28 Sep

#PayItForward: Motivating Teens to Serve

PayItForward Student Panel

September 27, 2017 — “Every one of us is part of the community we’re in.  You’re either contributing or detracting from it.”

This is what Marina Hunt, a graduate of the Spence School, took away from her high school volunteer experience.  Marina joined a panel of student volunteers at #PayItForward, a forum on youth community service hosted by LSA Family Health Service and Convent of the Sacred Heart School.


Learn about volunteer opportunities at LSA!


Additional speakers included Adam Garner of DoSomething.org; Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and certified school psychologist; Dr. Cappy Collins, a pediatrician who engages youth in community health programs; Naomi Varnis, an admissions director at Columbia University; and India LaRoda, Miss India America 2017 and a former Special Olympics volunteer with extensive service experience.

Audience members included a mix of students, parents and educators.  Their main questions were: what kind of service experience is most valuable for middle and high school students?  How can they get started? And how does it help them in the long term?

Naomi Varnis said, when she’s considering college applications “there is no one right type of service.  It’s about the quality of engagement that you have.”

For example, she said, volunteering with an organization over a long period shows that a student is really committed to its mission. “That kind of work can help students understand their role in the community.”

“When you are volunteering you are figuring out who you are as a person, how you interact with the world, and how you engage with other people,” said Dr. Sanam Hafeez.   She pointed out that the teen years are essential years for self discovery, and volunteering can play a positive role in helping teens understand and define themselves.


“Being a professional, doesn’t mean wearing a suit and tie.  It can be giving someone a box of cereal so their children can have food in the morning, or a bag of rice so they can have food at night.”

– Cristo Rey student Nathanael Hinds, on what he learned as a volunteer


The student panelist shared how volunteering changed their view of the world and of themselves.  “Through service, I have become more of an activist,” said Grace Wilson, student body president of Convent of the Sacred Heart who taught young children at the school’s student-run HEART summer camp.

Nathanael Hinds, a student of Cristo Rey New York High School who volunteered at the LSA food pantry throughout his sophomore year in high school, said volunteering opened his eyes to careers that can make a difference in the world.  “Being a professional,” he said, “doesn’t mean wearing a suit and tie.  It can be giving someone a box of cereal so their children can have food in the morning, or a bag of rice so they can have food at night.”

For students who don’t know where to start when it comes to volunteering, India LaRoda’s advice is for students to look to their own interests. “Think about what you’re passionate about,” she said.  “That will make you want to volunteer.”  Her own experience volunteering with the Special Olympics in middle school inspired her current work as a behavioral interventionist for children with special needs.

Adam Garner, campaigns manager at DoSomething.org, an online platform that motivates young people to make positive change, described the spirit of service as the desire to help others without the need for personal recognition.  He summed it up saying simply:  “If you can help, you help.”

#PayItForward was organized by the Parents Committee of LSA Family Health Service, a group committed to engaging youth in service at the East Harlem nonprofit.  The event was cohosted by the Covent of the Sacred Heart School and sponsored by Carnegie Hill Neighbors and Gourmet Garage.

PayItForward India LaRoda

India LaRoda and guests; India shared insight from her extensive volunteer experience.

PayItForward Guests

Students of Convent of the Sacred Heart school shared in the spirit of the event by volunteering to distribute materials and assist guests.

PayItForward Adam Garner

Adam Garner shared his personal take on what volunteering is really about.

PayItForward Student Panel

Student volunteers described what they learned from their service experiences.

PayItForward Expert Panel

Speakers described the benefits for teens engaged in service.

02 Aug

H.E.A.R.T. Camp

H.E.A.R.T. Camp 2016

This summer, children from LSA families participated in the Convent Of The Sacred Heart H.E.A.R.T program for 9-11 year old children,  and H.E.A.R.T Prep for 7th and 8th graders.

The collaboration with Convent of the Sacred Heart allowed 36 children whose families are clients at LSA to attend a four week summer program facilitated by high school students of Convent of the Sacred Heart. They were able to select between math, coding, swimming, art, debate, and more and attend field trips on Fridays.  The 7th and 8th graders did math and reading, and had the opportunity to visit high schools to gear them up for the high school application process.

Children participated in an end-of-camp graduation on July 29th, which highlighted the skills learned the previous weeks and the sense of community and friendship these children were able to develop in such a short period of time. Children performed and showcased poetry, songs, dance, and films they worked on together. They also participated in the camp’s first Guacamole Contest. Ashley Cantu, a long term LSA client, won this contest!

H.E.A.R.T. Camp 2016

Taste testing at the Guacamole contest

H.E.A.R.T. Camp 2016

Kids perform at the camp graduation

24 Nov

Delicious Thanksgiving Gifts

We received delicious donations for LSA families this Thanksgiving!

According to the latest survey from the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, nearly one in four children in NYC live in a home that can’t always afford to eat. We certainly experience this in our food pantry, which has seen an increase in demand for our services.

That is why we are so thankful to the following organizations for their fantastic gifts that will make this an extra-special Thanksgiving for our families!

  • Ten classes at Horace Mann School held food drives to provide a week’s worth of groceries to ten LSA families.
  • The Convent of the Sacred Heart School‘s PTA donated 50 apple pies for Thanksgiving dessert
  • City Harvest donated 20 turkeys
  • Students from P138 in East Harlem donated staples to our pantry, collected in a food drive
  • The parish at St. Frances de Sales held a food drive and donated of 75 grocery bags of food staples to our pantry!

We also give special thanks to the students of the The Brearley School for donating 21 boxes of beautiful children’s books, which will feed the imaginations of the many children who visit LSA.

Thank you!

A mom picks up groceries donated by families from Horace Mann.

A mom picks up groceries donated by families at Horace Mann.

2015-11-23 Brearley Book Donation

Books donated by students at The Brearley School

2015-11-23 Advocacy City Harvest Turkey Donation

City Harvest donated 20 turkeys for Thanksgiving

Pies donated by The Convent of the Sacred Heart School

Pies donated by The Convent of the Sacred Heart School