Rekindle a sense of trust and belonging

With your gift to Morningside, you can rekindle a sense of trust and belonging in schools. Donate now - and bring healing and joy to schools in 2023-24!


Dear Morningside Center Friends, 

After three years of pandemic, we are seeing signs of healing in the young people and adults we work with every day. And I want you to know that this progress was made possible in part by you.

PAZ DrummingAs a supporter of Morningside Center, you’ve enabled us to bring social and emotional support to young people and adults in hundreds of schools and after-school programs this year. In school communities across NYC and beyond, you’ve helped us rekindle a sense of trust and belonging.

Staff and students are so hungry for exactly this kind of support, we can’t keep up with the demand.

I hope you’ll donate again this spring to carry on this work in 2023-24!

Here’s a glimpse of what this healing process looks like at Brooklyn’s PS 24, home of our PAZ (Peace from A to Z) after-school program.

PAZ Site Director Marisol Mendez has been working at PAZ in some capacity for 15 years – starting when she was 19. Marisol and her staff embed social and emotional supports into every aspect of their program, from daily circles where students can share and connect, to breathing activities and cooperative games, to special projects where students can dive into their passions – from coding to crocheting.

Marisol says:

The arts, music, science – all of it is building our students’ understanding of how they relate to each other, how they handle conflict, and the emotional and social skills that they need as they grow up and live their lives.

Every school day afternoon, each group of PAZ students gather in circle, where they can share what has been happening for them that day and how they’re feeling. They also have a few minutes of quiet time, and often deep breathing, before they go on to the afternoon’s activities.

Right now, students are enjoying a project on music – and how it relates to emotions, to art, and to our cultures. One group is looking at Tejano music, which, Marisol notes, is part of the cultural identity of many PAZ students. This group is learning about the instruments used in Tejano, its history, and how it communicates culture. Some groups are listening to music together and exploring how just the tempo of a song affects our emotions and how we interpret the story told in the lyrics. Some students are painting the way that music makes them feel.

Reading at PAZ
    Marisol Mendez with PAZ students


There are challenges and conflicts. But no matter what arises, PAZ staff try to use the experience to model listening, empathy, and creative problem-solving, and as an opportunity for students to build their strengths. Over time, this changes things. 

Marisol tells the story of one boy who has struggled with his anger. “He would curse or hide under the table,” she says. “He was going through a lot.” Not long ago, this boy, now a fifth grader, got frustrated in his group at PAZ. Marisol recalls:

He told the counselor, “I need to step out of this classroom.” The counselor said okay, and he came to me. He told me, “I cannot be in there right now. I need to do something else. I need a few minutes.” And I said, “Yes, a few minutes, here we go!” And I sat with him until he had calmed down and was ready to go back into the classroom.

I was so proud of him, having seen how he had struggled to control his emotions or express them in different ways. And then all of the sudden, I saw this young man who could say things that many adults can’t manage to say when they’re upset – like, “I need a minute!”

Marisol says the pandemic has taken a toll on PAZ kids – in part because students haven’t had nearly enough practice interacting with each other. But, she says, “the students are amazing, the way that they bounce back. They can work through things, and we are glad to be there to give them tools to do that.”

Thank you for supporting the work of Morningside Center and PAZ—and for all you do to bring joy and justice to our world.

With gratitude and warm wishes,


Cassie Schwerner
Executive Director