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Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
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News & Events
Say Yes to the Dress! Donate Your Dress Today
March 12, 2018
(permanent link)

For the second consecutive year, young ladies from the Syracuse City School District will have an opportunity to receive a free prom dress, shoes and accessories through the "Say Yes to the Dress" Prom Dress Giveway March 24 at PSLA at Fowler High School in Syracuse.

"Say Yes to the Dress" is once again being coordinated by Kristen Stanton, a Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program Counselor who works at PSLA at Fowler. Last year, Stanton collaborated with Cicero-North Syracuse High School Counselor Christine Alencewicz to develop a second-hand boutique at PSLA at Fowler for students to shop for free, gently used clothing, and that led to her idea for the Prom Dress Giveaway.

"Prom dresses and ball gowns can be very expensive and many times are worn only once," Stanton said. "It’s a shame to keep them hanging around in your closet when there is someone out there who could use them."

Say Yes to the Dress
Please Help PSLA at Fowler High School. PSLA at Fowler High School is looking for donations of formal and semi-formal dresses, shoes, and accessories to support their 2nd annual Prom Dress Giveaway.

PSLA at Fowler is seeking donations of formal and semi-formal dresses, shoes and accessories to support this event. Donations can be dropped off during regular business hours through Tuesday, March 20, at PSLA at Fowler High School, 227 Magnolia St., Syracuse; Contact Community Services, 6311 Court St. Road, East Syracuse; and C&S Companies, 499 Col. Eileen Collins Blvd., Syracuse.

C&S Companies, a Syracuse-based engineering and architectural firm, provided a cargo van and manpower to transfer leftover dresses from a similar event at Cicero-North Syracuse High School last year and the company has pledged to assist again this year, Stanton said.

The Prom Dress Giveaway will run from 10 to 11 a.m. March 24 for PSLA at Fowler students only. It will then open for all Syracuse City School District students from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"It’s such a relief to get all of my shopping done and not to have the expenses," said Amina Farah, a former PSLA at Fowler student who found a dress and accessories at last year’s event.

Contact’s Student Assistance Program is a school-based mental health support and substance abuse prevention program that offers free and confidential assessments, counseling and referral services to students and their families. Learn more about the Student Assistance Program that Contact operates in all five Syracuse City School District high schools and Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

Today’s Lesson:Perseverance and Courage
February 16, 2018
(permanent link)

Matthew Biss, our Youth Development Specialist at Long Branch Elementary School in the Liverpool Central School District, shared this story about how the school community at Long Branch is utilizing "The Positivity Project" and how one staff member didn’t just talk about it, he did it! We’ll let Matthew take it from here:

At Long Branch Elementary School, the staff and students believe it’s as important to build character as it is to build the students’ skills in math, reading and writing. Many schools and school districts promote teaching the "whole child;" that is, getting away from education geared toward preparing for, and taking, tests. Though much easier said than done, the staff and students at Long Branch are committed to this goal and have been using The Positivity Project to achieve it.

This evidence-based, character-education system has been in place at Long Branch for the past year with great success. Each month, we hold a Positivity Assembly, a meeting of all students and staff to celebrate our achievements in Positivity and motivate one another to continue to exemplify these character traits. At the February meeting, our school counselor Matt Barnes shared and showed a character strength he had been working on: Perseverance. Mr. Barnes showed his strength of perseverance by climbing to the top of a rope in our gymnasium - something he had never done or accomplished before – and he did it in front of our entire school! (Watch Mr. Barnes' speech and climb to the top!)

Long Branch Elementary School Counselor Matt Barnes talks to students about perseverance during the February "Positivity Assembly." (Photo courtesy of Matthew Biss).

Mr. Barnes spoke to our students before and after his rope climb about the strength of perseverance, and the virtue of courage, as he was not certain he could accomplish this goal. He was successful in climbing the rope, and upon ringing the bell and descending to the roaring cheers of our school community, he spoke about the result of his perseverance: the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that came with trying something hard and pushing through the difficulty.

That morning, all our students witnessed someone try something hard, push through the difficulty and experience the exhilarating feeling of success. Now, every time these students encounter their own rope to climb, they can think back to the time their school counselor showed them what perseverance looked like and his courage in doing something hard - and succeeding!

Paw Prints and Progress at Chestnut Hill Elementary
February 14, 2018
(permanent link)

Every child is unique, and Contact Community Services’ Youth Development Specialists Katie Filippone and Arsenio Wallace are finding unique ways to connect with their students in the Youth Development Services’ program at Chestnut Hill Elementary School in the Liverpool Central School District. Katie is helping third-grade student Elijah Heron improve academically, socially and behaviorally by incorporating his love of dogs with his daily "Get Started" intervention cards. Read Katie’s newsletter to learn more about Elijah’s outstanding progress. Fourth-grade student James Mattice is one of Arsenio’s students, and Arsenio shared this story about James’ terrific progress this school year:

James has made tremendous gains as a student in and out of the classroom. More consistent interaction with staff and students has helped him find ways to communicate meaningfully with others, and that has also translated academically as he made the Honor Roll!

Discussing "Positivity Project Characteristics" at lunch and during guided time in the classroom gave James the platform he needed to change his mind set and see the value and opportunity in life lessons. James is a pleasure to have in the Contact program and has encouraged all of those around him! We’d like to thank the staff at Chestnut Hill Elementary and James’ parents for all they do to help us achieve a productive and successful learning environment for James.

James Mattice
Chestnut Hill Elementary School student James Mattice with his teacher, Ms. Adiletta, after James received the Student of the Month Award!
(Photo by Arsenio Wallace).

