“I’m Savion, it’s nice to meet you.”
The Lower East Side teenager’s artsy demeanor complimented his knack for writing poetry, but could not fully convey the depth of his incredible talent.
Camera-ready, he sat and introduced himself.
“My name is Savion, I am 15 years old, and I am a poet.”
Savion has been going to Edgie’s Teen Center at Educational Alliance for a year and a half, where he is nurtured by peers and encouraged by his instructors to be the best student, writer, and artist he can be.
Savion’s magnetic laugh brought light into every room we visited as he walked me through his life at Educational Alliance. We strolled around his school campus and constantly had to stop as floods of students approached him for a hug or a high five. He made it clear that, while he enjoys making people laugh and feel good about themselves at school, academics are something he takes very seriously.
“School, for me, is very important, especially when it comes to my family—my parents are strict on school. They couldn’t have the opportunities that I have right now. They want to push me to do the best I can and also to do what I want to do. But, before I can proceed they want me to take school seriously.”
His parents immigrated from Georgetown Guiana in the early 2000s, and since their arrival, they have worked hard and encouraged their children to take their education and passions seriously.
Currently, his father works at a New York Public Library and his mom is in physical therapy and unable to work due to an injury. Savion is the youngest of three siblings and the only sibling still living in his household. As a result, he often takes on the responsibility of helping his parents and ensuring that his mom is recovering well, on top of school and his other obligations.
When he is not helping his family, Savion is pursuing his music and poetry. “Edgies” (our teens’ shorthand for Educational Alliance) helps him develop this talent.
“What keeps me going to Edgies is the bond I have with the people there. Communicating and having friendships that matter and a bind that connects us all together—a place that we can be and communicate, and just have fun—a way to exchange ideas—it made me more of who I am,” Savion said.
Savion, like others at Edgies, is experiencing an uncertain period in life full of change, confusion, and growth. Young adulthood is a delicate time where our students find themselves questioning and discovering their identities while managing life in a beautiful, yet fast and overwhelming city. Savion is one of many students navigating their studies, home life, and social life while figuring out their true passion and purpose. Many of the students in the Lower East Side attend under-resourced high schools and nearly 1 in 5 students drop out. Edgies provides students in this community with a space to connect with others and find a mentor to support them through high school and into college.
Through the programs at Edgies, Savion says he has been able to combat peer pressure, sharpen his writing skills, and recognize his talent and potential for long-term success as a poet and rapper. The Spoken Word class offered at Edgies is a program he is passionate about.
“Spoken word has helped me because- comparing that class to school- it has helped me break down stories and analyze text, which has improved my essay writing. [The Spoken Word program] has helped me with vocab, speaking, and presenting as well.”
Writing and music are a way he deals with his obstacles and an important part of Savion’s life.
“When it comes to writing about things—it’s in the moment. If I’m angry, I’ll write how I am feeling. If the day is nice or if it’s a busy day, I’ll write something happy about how everyone is smiling or around each other,” he said. “Back in 8th grade, I was going through that stage of insecurity and I was listening to [Kendrick Lamar] because some of the topics he was talking about—friends, peer pressure—it really connected with me and what was going on with me. The fact that somebody was talking about situations that people go through—the daily struggle—it helps people out a lot.”
Savion has been able to record and visit a professional recording studio because of the resources Edgies provides. The Spoken Word class gives teens time to acclimate, write, share and explore. Savion explains that the feedback he gets about his work helps to improve his writing structure and rhymes. Edgies also provides professional opportunities for students to showcase their talent. “Edgies’ Got Talent had professional judges and it was a platform to put my talent out there,” Savion said.
Currently, Savion is struggling with his grades and, as a way to combat the issues he is facing in school, his mentors at Edgies have set up a personalized tutoring schedule. As I stood outside of Manny Cantor Center, I watched Savion’s mother, who is an Instructor and Edgies Program Director, review his progress report from school. They worked together to strategize a plan to strengthen the subjects he was not doing well in. “Right now my grades are not up to par. It’s not that they are bad, but I know I can do better. The people around me know I can do better. Edgies is helping me with tutoring and people to help support me,” he said.
