Dear SASF Family,
2016 proved to be a year of many accomplishments for SASF. Together we grew, giving more opportunities to an increased number of children, enabling them to expand their horizons and explore new passions. Our mission was fulfilled as children gained confidence and new competencies, discovering untapped potential and a renewed excitement about learning.
Through regional meetings, surveys, dialogue sessions, and upcoming focus groups about communication, we have sought to engage staff in thinking about the goals, strategies and vision of our newly minted strategic plan, the result of a collaborative community-wide process. I am excited to see the board and staff at all levels beginning to own and help implement the action steps for the plan that will build on the strengths of our programs, staff and organization.
The articles in this newsletter are unified around the theme of leadership: the spotlight on our long-time site leader, Kim Haynes; the reflection on the meaning of leadership through the description of our 3rd annual art day; and the description of our leadership infusion pilot project being developed in collaboration with DYCD and the American Institutes for Research (AIR).
Leadership and character development are indeed central components of the SASF mission, and are a consistent focus throughout our programs. For example, this month every SASF child will honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy through a day of service. I had the chance to participate at elementary school PS 134X where some 200 students from eight of our elementary school programs enjoyed a rich day-long program integrating arts, sports, nutrition and leadership through service. I reflected with the children about how good it is to have structured service days in order to practice caring for and serving others. We spoke too about the need to extend the positive spirit of caring, sharing and inclusion through small daily acts of kindness throughout the year. I had the pleasure of introducing New York Ranger alumnus Adam Graves, Stanley Cup champion and recipient of numerous awards, who also spoke to the children. He talked about showing respect to others and being inclusionary through the simple act of smiling and walking across the room to say hello to a stranger. He told the audience to keep smiling, even when faced with hostile crowds. He described playing before jeering crowds, fans of the opposing team, and eventually breaking them down through a persistent positive demeanor, so that their jeers and taunts were finally replaced by appreciative remarks towards him.
Dr. King’s legacy lives on at SASF, where on a daily basis our board and staff members keep the dream alive through your daily efforts to level the playing field for children from New York’s most high-need communities. Our students develop a greater sense of self-worth and purpose as they too practice giving back, coming to understand what they and we know innately: that it is good to give and contribute.
As we enter the new year, I am filled with a sense of deep gratitude for your hard work on behalf of our children and the positive and generous spirits you share each day. Your generous giving, your joyful, optimistic and hopeful interactions with your students are the most positive and impactful acts of leadership. Thank you for helping our students strive to attain new heights for themselves, and also for inspiring them through your example to contribute and support the dreams of others.