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Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
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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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