Shortly after this meeting, Savion admitted that he too believed he could do better academically and he has every intention of getting there. He knows that school will ultimately help him to reach his goals and find a career path.
“If I really focus in school it will help me—the college I plan to go to is Ithaca College because when I went there for a tour, they really showed me what they were about. They fit the art genre and business as well. I plan to major in business. I plan to be a famous poet, rapper, producer, businessman because behind the music, there is a business you have to understand,” he said, “but ultimately, I love music. Music is always my passion. Without music, I don’t think I would be who I am today.”
Educational Alliance and Edgies have supported Savion’s passion and growth. We encourage students’ to explore and develop their talents by offering programs that meet their needs and pique their interests.
“When I went to the orientation for Edgies they mentioned a poetry class. At the time I was doing poetry but I never took it that seriously because I thought it was just a hobby. I thought it was not going to lead anywhere but then as I started going to classes more often it was like alright this is fun they are giving me more advice to take in and criticism that can help me for the future—for what I want to do,” he said. Our programming allowed Savion to discover and develop his potential as a poet and writer and we will continue to be there on his journey into the future.
In June we held our annual Pride Prom, and it was another huge celebration and success. The annual Pride Prom aims to provide Gender non-conforming youth ages 13 to 21 from the Lower East Side with the opportunity to be acknowledged, praised, and celebrated. Organized by the teens from Educational Alliance and Grand Street Settlement, Pride Prom incorporates fun (DJ, temporary tattoos, performances by drag queens from The Imperial Court of New York) with education (on-site STD testing, HIV prevention information) and provides a safe, wonderful evening for everyone.
Our teens are so amazing, talented, and strong. We hope these event photos inspire you to be unapologetically YOU! We would like to thank The Imperial Court of New York for providing us with the wonderful and talented drag queens, and Tattly for the colorful and fun temporary tattoos.
Photos by: Bridget Badore Photography
Nyla, one of our Edgies Teen Center 2018 participants, has graduated high school and is headed to college. In September, she will attend Pace University. She was a participant in our College Prep program, and she entered the program with little time to study before her SAT exam and with the help of our program staff, was able to score well on the exam.
In addition, Nyla was able to attend some of our free college trips and see some of her dream schools!
If you would like to support the work we do and help send more students like Nyla to college follow this link.
Enjoy this video where we highlight her story. Watch it now to get inspired. Congratulations to all graduates!
TyShawn Boden, one of our Edgies Teen Center 2018 participants, has graduated high school and is headed to college. In September, he will attend Morehouse College. He was a participant in our College Prep program that provides free SAT Prep, mentoring, application assistance, and college trips.
If you would like to support the work we do and help send more students like TyShawn to college follow this link.
Enjoy this video where we highlight his story. Watch it now to get inspired. Congratulations to all graduates!
An article in today's New York Times highlights the 14th Street Y's upcoming dance show, LABA Fellow Hadar Ahuvia's "Everything you have is yours?"
The Times asked Ahuvia, “Is it risky showing this work at a Jewish-affiliated organization like the 14th Street Y?” She replied, ”It’s a little risky. I don’t know who’s going to come, and last year when I did a work-in-progress showing [at the Y], there was some tension about the content of the work. But they pride themselves on being a place that’s politically open, where artists can say what they want to say.“
Check out the full article in Today's New York Times and click here to buy tickets to the show!
Educational Alliance President and CEO confirms Educational Alliance's full support of immigrants and vulnerable populations through the We the People Initiative in an op-ed article to Gotham Gazette.
Read Alan's full piece here.
In an op-ed to The Lowdown, Educational Alliance President & CEO praised Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to make NYC's tech industry more inclusive with Civic Hall's new Tech Hub!
Read Alan's full piece here.
This is Karla Zelaya.
She came to New York City from El Salvador, leaving behind everything she knew so she could pursue a better life for herself and her family.
