For the last 12 years, GSE counseling psychology associate professor Jennie Park-Taylor has been actively engaged in a fruitful partnership with the Hunts Point Alliance for Children (HPAC), a community-based organization (CBO) that provides high-quality programming and services for children, youth and families who live in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx. Hunts Point is home to over 4,000 children whose families struggle to plan for their futures because they often lack access to the resources they need to live healthy, fulfilled lives. According to the Citizen’s Committee for Children, Hunts Point children are disproportionately affected by barriers to quality education and basic needs, as 59% of them live in chronic poverty, with nearly 30% of community families living on less than $15,000 a year,
During the initial years of the partnership, Park-Taylor primarily provided HPAC with evaluation and needs assessment support. After identifying that one of the major need areas for school-aged youth in Hunts Point was career education, the Fordham-HPAC partnership focused on developing and implementing vocational education and career exploration programming for Hunts Point middle school students. During this stage of the partnership, Park-Taylor and her graduate students worked closely with Jill Roche and Griselle Baret of HPAC to provide HPAC middle school students with career exploration experiences that culminated in a Career Day.
“The goal for these programs is to help young students create a vision for themselves that includes achieving milestones like finishing high school, going to college, and pursuing a career,” noted Park-Taylor. “I am truly fortunate to be part of such an effective ongoing partnership with my colleagues at HPAC.”
Over the years, Park-Taylor and her students have also collaborated with Roche and Baret on six professional presentations made at regional and national conferences between 2010 and 2019, enriching youth programming, and targeted research that is aligned with HPAC’s goals and priorities. Park-Taylor and her collaborators also secured six grants between 2007 and 2018 to significantly bolster HPAC’s work. These collective efforts highlight the excellent results that have come out of the partnership’s shared commitment to research-based models that support youth development.
Planned events in 2020 were a Lady Rams basketball game and a Career Day to benefit the low-income urban minority HPAC youth coming from the Bronx to Fordham’s campus. The two events were not only designed to provide the young students with meaningful exposure to a local and prestigious university campus, but also, consistent with HPAC’s mission, to create hope and connect youth and families to resources and opportunities. In addition, the focus of the events highlights the mission of the GSE, which includes preparing professionals who are truly dedicated to social justice work.
Fortunately, the basketball game event was held as scheduled, and Park-Taylor served as a guest coach as well as hosted 15 youth from HPAC as her guests. The Career Day, however, has been postponed due to health concerns related to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.