A New Partnership: The YEP Holistic Mentorship Program

Author: Cristina Scofield, first year

Cristina Scofield, Class of 2024

Earlier this month, Honors students and Jonas Bronck Academy scholars met for the inaugural meeting of the Youth Engagement Program (YEP), a mentorship initiative between the Rose Hill Honors Program and the Jonas Bronck Academy (JBA), a public middle school near Rose Hill. Initially proposed by Brenda Gonzalez, principal of JBA, and Dr. Keller, director of the Rose Hill Honors Program, YEP was turned into reality with the efforts of JBA administrators and five Honors students. YEP is the first of its kind: a holistic mentorship program designed to connect Honors mentors with JBA scholars to help the middle school students plan and achieve their goals, both academic and personal. 

At the inaugural meeting of YEP, many of our Honors mentors described a similar inspiration for their involvement: to engage with the Fordham neighborhood, fully embodying our mission as a Community of Scholars for Justice. The Honors mentors representing Fordham this year are Nick Urbin (‘23), Danielle D’Alonzo (‘22), Jack Amrol (‘24), Maniza Khondker (‘24), and me, Cristina Scofield (‘24).

For many of us, the first meeting with our mentees served as a goal-setting workshop. We encouraged them to identify their goals and then outlined plans to achieve them. In addition to academic goals, our scholars outlined goals in other areas, such as a college or career dream or another area they’re passionate about. In this first session, I was truly inspired by my mentee’s ambition and determination. While we mentors have experience and advice to share, we have just as much to learn from our mentees! I, just like my fellow mentors, cannot wait to see how far they come during the eight weeks of this spring’s YEP program. 

While we are restricted to virtual meetings for the time being, hope is not lost on an eventual in-person reunion of the JBA and Fordham Honors communities. We are looking forward to future sessions of YEP, when we hope to expand the program to welcome more mentor-mentee partnerships!

An Impact Research Partnership to Better Serve East Harlem

An LSA client family attends an outdoor partner event.

Author: Caroline Albacete, senior

The Little Sisters of the Assumption have been serving East Harlem since they arrived from Paris in 1891. Their current operation, the LSA Family Health Service, has been in operation since 1958. I knew very little about LSA until the fall of 2020, but the more I learn about their work, the more I marvel at their impact.

The Honors Program’s own Dr. Brenna Moore has been involved with LSA for a number of years. She brought the organization to Fordham’s attention in 2020, and has been leading a team of Fordham professors and students to research the organization and quantify its impact. The team is working to find out which of the resources and services LSA clients have found most useful over the years. Throughout the fall semester, Fordham professors and students collaborated to conduct interviews with LSA staff and clients, as well as conduct archival research. The project will culminate in a journal article that can help secure more funding for LSA and show concrete evidence of the ways in which the organization has helped the community.

Caroline Albacete, Class of 2021

I first met Dr. Moore during the fall of my junior year for an Honors’ course, Religion in the Modern World.  She invited me to join the team in the fall of 2020. She knew I spoke Spanish and could do translation work, which would prove useful during the interview period because the majority of LSA’s clients are immigrants from Central and South America. The interviews we conducted ended up being almost entirely in Spanish, which we then translated into English for the researchers who did not speak Spanish. It was not always an easy process—mostly due to technological difficulties; we conducted the interviews over Zoom because we could not do them in person during the pandemic—but it was interesting to begin to spot patterns about which of LSA’s services clients appreciated the most.

LSA offers a whole host of services. Many of the women I spoke with or whose interviews I translated particularly appreciated the English courses LSA offered. Some of the mothers enjoyed the socialization groups and after school activities their children could participate in. Even more appreciated the help the LSA staff gave in navigating the NYC school system. LSA, I realized, has done a lot for the East Harlem community.

I’d previously done some volunteer work in the Bronx, but working with Dr. Moore to research LSA has reminded me how vital nonprofit organizations are for creating community. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to help quantify LSA’s impact so that the organization can receive the recognition it deserves and continue its work in the future.

