CAT awarded $460k Grant from the Astor Fund!
December 20, 2013

The Creative Arts Team (CAT) of The City University of New York has been awarded an 18 month, $460,000 grant from The New York Community Trust – Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education to expand CAT’s successful Early Learning Program (ELP) in K-2 classes at four New York City public schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged students and English language learners.

The schools are: PS 48 in Manhattan; and PS 52, PS 163 and PS 234, all in Queens.  Elements of CAT’s ELP training are also in schools throughout the five boroughs.

Under the leadership of ELP Director Helen Wheelock, CAT will provide theoretical and practical, multi-tiered professional development to approximately 60 educators on the use of interactive drama strategies to support reading and emergent literacy. Combining intensive teacher training, opportunities for parental engagement, a solid partnership with the schools, and comprehensive evaluation, CAT will provide a framework to support students in developing and strengthening reading and literacy skills to set the stage for a lifetime of learning. The program will also provide CAT’s direct services to 1,275 students in support of Common Core literacy skills.

Lynda Zimmerman, Executive Director of the CUNY Creative Arts Team, stated: “This grant changes the landscape of what we are doing because, for the first time, we will be able to put all of our programmatic resources together in every K-2 class in each school, some 53 classes in all.”

The Astor Fund lends support to projects with the potential to generate widespread, systemic improvement in reading skills in the early grades among underserved New York City students.
The CUNY Creative Arts Team is a nonprofit organization that utilizes the power of drama to inspire youth to learn more. Over the past three years it has worked in nearly 1,000 classrooms and communities in the city’s five boroughs with students who reflect New York’s economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity. CAT has worked with more than a million youth in its 38 years of existence.

CAT uses theatre as a medium to promote social, emotional, and intellectual growth. The key components of drama — character, collaboration, story, and the dynamic relationship between actor and audience — form the basis of this unique approach. In schools and communities throughout the city, CAT’s professional actor-teachers combine and recombine these elements to create one-of-a-kind interactive learning experiences for young people and adult populations.

Working from early childhood through the adult years, CAT offers interactive dramas that explore curricular themes and social issues such as literacy, inter-cultural understanding, peer pressure, violence, sexuality, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Students become participants in fiction-based group improvisations. Questions emerge from dramatic conflict, and participants are challenged to find their own answers. Through theatre conventions, reality is viewed afresh, prejudices revised, and conflicts seen from many points of view. Throughout, professionally trained actor-teachers help participants transfer the new skills and insights into their real lives.

The CAT process involves having young people step into the world of a dramatic story and become actors, not just observers. They shape and re-shape the lives of characters faced with ordinary — and extraordinary — challenges. In so doing they learn concrete skills that they can reapply in their own lives. Through interactive drama strategies, CAT captures a panoramic view of society and focuses on specific issues and behaviors that create life obstacles while encouraging participants to examine the choices, decisions and consequences of everyday challenges. The goal is to raise awareness and promote problem solving, decision-making and self-advocacy skills that build the confidence of each participant.

CAT’s in-school projects support the New York State Common Core Curricular standards, and enhance students’ literacy skills from early childhood through high school.

Since 1924, The New York Community Trust has been the home of charitable New Yorkers who share a passion for the City and its suburbs—and who are committed to improving them. The Trust supports an array of effective nonprofits that help make the City, Westchester, and Long Island vital and secure places to live and work, while building permanent resources for the future. The New York Community Trust ended 2012 with assets of $2.1 billion in more than 2,000 charitable funds, and made grants totaling $136 million.

About The City University of New York:
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health.   The University serves more than 270,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via, the University’s website.



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