Diving Deep in the Zone

NYC Students: You're Invited to the 2019 Youth Summit
Are you interested in learning about making your voice heard, managing your money, and improving your health?

Please join Zone 126 and partners for these exciting workshops.

FREE breakfast and round-trip MetroCard are provided.

Click here to RSVP
Honoring the African Diaspora
by Anthony Lopez, Executive Director
"The power of the few when moving in the same direction."
In recognition of Black History Month, I offer three honorable Afro-Boricuas of note and of high regard. 
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938)
In Vanessa K. Valdes’ book, Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg she describes the journey of the Black Puerto Rican-born scholar who became one of the most important figures in our lifetime. An avid collector of Black Culture, advocate for Cuban and Puerto Rican Independence, and cofounder of the Negro Society for Historical Research and leader of the American Negro Academy, his personal collection is the basis for the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Throughout his life, Arturo Schomburg actively thought of himself as a black man born in Puerto Rico. He ascended the social-ladder within the English-speaking black communities of New York City and was much admired. His life offers insight to us on how to live between Blackness and Latinx.
Jesus Colon (1901-1974)
Jesus Colón was born in  Cayey, Puerto Rico  after the  Spanish–American War  when the  American Tobacco Company gained control of most of the  tobacco  producing land in  Puerto Rico . His father was a baker and his family’s home was behind the town's cigar factory, which hired "readers" to read stories and current events to the employees whilst they worked. When he was 16, he boarded the  SS Carolina  as an employee and landed in  Brooklyn, New York where he worked various unskilled jobs. Because of the color of his skin (of  African  descent), Jesus experienced discrimination complicated by his difficulty speaking the  English language . He wrote about his experiences, and the experiences of other immigrants, and became among the first Puerto Ricans to do so in English. His best known work,  A Puerto Rican in New York , set the stage for the literary movement known as the " Nuyorican Movement "inspiring Nuyorican writers like Piri Thomas Esmeralda Santiago Nicholasa Mohr Pedro Pietri , and others. Once, at my Grandmother’s house, I was reading this book when she told me that Jesus Colon was her first cousin. His life suggests how much things have changed or stayed the same for the working class.
Ismael Lopez Pica (1911-1997)
Originally from the barrio of Aguirre in the municipality of Salinas, a coastal town on the southern side of Puerto Rico, known for it salt mines, seafood and old sugar refinery. Ismael Lopez worked as a Foreman in the sugar fields of the refinery but left to New York to look for a better life for himself and his family. He worked the tomato farms of Vineland New Jersey, as an orderly in a former Bronx hospital and in a hat factory on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side. Savings from his labor brought his family over from Puerto Rico--one at a time--until all seven children and his wife were stateside. They settled in the Washington Houses, 110th street and Lexington Ave., one block from the church that the Young Lords took over to open a free breakfast program for neighborhood children. His life is the most meaningful and personal to me. He was my Grandfather and was Afro-Puerto Rican. 
Many of us come from a strong line of amazing Afro-Latinx men and women. We honor them today, tomorrow and everyday wherever we decide to plant our roots. 
News from the Zone
Pipeline Update
How Poverty and Trauma Impact Brain Development
by Katherine Ray M.S.T., M.S.Ed., Community School Director, PS 171Q
On January 15th, I attended a panel discussion hosted by Proskauer and Partnership with Children focusing on how poverty and trauma impact brain development. Having previously attended a professional development session by Trauma Smart, I had some prior knowledge about the subject and was excited to learn more. The panel speakers included Dr. Olajide Williams, Chief of Staff of Neurology and Associate Professor at Columbia University; Margaret Crotty, Executive Director of Partnership with Children; and Dennis M. Walcott, President/CEO of Queens Library and the former Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education.

Though there is still very little concrete research about the direct effects of poverty and stress on the human brain, academics, educators and policy makers are putting additional resources into making sure schools practice trauma informed care. Two critical facts I learned are that 77% of the 1.1 million students in the Department of Education are classified as living in poverty and one in 10 children has been homeless over the last year. As Ms. Crotty explained, she sees poverty as a public health issue as many of the ailments that occur in such communities are entirely preventable or treatable. As poverty-related stressors can strongly influence the development of a baby’s brain, school staff should be properly trained on the strategies to support students and families living in poverty and particularly those who may have endured Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Dr. Williams explained, humans have a lifelong ability to rewire our brains so that these adverse early childhood conditions and events do not become predictors of future health and success. As a Community School Director, I am eager to connect with mental health providers and community-based organizations to provide the PS 171Q staff with additional training on trauma informed care. While the school currently utilizes a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (P.B.I.S) system, there is always more that can be done to foster a safe, nurturing environment for the children most in need of additional support and time is of the essence.
Welcoming A Green Initiative
by: Valentina Di Loreto M.S., Community School Director IS 126Q
On December 10, 2018, The Zone 126 team joined IS 126Q Principal Alex Angueira and City Council Member Costa Constantinides in a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the installment of a hydroponic lab at IS 126Q Albert Shanker Middle School for the Performing Arts. The unveiling is part of the Councilman’s green initiative to introduce students to innovative ways of growing food, learning about biology and applying technology to addressing societal issues.