LSA parents and children take part in LSA’s Parenting and Child Development Program.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Caitlyn

This is the first post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Caitlyn Humann, Honors ’22

Author: Caitlyn Humann, Junior

Thanks to the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, I had the opportunity to intern at my regional food bank, Long Island Cares Inc. – The Harry Chapin Food Bank, this past summer. Long Island Cares brings together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry and food insecure on Long Island and aims to provide for the humanitarian needs of the community.

Initially, my goal for this internship could be summed into one statement: to learn, from the perspective of LIC, the relationship between non-profits and all levels of government. I wondered if it is easy for non-profits to get funding and personal acknowledgement from legislative bodies and the extent that food banks rely on federal and state support.

What I didn’t know at the time I applied for this fellowship was that the COVID-19 pandemic would put New York in a state of emergency starting in March and that by May 4th , the demand for Long Island Cares’ services would increase by 64%.

What was initially designed to be a government advocacy internship – during which I would draft letters to representatives, attend in-person legislature meetings and help expand LIC’s Veterans Project by hand delivering food to veteran’s homes – expanded. I worked under LIC’s Chief Government Affairs Officer and drafted letters to advocate for COVID-specific support for food insecure communities, attended virtual local government and advocacy meetings, tracked new legislation on the federal, state and local levels and outlined testimonies on LIC’s new developments, successes and challenges since the start of the pandemic.

As increasing amounts of Long Islanders faced unemployment and food insecurity, I saw first-hand the vital role that food banks play in communities across the nation. I analyzed the impact that COVID had on all demographics of Long Islanders along with representatives’ actions that supported food banks. I was also able to make positive impacts in the moment by packing boxes full of nutritious food for members of my own community.

Just as the Honors Program builds a sense of community by bringing diverse groups of students together to collaborate and support each other in reaching their academic (and personal) goals, Long Island Cares brings together people of all demographics to form a community that stretches across Long Island in which everyone plays their role in fighting against hunger. In our Honors classes and conversations, we often discuss the “missing voice.” Through this internship, I heard
the voice of food insecure families, who rely on non-profits to live a happy life. I am grateful to the Honors Program for giving me this opportunity. As I enter my professional career and strive towards my goal of representing my community as an elected government official who advocates for justice, I will keep this experience with me.

Spring 2020 Bronx Talks & Coronavirus

Author: Amelia Medved, sophomore

Earlier this semester, the Honors Program hosted a series of Bronx Talks, in which Honors students and the wider campus community were invited to engage with expert speakers working in the borough. On February 11th, Dr. Jane Bedell and Ms. Kim Freeman gave a presentation called “The State of Health in the Bronx.” Both work at the Neighborhood Health Action Center, which the City Department of Health placed in Tremont to address location-specific health disparities. In the talk, Dr. Bedell and Ms. Freeman discussed the historic policies creating inequity in the city (redlining, for example) and the systematic inequality that perpetuates problems today. In the Bronx, severe pollution, insufficient access to healthy food, and other deep-rooted issues amount to a 5 to 7 year difference in life expectancy compared to the rest of the city.

All around the country, the coronavirus outbreak has given existing inequalities like these more urgency. As of May 18th, the Bronx accounted for 23% of cases in the city, though Bronx residents only make up 17% of the population. Bronx residents are contracting COVID-19 at a high rate, and are also more likely to have severe cases. Dangerous pre-existing conditions such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes are more common in the Bronx than in other parts of the city. In the Belmont neighborhood where Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus is located, for example, 22% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 11% for the entire city.

Since being sent home due to the coronavirus, I have been thinking about the Bronx often, not only because I miss my Fordham friends, classes, and Honors community, but also since the borough is being hit hard by this crisis, and may continue to be affected years into the future. However, I am also reminded of the resilience which Carolyn McLaughlin described in her Bronx Talk on February 24th. In a Q&A forum with Honors students and in her book South Bronx Battles, Ms. McLaughlin gave a first-hand account of the community efforts she witnessed over the last fifty years as a social worker in the Bronx. She shared numerous examples of successful advocacy and rebuilding efforts following insufficient city funding and frequent fires in the 1970s, and her testament to the previous endurance of the community is a reminder that the Bronx can do the same following the current coronavirus crisis. From my home, I recognize the privilege I have to be able to leave the city to protect my health and the health of other Fordham students, and I hope that when we return to campus, I have the opportunity to contribute to the Bronx’s recovery.