Inaugural MSNT Link & Learn Event A Success!


For nearly a decade, the Mobile Safety-Net Team (MSNT) has worked tirelessly to bridge the resource gap and give community stakeholders the tools to fight poverty.  Their ethos is one of collaboration and data-driven action.  Recently, their Hub Task Force brought together members of different Community Coalitions with Resource Hubs to encourage networking and information-sharing.  This “Link & Learn” event was held on October 11th at the Barrel Factory and featured guest speakers, nibbles, libations, and structured activities.

Check out our event photo gallery here.

Notable feedback:
“It was helpful to see how in depth some of these case studies can be.”

“Sharing ideas and resources a tour tables to solve the issues really helped demonstrate the importance of collaboration and knowledge of all the community services available.”

CCNY are proud to host this invaluable John R. Oshei Foundation initiative and invite you to find out more about Mobile Safety-Net Team’s Coalitions and how you can get involved.  For further details, please e-mail or call (716) 830-5636.

Get To Know CCNY’s Alana Eaton


What do you like to do in your spare time?

Travel, go to concerts, attend Bills and Sabres games, and play board games and puzzles.

Who is a hero of yours?

My dad… He was very generous, had an incredible network of family and friends, was a great business owner, and made this community a better place.

What’s something quirky about you?

I have a goofy, loveable Boston Terrier named Lucy that sometimes visits us at the office.

What’s in your coffee?

Black… or sometimes with some French vanilla.

Why is CCNY’s mission important to you?

As a community, we are stronger together.  I appreciate that CCNY helps bring together various agencies and organizations for the common goal of improving the lives of children and families in Erie County.  I also believe in the importance of research, evaluation, and the use of evidence-based practices as a way of ensuring that the families we serve get the best possible services.

Doug’s Paid Paid Vacation


Last year, in order to support wellness within our agency, CCNY launched a new Paid Paid Vacation perk.  On a bi-monthly basis, a random name is drawn from a pool of full-time staff.  Once a name is pulled, that person must take two days off with an added bonus of $300 to use during that time. These days are in addition to their normal paid time off. The staff person must use the money towards something fun, i.e., not pay off existing bills, etc.

Read on to find out more about our one-man IT department, Doug Nichy, and his recent travels.

In August, my son and I went to the Woods At Bear Creek in Franklinville.  We enjoyed a weekend of camping, a concert featuring Metallica covers, BBQ, an ATV Dice race (we didn’t win any prizes though, boo), and fireworks.

It’s a really great campground complete with rustic cabins, RVs, and tent sites.  They have an in-ground outdoor pool overlooking the lake, restaurant/ bar, zip lines, and all kinds of activities.

Ethan always has a great time out, and it gets him off the computer!  The extra cash from the drawing helped buy extra snacks and gifts from the parks.

Afterwards, we stayed at Allegany State Park with Grandma and the dogs.  We had a cabin this time as I’ve been going here since I was a kid.  Swimming in the lake and visiting the Stone Tower and Thunder Rocks each time is required for maximum fun.

Click the image above for optimal panorama-ness.

Co-Creating Well-Being: Free Trainings (and CEUs where applicable) On Trauma And Human-Centered Design


The Health Foundation For Western & Central New York is offering free workshops specially designed to teach people about trauma and human-centered design as well as how to apply this knowledge.  As part of a multi-year initiative executed across three phases, these will serve as foundational learning and attendance is required for participation in the subsequent phases of the initiative.

Phase One – Building Capacity (2018-2019)

A spectrum of providers who work with children five and under and their families from community-based organizations, early childhood centers, faith communities, and clinics are being invited to participate in FREE learning sessions designed to – provide expert training and skill development.  FREE CEUs will be provided.

In the first phase, we invite interested parties to submit an application to attend:

  1. 1 Day Trauma Workshop: on trauma, toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed care, and early childhood development.  (How to define, distinguish, and connect)
  2. 1 Day Human-Centered Design Day Workshop: on What is HCD? What makes it different?  What are the tools?  How might I use it in my organization?

These workshops are designed for you to learn how to mitigate the impact of trauma, support healing and resilience, understand early childhood development and use Human-Centered Design in your program development and delivery.  These workshops will be the foundation of the initiative, and attendance of the Human-Centered Design training is a requirement to be eligible for Phases Two or Three.

