Rising Above Challenges — Spring and Summer Highlights!

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NECS rose above the challenges of Spring and Summer 2020! We adjusted our programs and were able to gather children virtually during the spring, and safely for summer learning and fun. 

In the spring, NECS successfully ran several virtual programs including  Monologue Workshop, Songwriting Workshop, Girls Leadership and Empowerment Workshop and hip hop dance workshops. In addition, we provided a virtual space for parents to gather to discuss the challenges of homeschooling during a pandemic. As racial tensions rose throughout the country, NECS was there for parents, addressing issues of race and parenting, and how to parent anti-racist children. Parent workshops ran weekly through the end of June.  

We created a virtual space for local youth as well to meet and discuss racial tensions in America. As they grappled with what was going on in their nation, NECS provided an opportunity for them to get to know each other, share their frustrations and think about ways in which they could help make their community safer, more just and unified. This led to a powerful and peaceful local rally that was initiated and executed by the youth. 


Summer camp proved challenging this year, but by taking programs outdoors and following social distance protocols, NECS successfully, safely, and joyfully ran three camps for children and youth. In a climate of worry, stress, and potential isolation, it was both crucial and delightful to get children and youth outside, learning, sharing and enjoying themselves. Partnering with local organizations, artists, and educators, NECS offered three opportunities for children to get out and about, exercise body and mind, and refresh their spirits: Nature Connection Camp, Dance as Activism workshops for teens, and a program that brought Stories and Crafts to children and families in Peekskill’s Dunbar Heights. 

Nature Connection Camp was a month-long program that engaged 12 campers three weekday mornings, 9:00-11:00 AM. Each Monday at Longhaul Farm in Garrison, campers had the opportunity to work with farmers, Jason Angel and Jocelyn Apicello. They learned about food and sustainable gardening and farming practices, engaged in service work caring for farm animals, gardening, and making compost, and learned ways to minimize their own impact on the environment. Wednesday mornings were spent at DePew Park, hiking and exploring the woods and wetlands and creating nature art. Instructor Tamara Bridgewater of Art in a Box, led the children in creating sundials, and other inspiring projects, using only natural and repurposed materials. Fridays were spent at the Peekskill waterfront, learning about the Hudson River with Hudson Valley H2O. Activities included seine fishing, identifying fish, conducting water tests, making driftwood art and creating poetry. Each day had a special theme or “word of the day” as well as quotation, which guided and inspired discussions and opened opportunities for personal reflection and growth.

Dance as Activism, a new offering for youth at NECS this summer, took place in DePew Park on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, with instruction from accomplished dancer and choreographer, Belle Ritter. Nine teenagers spent four weeks in a cooperative process of dance composition, incorporating spoken word and music, to create a piece that expressed their feelings about the current social upheavals and made their own statement for racial justice. A live performance wasn’t possible this summer, but the finale was professionally recorded and will debut in the fall! The Dance as Activism program will continue this fall. If you have a teenager that would like to take part, email info@necsspace.org.

Stories and Crafts at Dunbar Heights was another new program that NECS ran successfully this summer. Eight children, between the ages of 6 and 10, enjoyed stories from around the world and created art projects inspired by the stories of the day. Spending a month on Tuesday and Thursday mornings with these brilliant and talented children was a highlight of the summer, so this is only the beginning! NECS hopes to continue and expand this program, so stay tuned. Stories and Crafts was made possible through the generosity of the Rotary Club of Peekskill and members of the Baha’i Community of Westchester.



Over the past few months, NECS has cultivated more inroads with community leaders. We met with peer organizations, local government officials, the Youth Bureau, and the Peekskill City School District (PCSD) to discuss creative programming for our youth and ways to build a stronger community. Out of deep concern for the high school dropout rate among our young people of color, NECS sought counsel from Dr. Joy DeGruy, renowned social scientist, and Tony Porter, founding partner of A Call to Men, to develop an empowerment and mentorship program for at-risk young men and women in our community. We initiated a virtual meeting with Dr. Joy to meet with key local leaders, followed by a citywide virtual meeting with Tony Porter with 19 participants in attendance, including the following local influencers: the superintendent of schools, the mayor, a City Council member, and a Westchester County legislator. That meeting led to a commitment by eight adults from our community who have since undergone training with Tony Porter in the hope of launching a LiveRespect, Healthy Manhood mentorship program for young men in our community this fall. 

Also this summer, NECS was invited to partner with Too Young To Wed (TYTW) to launch Resilient Girls, a new, virtual programmatic initiative by TYTW to develop a periodic virtual series of inspirational stories — led by girls, told by girls from countries worldwide. The program’s principal objective is to raise global awareness about issues faced by the most vulnerable girls in the world, while highlighting and honoring their resilience. The pilot is set to launch in mid-September.  

As we transition into the fall season, we are excited about developing new partnerships and deepening existing partnerships. We are planning to continue to provide programs outdoors and indoors while adhering to safety protocols. In store for the fall are the following programs: Theatre, Dance, Nature Connection, Junior Youth Leadership and Empowerment workshops, Stories and Crafts, Photography and whatever else we can conceive of, collaborate on and put into action together.

To make it through the fall and ensure that we continue to provide meaningful and creative programs that inspire social change and build community, we will need your support. We are planning to launch a virtual fundraising event in October and will invite our community to participate and share with friends. In the meantime, please visit us at www.necspace.org and support our endeavors by donating!


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