"My area was very violent and my country lacked opportunity. After a tough 27-day journey from El Salvador, I continued to struggle in the U.S. because I did not know the language. My greatest heartbreak, aside from being away from family, was that I had to give up on my dream of continuing my education."
That's when Karla found Educational Alliance. Another parent in the Lower East Side referred her to our program, where she enrolled her son in a Head Start classroom. While her son was in our care, we helped Karla learn English so she could go back to school. Recently, Karla did something amazing...
"I got my high school diploma this year!! I can't believe it. After all of this hard work, it fills me with pride to hold that diploma in my hand and see my name on it. It's like I'm holding a key to a better life for myself and my family, to a door that I never thought would open for me. Now, I'm beginning the next step in my journey - pursuing my college degree!"
We're so proud of Karla and inspired by her resilience. She's just one of our hundreds of Head Start parents who are going back to school, learning new life skills, and building a brighter future.
Every dollar matters. Let's make sure parents like Karla continue to have the opportunity to pursue happiness and prosperity in our city.
Please make your end-of-year donation today.
Your Friends at Educational Alliance
We recently interviewed Shana and Jim, a wonderful couple who chose to have their wedding ceremony at The Rooftop @ Manny Cantor Center. Read their story below!
MCC: First, thank you for choosing MCC as your wedding venue and sharing your wedding album with us! We loved your photos. We have to know: how did you two meet?
S&J: We actually met on OkCupid. We’re both wine connoisseurs and that’s how we connected!
MCC: It looks like the pre-wedding photos were taken in the Lower East Side. Do you have a special connection to the neighborhood?
S&J: We live across the street from Manny Cantor Center now. We moved in and just fell in the love with the neighborhood and wanted to shoot in places here that are important to us: the flower garden in Seward Park, Russ and Daughters, Schiller’s, this one corner of Alan and Rivington that’s special for us.
MCC: Why did you choose to have your wedding at Manny Cantor Center?
S&J: Manny Cantor Center is the first place that we looked at. We were just looking at the time and we thought “It can’t be that easy”–there’s an event space on the roof, it’s beautiful, it’s in the neighborhood. We looked at several places and ended up coming back here. We loved the space, the price was right, your were flexible so we could create the ceremony we wanted.
MCC: We’re so happy to hear that! How was your experience here?
S&J: Great, your Rentals Manager Amy was fantastic to work with. She was so flexible and accommodating and open to letting our vendors come in. Everyone here was great to work with and we would recommend the space to anybody.
MCC: That’s lovely to hear! What was your favorite part of the day?
S&J: We loved the photo shoot and walking around in the neighborhood, and the ceremony was just so special to be able to say these words of commitment to the person standing across from you. My husband actually made the chuppa we were married under and it’s under our bed now.
Many thanks to Shana and Jim for sharing their special day and this story with us!
If you’re interested in learning more about event space rentals at Manny Cantor Center, please reach out to our Rentals Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.395.4188. The Rooftop @ Manny Cantor Center is available to rent for special events; industry gatherings, launch events, weddings and other celebrations. Each rental supports Manny Cantor Center community programming and our vibrant Lower East Side community.
Our first Divas & Dumplings fundraiser raised over $23,000 for LGBTQIA youth. The night came together in a string of efforts from organizations across the Lower East Side- donated dumplings from Café Katja, Ludlow House, Stanton Social, and Veselka, complimentary drag performances from Bella Noche and Ellia J. Garlands courtesy of the Imperial Court of New York, and a donated event space from Pianos NYC. We also enjoyed a room full of amazing guests and contributors who helped make the night a success.
Educational Alliance seeks to adapt and meet the needs of our continuously changing community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. LGBTQIA+ youth are one of the most at risk populations, this event helped raise money to support LGBTQIA+ youth programming at our Edgies’ Teen Center. We want to thank you if you were a part of this special night whether performing or attending.
SHARE THE EXCITEMENT and the event recap video below!
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