
  • Monday, September 15, 2014: Pre-grant Application due
  • Friday, October 10, 2014: Grant Application invitations sent
    and application made available to
    selected organizations
  • Sunday, November 9, 2014: Grant Application due
  • Early December, 2014: WHDC Grant Awards announced
    and issued


WHDC Awards $1 Million in Grants, Announces Next Grant Cycle

August 25, 2014

West Harlem Development Corporation has awarded $1 million in grants to 38 nonprofits that aim to increase economic opportunities and quality of life to sustain a vibrant West Harlem community.

The awards are the third round of grants made to date, bringing the total amount of grants to $4 million. In this round of granting, WHDC tightened its focus to areas in need of immediate impact in the community and raised the reporting requirements for awardees in an effort to better serve the Community District 9 community in West Harlem. Though all groups will serve West Harlem, 66 percent are also based in the community.

The breakdown of grants by community-need category is:

  • Community Facilities, including Arts and Environment: $286,389
  • Education, including Arts and Historical Preservation $487,158
  • Housing, including Legal Services $76,287
  • Workforce & Economic Development, including Environment $150,166

Representatives from each organization attended a Collective Impact meeting to discuss how to work together to obtain measurable results such as improved test scores in public schools and tracking program attendees’ progress toward obtaining a job. Grantees were divided into working groups based on the community need they serve (i.e., community facilities, education, housing and workforce and economic development) and will meet throughout the year.

All grantees will work toward fulfilling WHDC’s community development goals, which can be found here. For a complete list of our newest grantees, click here.

The timeline for the next 2014 grant cycle can be found here.

WHDC Cumulative Financial Reporting Through April 30, 2014

July 8, 2014

Download the document here.

2013 Pseudo Form 990

Click here to view the PDF.

Community School District 5 Announces First Winners of First Annual Spelling Bee, First Grade Champ is The Reading Team Participant

June 6, 2014

A first grader in a literacy enhancement program won the “2014 District 5 Superintendent’s Spelling Bee Champion for the First Grade” this week. Corey Cid, who participates in The Reading Team at P.S. 36, earned the top spot after beating out tough competition of 14 first-grade spellers. Chanell Sanchez from P.S. 133 and Michael Ballester from P.S. 161 won second and third place, respectively.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Corey did well in the CSD 5 spelling bee,” said The Reading Team President and Founder Maureen Rover. “Corey is an outstanding student, a sweet child, a fast learner, and a voracious reader.”

The Reading Team programs immerse young children who are at high risk of reading failure in a rich and engaging learning environment. West Harlem Development Corporation gave a grant to The Reading Team in 2013 for its program at P.S. 36.

The first half (grades 1 through 5) of the First Annual District 5 Superintendent’s Spelling Bee Competition took place on June 4. The second half of the spelling bee for sixth through eighth graders took place at 6 p.m. on June 6 at Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive (at 145th Street). The winners in the remaining grades were:

  • Second Grade: First Place: Brian Salcedo (P.S. 161), Second Place: Skylah Bostic (P.S. 194), Third Place: Brian Cespedes (Thurgood Marshall Academy, Lower School).
  • Third Grade: First Place: Kadiatu Bah (P.S. 200), Second Place: Francisco Sanchez (P.S. 161), Third Place: Maysa Maryam (P.S. 129).
  • Fourth Grade: First Place: Alexis Hernandez (P.S. 129), Second Place: Alyeada Sloh (Thurgood Marshall Academy, Lower School), Third Place: Ruby Acosta (P.S. 161).
  • Fifth Grade: First Place: Cleon Lewis, Jr. (P.S. 30), Second Place: Junal Jordan (P.S. 129), Third Place: Cheik Fall (P.S. 36).
  • Sixth Grade: First Place: Dominique Hornbuckle (Thurgood Marshall Academy/M.S./H.S. 670); Second Place: Ruben Acosta (P.S./M.S. 161); Third Place: Cyncere Diarra (R.L.A.-I.S. 286).
  • Seventh Grade: First Place: Aiche Ba (P.S./M.S. 123); Second Place: Epiphany Adams (Frederick Douglass Academy-M.S./H.S. 499); Third Place: Tyleel Cherry (R.L.A.-I.S. 286).
  • Eighth Grade: First Place: Kevin Korang (Frederick Douglass Academy-M.S./H.S. 499); Second Place: Ashley Martinez (P.S. 129); Third Place: Taliq Starks (R.L.A.-I.S. 286).

The Superintendent’s District-wide Spelling Bee Competition, held in partnership with Riverbank State Park, included 20 schools in District 5, from first through eighth grade. All participants received medals, and each 1st, 2nd and 3rd-place winner from each grade received a trophy.

“Though abbreviated spelling through text and email communication are rampant in our children’s lives, spelling among academic and professional forums is still necessary,” said Community School District 5 Superintendent Gale Reeves. “Students need to be able to meet the challenge of future career and academic goals, being well-equipped in their reading, writing, and spelling abilities.”

