City School District of New Rochelle
News & updates
September 18, 2020
First Graders Start Year
With Gift of
Literacy Kits
Barnard Early Childhood Center Principal Dr. Nicolas Cracco accepting the kits from My Brother's Keeper New Rochelle Managing Director Colleen Gardephe
Every first grader in the City School District of New Rochelle is starting the new year with a gift – a Literacy Kit with reading material, activity cards, crayons and more. The treats are made more special with personalized notes of encouragement from community leaders in each one.

Thank My Brother’s Keeper New Rochelle, the New Rochelle Public Library and the United Way of Westchester and Putnam for assembling and donating the 781 Literacy Kits. They were distributed to schools as part of the MBK NewRo’s “Fast Track to First Grade” campaign.

“Thank you to our community partners – My Brother’s Keeper New Rochelle, the New Rochelle Public Library and the United Way – for this incredibly thoughtful gift,” said Acting Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero. “What a great way for our first graders to start the year, with literacy kits that not only will spark the minds of our curious learners, but will inspire and encourage them with letters of support from the caring leaders of their community. This is a perfect affirmation of the tenet, ‘I am my brother’s keeper.’”

Approximately 70 New Rochelle community and school district leaders provided the notes, including Mayor Noam Bramson, Board of Education President Rachel Relkin, and City Manager Charles Strome III. Other letter-writers represented the Board of Education, City Council, MBK, the New Rochelle Public Library, the PTA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Municipal Housing Authority, Chamber of Commerce, New Rochelle Council on the Arts, the Rotary Club, the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence and other groups.

“The notes we received were so encouraging and tender -- the writers were clearly hoping to provide a boost for all these young students in these challenging times,” said Colleen Gardephe, Managing Director of My Brother’s Keeper. “It was also heartening to see how appreciative the Principals, Assistant Principals and teachers were to receive the Literacy Kits and to be able to provide more resources to the children and families in their care.”

The notes, some in English, some in Spanish, included formal, typed notes on letterhead and hand-written notecards with the coolest stickers. They highlighted the hopes and aspirations the community members hold for this class of first graders. Their messages: have fun, work hard, read, be kind and perhaps most importantly in this pandemic environment, ask for help.   

They were distributed to schools last week and this week.
Assembling the literacy kits. From left: Adjua Thomas, Literacy Coordinator for MBK; DeParis Banks, Program Coordinator for MBK; Colleen Gardephe, Managing Director for MBK; and Denise Link, Community Support Specialist with the New Rochelle Public Library.