And thank you to Katie, Arsenio and Contact’s entire Youth Development Services staff for the positive impact they’re having on students in the Liverpool Central and Syracuse City school districts.

Local Elected Officials Cast Vote for Primary Project
January 16, 2018
(permanent link)

The best way to stop a big problem later is to prevent a smaller one now.

That’s the idea behind Primary Project, a research-based, early intervention program that Contact Community Services administers in 27 elementary schools in the Syracuse City, East Syracuse Minoa Central, and Liverpool Central school districts.

The program for children in grades K-3 identifies and addresses emerging problems such as shyness, anxiety, moodiness, defiance, and problems forming peer relationships. Those problems can interfere with school success in the lower grades and lead to bigger problems as the child gets older.

"Primary Project is for the child who’s easy to overlook, because it’s not the child who’s tearing up the room right now," said East Syracuse Minoa Central School District Superintendent Dr. Donna DeSiato. "But to me, if you don’t look at the preventative end, you’ll never stop the bleeding at the other end."

Primary Project is a best-practice program developed by the Children’s Institute in Rochester. Before the holidays, representatives from the Children’s Institute and Contact met with local elected officials at three different elementary schools to explain the benefits of Primary Project.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-DeWitt, visited East Syracuse Elementary School; Assembly Member Pamela Hunter, D-Syracuse, and Tracy Carman from the office of state Sen. Dave Valesky, D-Oneida, visited Donlin Drive Elementary School in Liverpool; and Dan Petrick, Constituent Liaison to Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, visited Bellevue Elementary School in Syracuse.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, Dr. Donna DeSiato
State Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-DeWitt, chats with Contact Community Services Executive Director Pat Leone (left) and East Syracuse Minoa Central School District Superintendent Dr. Donna DeSiato while visiting the Primary Project playroom at East Syracuse Elementary School.

The elected officials learned how students selected for Primary Project meet 30 minutes a week for 12 to 15 weeks for individual play sessions with a Child Associate who is trained by Contact. The play sessions help the students develop their social skills and become more emotionally resilient.

"Primary Project helps the next layer of student that very often we can’t get to, the student who’s tentative, unsure, insecure, the student who if these issues are missed long enough will not be able to achieve," said Donlin Drive Elementary School Principal Heather Silvia. "(The program) scooped up 60 of our kids who were then catapulted into the next year school year way ahead of where they would have been."

Christie Jarvi, a School Counselor for East Syracuse Minoa, talked about one first-grader who was selected for Primary Project because he was anxious and often stood by the door, wanting to get out of the classroom. But after meeting regularly with the Child Associate, this student became a classroom leader with increased confidence.

"We love having Primary Project in our building," said East Syracuse Elementary School Principal Ronald Perry. "It’s an important part of our school improvement plan."

Sen. DeFrancisco said he was impressed that Primary Project has had a positive impact on attendance and grades as the children are eager to use their improved self-confidence and social skills. Studies show that children who develop those skills at an early age are less likely to have behavioral problems and more likely to graduate from high school.

"It seems to me that expanding the program to more schools is the logical way to go," Sen. DeFrancisco said.

Melissa Evans, the Director of Student Support Services for the Syracuse City School District, said she is grateful for Contact’s role in analyzing data to ensure the right students are entering the program. And, Evans said, the district appreciates Child Associates like Ella Crenshaw, who worked for the district for 37 years and now works with about 30 students a year in the Primary Project program at Bellevue Elementary.

"All of our teachers and kids look forward to meeting with Miss Ella," said Bellevue Social Worker Danielle Swenton. "The kids love that half hour of adult attention and the teachers have seen great improvement in those students."

For more information about the benefits of Primary Project, visit the Children’s Institute website.

"I Had an Awesome Time in the Contact Program"
December 20, 2017
(permanent link)

Youth Development Services Jamie Marano is a ninth-grade English teacher at North Syracuse Junior High School in the North Syracuse Central School District. Mr. Marano recently asked his students to write short thank you notes to people who have positively influenced their lives.

One of Mr. Marano’s students, Devante’ Caruso-CoLon, wrote this letter to Arsenio Wallace, one of Contact’s Youth Development Specialists who formerly worked at Roxboro Road Middle School in the NSCSD and is now at Chestnut Hill Elementary School in the Liverpool Central School District:
Dear Mr. Wallace,

I just wanted to say that when I was there with you and my other friends that you made going to school more enjoyable because you were cool and so funny. I was glad that I had you to help me with my work and I had an awesome time in the Contact Program.

Devante’ Caruso-CoLon

Arsenio was thrilled to receive Devante’s note, and here’s what he had to say about his time with Devante’: "Devante’ was very passionate about the things that he wanted, and would often not know how to guide his passion. He cared deeply for fashion, basketball, and his family.

"From playing basketball in the class with trash bins, to looking up his favorite player during reading time, he was submerged with the sport. Devante’ and I were able to re-purpose his time and efforts to use that energy for basketball after school, and for reading to improve his grades so that his parents would not mind getting him new basketball sneaks!"

"Devante’ and I both grew from this YDS-student relationship. He learned to be goal-oriented, and I realized how the Contact program can have a lasting effect on staff and students in a short amount of time."

Contact operates Youth Development programs in several schools in the Syracuse City School District and now the Liverpool Central School District. The programs continue to have a positive impact on students because of Youth Development Specialists like Arsenio. As Mr. Marano said, "Thanks for making a difference!"

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