|Washington Lexington Senior Center Saved!
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our seniors, local residents, the Washington Houses Tenants Association and others, and the leadership of Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, we are pleased to report that the Washington Lexington Senior Center will remain open for at least another year. The center had been slated for closure in the proposed New York City FY2010-11 budget, but the City Council restored sufficient funding to keep the center open. This is great news for the approximately 75 seniors who use the center on a regular basis for meals, recreation, health workshops, arts & crafts, and other activities.
Melissa Nieves Testifies in Washington
On May 25, Melissa Nieves, Director of Adult Education at Union Settlement, traveled to the nation’s capital to testify at a U.S. Congressional forum in support of the Local Jobs for America Act. She described her innovative adult education programs, as well as the poverty her students are struggling to overcome. She also talked about the funding cuts that her program is facing and how much her students need education and job readiness training in order to find employment and contribute to the economic recovery.
“I am an optimistic American who knows that our country will flourish and will recover from these hard times,” Melissa testified. “I want the families of my community to have the skills needed to be part of this success. Allow us to contribute to the re-growth of our communities.”
The forum was well attended, with onlookers flowing into the hallway. Several unemployed workers were in the room wearing t-shirts reading “I need a job” and “Support the Local Jobs for America Act.” Turnout among members of Congress included Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Lynn Woolsey, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Mike Honda, and Representatives Charlie Rangel, Keith Ellison, Maxine Waters, Al Green, Marcia Fudge, Laura Richardson, Judy Chu, and Chaka Fattah. The forum was organized by the Center for Community Change.
Reflecting on the event, Melissa said, “It was an invigorating experience. I testified with some wonderful people who, though they are economically poor, are culturally so rich. It made me feel really proud of my country.”
Union Settlement 2010 Gala
On April 28, more than 260 supporters and friends gathered to celebrate the work of Union Settlement Association and to honor three remarkable leaders: New York City Housing Authority Chairman John B. Rhea, President Emeritus of the New York Academy of Medicine Jeremiah A. Barondess, and President and CEO of Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Mark L. Wagar.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented the award to Mr. Rhea, noting in his remarks how essential Union Settlement’s programs are to the 13,000 people served each year:
"From after school programs to programs in English to home care to meals for the elderly, the services they provide really are indispensable. At City Hall, we are glad to be partners with the Union Settlement."
Funds generated from the festivities that night will be critical to maintaining these indispensable services, allowing us to continue to foster leadership and self-sufficiency and help our neighbors build better lives for themselves and their families.
There are photos and more details about this evening on our website.
Speaking for Ourselves
This spring, the Adult Education Program celebrated the publication of Speaking for Ourselves, an anthology of original student work from the Writing Through Reading program, our partnership with the 92nd St. Y. “The poetry of our lives is intense, loving, humble, and sincere,” program director Melissa Nieves writes in her introduction to the anthology. An enthusiastic audience was able to hear this poetry at the publication party held on April 29 at the East Harlem Café. That night, student authors, Union Settlement teachers, and staff members read poems and other pieces for friends and community members. The anthology is a commemoration of students' work this year with poetry teacher, Jesús Papoleto Meléndez.
|Client Profile: Christian Espinoza
Christian Espinosa, raised single-handedly by his mother who emigrated from Mexico, first came to Union Settlement as a junior in high school and is now attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice. When Christian spoke at Union Settlement’s spring benefit, he described the difficulties that he has faced and his path to becoming a college student. In high school, Christian encountered many of the “negative influences that teens are exposed to in a low-income environment.” Union Settlement, he said, “helped me avoid those predicaments.”
Christian took advantage of college counseling, SAT prep, and college tours offered by Union Settlement’s College Readiness Program
as well as an internship at the Italian Cultural Institute. Christian made the most of these opportunities, and thanks to his dedication and hard work, he became the first person in his family to attend college.
“My counselors at Union Settlement played a big role in helping me get to this point,” he said during his remarks at the gala, and thanked the staff members who supported him, including his counselor Joe Kelly who had even helped fill out financial aid forms. At John Jay, Christian is majoring in Justice Studies with a minor in English. He plans to one day become a lawyer.
East 104th Street Farmers Market Opens July 8th
Every Thursday from July through early November 104th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue will be closed for our farmers market. We are pleased to host local area farmers and help to offer fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables to the East Harlem Community.
18th Annual Ethnic Festival of East Harlem
On May 22, the street in front of our main building was transformed for the 18th Annual Ethnic Festival of East Harlem. This year's street fair featured a live music and dance, a basketball tournament, health information, a raffle, and a festival of community films. Union Settlement was also proud to have the UDEC Enviromedia Mobile, a nature museum on wheels dedicated to the maritime environment and nature conservation. Children enjoyed face painting, an air castle, Clowny the Clown, and Native American stories told by Bobby Gonzalez throughout the day. As always, performances on the mainstage and the street were a highlight. This year’s line-up included the Soul Tigers Marching Band, Clarissa Sinceno-Taylor with Christian Eatman, a soulful jazz combo, as well as the Fe’Nique, Harambee Dance Co., Ralphie Sabater and his Salsa Band, and Emile Davis and the Soul Providerz.
In June, we threw a party to celebrate the more than 100 senior volunteers who contribute their time and talents to our senior programs. Our thanks go to those volunteers as well as the police officers of the 23rd Precinct who served food and drinks and celebrated with us. We hope you enjoyed the party!
Union Settlement is also grateful for the work of the 60 Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield volunteers who improved Washington Community Center by painting murals and offices, building planters and caring for our garden.