Mr. Filpo, lead teacher expressed his praise, saying, “The lab has brought nature into the classroom.”
IS 126Q Community School Director Valentina Di Loreto, Councilman Costa Constantinides, Principal Alex Angueira, and students celebrating the hydroponics lab installment
Students are greeted every day by the smell of growing tomatoes and various herbs. In fact, some of the vegetables students have learned to grow, prune and harvest are: cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, chard, lettuce, and collard greens. When asked about how the class would use the crops, Ms. Hrisikos, a Science teacher, was proud to share about student community engagement, noting, “crops are collected and given to an organization that delivers them to a local soup kitchen.” Students can also take crops home, which gives them an opportunity to eat fresh vegetables and learn to make healthier choices when buying and cooking food. “The lab gives (students) the idea of being in a garden and seeing an alternative way of obtaining food other that the supermarket…They are mostly fascinated by the fact that food can grow without soil,” Ms. Hrisikos added.

The hydroponics lab project is expected to grow to include more students, expand the lab facilities, and present technologically advanced practices to students. This effort highlights IS 126Q’s presence as a community hub, creating local impact and improving the health of each student…one green bounty at a time!
Paws 🐾 Will Bring Comfort to
Long Island City Students
by Anju J. Rupchandani M.S.Ed., Managing Director
Zone 126 is thrilled to announce that the Blue Buffalo Foundation has provided us with a generous gift of $50,000 to support the launch and implementation of a Comfort Dog Program at Long Island City High School. 

For centuries, dogs have always been known as "man's best friend." However, over the course of the last few years, seeing a dog roam the halls, and pop their snout into classrooms, has become a regular occurrence across many New York City public schools. While schools are places students, learn, play and grow, some often feel disconnected and out of place. Research has shown that Comfort Dogs help students build self-esteem, emotional regulation, a sense of responsibility, support cognitive development and calm anxiety to name a few. The new saying around the Zone is that dogs are everyone's best friend at Long Island City High School. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, our team will be getting trained on how to work with a Comfort Dog, how to support the integration of a new addition to our Zone 126 Community Schools team and the school. Stay tuned for updates on our newest staff member who will be joining us at Long Island City High School.

🐾 Paws Up! 🐾
Astoria Library Renovations
by Andre T. Stith, Organizing Director
The Astoria Branch of Queens Library recently received a gift of $3 million dollars that was presented by Queens Library CEO/President Dennis Walcott and Councilman Costa Constantinides to fund some much needed renovations. I had the opportunity to sit down with the Astoria Library Branch Manager, Gus Tsekenis about how the upgrades would support all families living in the Zone. 

Gus and I discussed how the gift would go to support branch accessibility issues, upgrades in technology to support expediting the book loan and return processes. Councilman Constantinidies previously provided a donation of iPads that has resulted in the library seeing an increase in youth engaged with technology to support completing their homework. 
Gus T.
Gus Tsekenis
Queens Library Astoria Branch Manager
The upcoming renovations include an elevator that will provide access to the library's three floors, the children's room will eventually be relocated to the ground level, and young adults will also now have their own space. The restructuring will be conducive to promoting additional after-school and summer programming for all young people who live in the community and access the library. 

The renovations will be a welcome in terms of supporting the changing landscape of the Astoria community in the years to come. 
What We Are Reading
  • Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva
  • Diasporic Blackness: The Life and times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg by Vanessa K. Valdes
  • Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee Bolman and Terrence E. Deal
College Awareness Day 2019
January 11, 2019
College Awareness Day in the Zone

Black History Month 2019
Follow @zone126queens on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as we show our appreciation, gratitude, and spread messages of contributions throughout #blackhistorymonth2019
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We would like to thank all of our funders for their support: Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi Foundation, US Department of Education, New York City Department of Education, Altman Foundation, Blue Buffalo Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, and Phyllis Backer Foundation.
  *Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual