What has been your experience joining City Surfers After School - after staying home for 1.5 years during COVID?


It's been okay because I have still been thinking while being stuck at home or going out and dreaming of seeing the outside world with my classmates. For Concrete Safaris, I was happy because I would see the outside world again that I never seen and I'm grateful to be here.


It's been scary because I almost got it. I was coughing a lot, sneezing, and stuffy nose. When I was at home, I was struggling with my computer. I barely could go to meetings, I barely got to go outside. I'm grateful for Concrete Safaris because I can go on trips and to the park.


It has been hard to get use to it again but after school made it normal. They made me feel normal again and feel welcome. It has been a pleasure to come to after school.


Why are you thankful this holiday season?


I’m thankful for Mr. Julio because he has been here from the start and helped me throughout my time here. Concrete Safaris gave me free time away from my parents not in a bad way. Concrete Safaris gives me freedom. I’m thankful because it takes me away from technology because when I’m home I watch tv all day, but when I'm at Concrete Safaris, I'm outside doing activities. I’m also thankful going on trips and having the chance to ride a bike and learn. If I want to become a gardener in the future, I can because I learn how to keep the community clean and heathy. I learned from photography that in the future when I want to explore around the world, I can keep every moment in a photograph.


I learned how to make new friends at Concrete Safaris. I’m a little shy so being in small groups helps me open up more and know everyone better. When I’m in school, I have a lot of classmates in my class which is hard to be social with everyone. Concrete Safaris helps me with my homework and takes me on trips. Gardening is my favorite because it’s easy, and I learn so much. We can plant different things. I like to garden, and we put hay around the plants and make holes to put the seeds in the soil. When I go back home, I always tell my parents how much fun I had and what new things I learned during after school.


Concrete Safaris does fun activities. I go bike riding, and I learned how to ride the bike from Mr. Christopher. I like to plant. The plants I planted so far were cabbage and garlic. When I was planting the garlic, I learned each step it takes to grow a vegetable.  The first step you have to dig a hole. The second step and you put the plant in... In the third step, you put water on it, and you let it grow, let the sun go into the plant. I learned this from my garden teacher, Mr. Anthony. Some day, I hope I can plant my garden when I'm older.


How are you connected to this work?

Since working for Concrete Safaris, I can say it changed my outlook on the future in such an inspiring way. Coming from a similar, if not the same environment, growing up where the students come from, I was not allowed outside. The only time I was allowed outside was in the after school I went to where they stuck us indoors with broken and missing pieces for the few games they had. It feels good to come back to “my roots” to teach in the profession that I’m so passionate about. The students have such an opportunity that I barely had - to grow and learn and explore! To experience what so many others take for granted, it gives me such hope and joy they will learn from my teaching. Taking the children to Central Park for their first experience with geese and ducks, the students were so amazed. At some points, as a few dedicated members of the community fed the geese and ducks, the children were distracted for a few moments and they forgot to take photos. That does not mean we left without some great photography that day.


I'm thankful because this organization provided me with a job. During and after COVID, I didn't have a job. My cousin, CS' Health Promotion Lead Heavenly, sent me a flyer to intern with the Gardening Cohort at CS's Outdoor Leadership Academy in March 2021. I was so excited because I would be doing something new and active. I made lots of new friends and learned skills I can use in the future. I was jobless for the upcoming fall. One day, I saw an email from Programs Director Christopher Hartsfield about a job offer to work in after school. I used to work at the Boys Club. It gave me the experience of working with children and made me qualified to become an assistant leader at Concrete Safaris. I'm very thankful for my cousin Heavenly and Christopher because I don't know what I would've been doing right now if it wasn't for them. Concrete Safaris is the best organization I worked with, and when they offered me a job to work again it was an easy decision.


Concrete Safaris has allowed me to work with kids. I am grateful because I am an aspiring elementary school teacher. I enjoy working with Concrete Safaris because it has expanded my skill set, and has opened my mind more to understanding kids. It’s also a comfortable workplace for me. I am valued in my company because I can state my opinions, input on certain ideas, and they are taken seriously. I got Employee Of The Month through hard work and dedication, which might sound corny, but it’s the truth. When I first start working at Concrete Safaris, I was struggling in my personal life, and I did my best not to let it interfere in my work life. Even on my worst days, I’d come to work, I would wipe my tears, pick up my head, and do what I had to do because I love my job. My coworker and boss pushed me to be better and do better.


City Surfers After School and Summer Camp serves 144 children (ages 7 - 11) in East Harlem each year. In the school year, after school is offered 3-hours per afternoon from September - June. In the summer, camp is offered all day, 5-days per week, for 6-weeks in July and August. These free programs offer cycling, fitness, gardening, photography, advocacy and citizenship, field trips, homework help or enrichment, and nature art. Families depend on the generosity of individuals like you to make these life-changing opportunities possible in East Harlem.