George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Children's Aid Society: Supporting a Full-Service Learning Environment

Healthier kids, a safer school, and improved academic achievement are just a few of the positive effects of this unique partnership between New York City schools and the city's venerable charity for kids. Read the article.
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Narrator: There is an extraordinary community center in the heart of New York City.

Teacher: [speaks Spanish] It offers a complete range of medical services, from dental and medical checkups.

Dentist: How are you doing today?

Narrator: To mental health counseling. There are adult education classes, and computer training courses, a basketball program, and a bicycle shop, a dance company, and a string ensemble. Those are just a few of the activities offered after school at I.S. 218, a public intermediate school, designed from the beginning to meet the needs of the entire community.

Jane: When I first came to this school, I noticed two things. I noticed that the children seemed happy, and I noticed that there were a lot of extra adults around. And I wanted to know what was happening here, and how we could make it happen in more places.

Teacher: You want to spell this one first?

Narrator: I.S. 218 is open six days a week from 7:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night, all year long. It's the product of a partnership between the New York City Board of Education and the Children's Aid Society, which pays for and administers the extra-curricular programs.

Teacher: So I think that's comforting for the parents to see what type of stuff we have.

Jane: We have been doing this work in ten public schools for about then years. Really joining forces with the New York City Board of Education, and bringing into the public schools all of the things that we know how to do. Which include before and after school programs, summer camps, medical/dental/mental health and social services.

Dentist: Number 27, number 28.

Scott: When you first walk through the door, the first thing you're going to see is the Children's Aid clinics, our medical clinic, our mental health clinic, our parent room, our administrative offices. We're right there. In many cases families will come to us even before they even go to the principal's office. Because we've developed that kind of trust with the community and the parents.

Dr. Hugh: There's a little bit of this flu bug going around again. And this child came in and was checked by me.

Dr. Hugh: And the mom came in to talk about it with me, and the mom asked me, she said, "Well, should I take him to a doctor?" And I said. "Well, I am the doctor, I happen to be in the school." And she was so happy to realize that she now could go back home and know that her child was okay, and didn't have to make a whole separate visit, and wait a couple of hours in emergency room, or their doctor takes a long time, too. So our goal here really is to provide comprehensive medical care to our students in the school.

Woman: He was referred to me after the plane crashed. The plane going to the Dominican Republic.

Scott: Right, it's Flight 587.

Woman: Yes, Flight 587.

Narrator: The mental health team at I.S. 218 played a crucial role during the World Trade Center tragedy, and the subsequent crash of Flight 587, which claimed the lives of several area residents.

Woman: So I contacted mom, and she came in, and I took some more of the-- psycho-social history from mom.

Narrator: But beyond crisis counseling, the mental health team helps students overcome their daily dreads.

Scott: I heard on the news last night, another airline crash is going to happen here. "Am I going to be safe, or is my mom and dad going to be safe?" That ability to have somebody right there, you know the next day when you go to school that your social worker will be there, and will make time to see you, I think is very positive for the kids, and something that I think they count on.

Teacher: How do you get along with them?

Student: We argue and everything, but it's okay.

Narrator: Other Children's Aid Society programs kick in after school, beginning with a homework help sessions.

Teacher: You have to lower case all your letters.

Narrator: Students participate in a wide range of clubs and activities which augment core curriculum subjects, and provide social enrichment. The school's string ensemble has achieved a remarkable level of musicianship in a short timeframe.

Enrique: And I think that's the key to this program, the success. As you can tell, they play very well. Most of them-- good-- most of them have been playing just under two years, two-and-a-half years, but because there's an everyday instruction on these instruments, they progress at a much faster rate.

Bianca: I remember when they first started here. My son was in sixth grade, and that was the first time we've had a music program in this school. And now, listening to what they're playing now, it is a gigantic difference. It is such an improvement. They've just grown as musicians. And a lot of them are applying and looking into arts as one of their careers.

Enrique: They're held accountable, as performers and as students in school. And they're given a lot of opportunities to shine like this. And they go for it.

Jim: We call basketball the magnet or the draw that brings the kids in. and then from there we get them to do other things that are part of the program. We have career readiness, and job preparation. We have family life and sex ed for boys and girls. And then we also do some work with them around self-development and setting goals and making sure that they continue to do well in school.

Narrator: In another after school club, kids learn a bit about recycling and mechanical engineering, and a lot about building their own bicycle.

Audrey: If they volunteer 18 hours at a time working in the shop like it's their job, then they can pick a bike and start to work on that bike. They work another six hours, and they can take that bike home as long as it passes our safety exam. And so far this year, the kids have earned 40 bicycles already, which is a record for a school year.

Student: It's kind of cool, because we're building our own bikes, and we got the opportunity to experience everything. And mostly I come on Saturdays, Fridays and Wednesdays. I like being here.

Audrey: I try and get the kids thinking mechanically, which is something that isn't exactly taught during the school day. So I try and get them to ask questions about what is friction, how does ball bearings reduce the friction. And so I always try and let them know that they can ask these questions back in their science classrooms and their math classrooms.

Teacher: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Narrator: Learning the joy and discipline of dance, many students come to see themselves in a new light.

Frances: As far as body image, it's so important for young ladies and young men to look at themselves in a positive way in this community, especially, I think. And I think that once they accept themselves, and they love themselves, anything is possible, and I think that self-esteem is what builds them up.

Teacher: And seven, improvise your way out. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. And more, and one...

Teacher: And so we take the verb to be at the front.

Narrator: In the evening, classes in computer training and English are offered to parents.

Regina: Through Children's Aid Society, we have a bridge to the parents in the community. Not only because of the services they provide to their children, but to the parents themselves. GED courses, computer courses. Parents know that they can go into any of those rooms downstairs, and they will be accepted, they will be supported, and there's always a helping hand.

Narrator: When they come to share the traditional art of flower-making, parents are exposed to other services.

Lidia: They come for flower, but at the same time, I want them to have some idea about something else, like ____________ services, domestic violence, AIDS. And one of the things that I'm planning is to bring some type of way that they start to feel relax. And it's beautiful things to teach our children.

Principal: The next thing is the planning for the extended day program next year.

Narrator: Integrating the education curriculum with the social services and enrichment programs requires a constant dialogue between the school's principal and the Children's Aid Society.

Rosa: There has to be definitely an openness about the things that we both bring. There's an understanding of the principal's experience as an educator; there's an understanding of my experience as social worker, and how do the two combine. And that's very important. That's going to allow for our kids to have a rounder, fuller understanding of their own life experiences.

Teacher: No, you did good. That was good. The way you're doing it is okay, because...

Jane: There have been some dramatic gains in academic achievement in this school and in our other community schools on the standardized tests as well as on teachers, observations and on grades. The researchers were able to document higher student attendance, and higher teacher attendance at the Community Schools.

Narrator: While there are significant challenges involved in developing community schools, the rewards seem worth the effort.

Teacher: The needs are always greater than the resources that we can bring to the table, even collectively. But I think that we have found that if you have the word, "Yes," written in your heart, you can make almost anything happen. And I think that we're living proof of that in our schools in New York City.

Class: Hooray!

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Sara Armstrong
  • Leigh Iacobucci


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Dominic Orlando
  • John Gullotta


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Editor's Note: Since we filmed this video in 2002, the featured school, I.S. 218, has been re-organized into three separate schools, where the programs and services shown in the video are still flourishing. Children's Aid Society now operates twenty-one community schools in New York City, and you can find more information about those schools on the CAS website.

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