The preliminary competition began in early May in individual schools, first in classrooms, then grade-wide, then school-wide, with a grade-wide champion from each school participating in the district-wide finals. The Spelling Bee Committee’s goal is to create an engaging, challenging, and student friendly competition promoting rigor, engagement, study skills, collaboration and fun.

The Bee will become an annual event, and School District 5 may decide to encourage participation of future winners in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Reeves said. Experts have noted the increased importance of phonics in mastering various subjects, particularly under the new Common Core.

The district picked as judges individuals who are either working collaboratively with schools in the district or who were involved in supporting educational initiatives throughout the city. On June 4, they included former City Council Member and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson; Kofi A. Boateng, PhD, Executive Director of West Harlem Development Corporation, which aided in logistics and communications for the Spelling Bee; Audrey O’Keefe, Standard and Poors – McGraw-Hill Financial; Audrey Gaul, New York State Education Chair, NAACP; and Anthony Harmon – Executive Director, UFT.

“We are excited to be part of such a positive event for the community and for the school children of District 5,” said Scott Matson, Riverbank State Park Operations Director and Acting Deputy Regional Manager. “Students, faculty and parents came to Riverbank in May to partake in ‘I Love My Park Day,’ an annual statewide clean-up event, and we’re delighted to deepen our relationship with the school district by partnering for the Spelling Bee.”

Empire State Development Corporation Seeks Monitor for Columbia Expansion Project

May 13, 2014

The deadline to apply is 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. To download the RFP click here.

April 15, 2014 Columbia University Implementation Plan Summary Redacted/Latest Report to ESD

May 9, 2014

Download the plan here.

See the latest report to ESD here.

WHDC Funds Second Summer Senior Employment Program for CD9 Residents Ages 55+

April 8, 2014

West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) will fund jobs for 100 seniors this summer, giving adults age 55 and older a chance to earn money, use their skills, develop new talents and do meaningful work at nonprofits.

WHDC partnered with ReServe Elders, Inc., an innovative nonprofit that places professionals age 55+ with nonprofits and government agencies. WHDC will fund the 2014 program for $219,000, providing 10 weeks of work during the summer for seniors living in West Harlem’s Community District 9. The seniors will work at local nonprofits at no cost to the organization, giving them quality employees to do meaningful work in the community.

“The Summer Seniors Employment Program helps a demographic that has a hard time finding jobs to afford food, medicine and spending money,” said WHDC Executive Director Kofi A. Boateng, PhD. “Many seniors also learn new skills, and their employers are happy to have extra staff at no-cost to them.”

This year’s Summer Senior Employment Program (SSEP) is the second time WHDC is creating jobs for seniors in Community District 9. In the summer of 2013, WHDC launched the successful pilot SSEP, funding 50 positions for $140,000.

“ReServe is delighted to partner again with West Harlem Development Corporation for a second Summer Seniors Employment Program,” said ReServe Director Laura Traynor. “This year, we are doubling the size – and impact – of the program for 100 West Harlem seniors who will be placed in non-profit and public service organizations throughout the city.”

Paralee Brooks, an SSEP participant in 2013, said her work at a culinary school downtown allowed her to do interesting and rewarding work. She started the program with a basic computer skill and ended up increasing her computer literacy. ReServe also placed her husband in maintenance work at the same school.

“I updated their recipes,” said Ms. Brooks. “I interacted with other program heads. I did attendance. I did spreadsheets of their inventory and I interacted with their students. I did so much. It’s amazing. The ten weeks went so fast.”

The number of workers in the labor force who are 55 years of age and older increased from 29.9 percent in 1993 to 40.4 percent in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The rate continues to rise steadily, the New York Council on Aging reports.

“There are very few jobs out there for senior citizens,” Mayra Mejia, who worked at a summer program at a high school. “It was the best job for senior citizen.”

Many of the SSEP participants work alongside youth, giving teenagers and seniors the opportunity to learn from one another. One SSEP worker, Ricardo Acevedo, worked with Summer Youth Employment Program participants funded by WHDC. That team worked at P.A.L.A.N.T.E., a tenant advocacy group, and helped Community Board 9 residents fight a landlord, getting him to make much-needed repairs and to refund more than $319,000 in overcharged rent.

Mr. Acevedo was successful in gaining tenants trust to help them because he is from the same neighborhood.

“Interacting with tenants in my community was a very rewarding experience because I learned so much about their struggles which are similar to mine,” Mr. Acevedo said. “Also being here I learned the proper steps I should take when dealing with my own issues.”

For more information about the program, go to www.westharlemdc.org. Seniors must register to attend one of the informational sessions: Tuesday, April 15, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Jackie Robinson Center, 1301 Amsterdam Ave.; Thursday, April 17 and Tuesday, April 22, both at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Morningside Retirement & Health Services, 100 LaSalle St. #MC; Wednesday, April 23, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 463 W. 142nd St.*Translated into Spanish

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