 All training costs will be covered and are FREE to participants.  There will be FREE CEU’s for LMSW/LCSW and LMHC for both trainings.  You must submit an application no later than September 30th, 2018 to attend.

For more information about the project, the trainings and how to apply please go to: or directly to to fill out an application.  If you have any questions, please email  Monica Brown at or call (716) 852-3030 ext. 108.

Children, Families, and Trauma: What we need to know to support healing and resilience.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Location: Holiday Valley Resort, Ellicottville, NY


Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Location: Buffalo Marriott Niagara, Amherst, NY

Human-Centered Design

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Location: Buffalo Marriott Niagara, Amherst, NY


Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Location: Holiday Valley Resort, Ellicottville, NY

Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo: Supporting Youth Development Beyond School Hours


Today marks the 51st anniversary of the first episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood being filmed.  Multiple generations of latchkey kids will recall the uniquely comforting and stabilizing effect educational programs such as Mister Roger’s had on those struggling with less-than-ideal home environments.  Children and adolescents of course, regardless of background, need more than the phosphorescent glow of a television nanny.  Here in Western New York, local organizations are working to find effective, well-rounded ways of boosting youth enrichment and growth, even when they’re not in class.  With school officially in session, we tackle the subject of evaluating after-school program quality through the lens of our work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo (BGCB).  Thanks to a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC), they were able to provide after-school programming at one Buffalo Public School (BPS) location during the 2017-2018 school year: School #43 (Lovejoy Discovery).

Youth participation in these programs varied between 30 and 90 hours during the course of the academic year.  Overall, 174 students were enrolled in after-school programming at School #43 and all attendance goals were achieved.  During the first year of the 21st CCLC grant, BGCB has also made progress in staff training and quality improvement.  The site director at School #43 hired new staff for the current academic year and provided trainings to help with youth engagement and behavioral management strategies.  Surveys for members and parents were administered during Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 whereas teacher surveys were completed in June 2018.  The student and parent responses illustrate positive experiences at each BGCB charter school site.  BGCB seeks to build upon these experiences by maintaining the programs and relationships staff have built with the youth and parents.

We spoke to Lorrie Ann Knight, Chief Operating Officer for BGCB who oversees 21st CCLC grants at the club level, to gain more insight into the project and its goals.

CCNY: What are your thoughts on the current state of American education and youth engagement/ well-being?

BGCB: If we base our thoughts on current graduation rates, we have done little to improve our system.  The achievement gaps continue to represent the racial disparities in our country.  We do however see more youth engaging in activities with others that are outside of their race/ ethnic origin.  We continue to struggle with parent involvement.

CCNY: What were after-school programs/ classroom culture/ teacher-student interactions like when you were growing up?

BGCB: During my high school years, my parents expected their children to participate in after-school programs.  However, their main focus was on our academic performance.  We were not allowed to participate in sports if we were not performing at our best in the classroom.

The classroom culture was that of respect for teachers.  Parent engagement was high.  Historically, we have observed more parents involved in their child’s academic careers at the elementary level.  My parents expected us to do our best in everything we chose to be a part of.  They also understood that without a quality education, we would face additional obstacles.

There are certainly similarities to how things are perceived today.  Social media has been a game changer.  It has allowed quicker and greater access to the world.  There are certainly more diverse after-school clubs that try and meet the needs of all kids.  A variety of learning environments have also been on the rise.

CCNY: What were your goals going into this project?

BGCB: Our goal was to have a partnership with a highly-respected organization that understands youth development.  They would not only support our mission, but assist us in mastering all levels of after-school programming.

CCNY: How did you come to work with CCNY?

BGCB: After our organization was awarded a 21st CCLC grant, we interviewed other evaluators and decided that CCNY was the best fit.

CCNY: How did you outline and define measures for success?

BGCB: With any partnership, it is imperative that there is a mutual respect and understanding of the roles.  Being transparent decreases misunderstanding and gives rise to having the ability to move forward even when that progress is slow and steady.  Both parties, when we became stuck, were open to come together to iron out any differences.

CCNY: What was the rationale behind partnering with charter schools?  Are there future plans to collaborate with traditional public schools?

BGCB: We have had a long successful relationship with two charter schools.  When they were applying for their charter, they approached us in being their after-school provider. Over the years, our relationship strengthened and it was due to their confidence in our organization that allowed for other charter schools to reach out to us.  We have also enjoyed a long-term partnership with a traditional public school.

The key to our success continues to be our commitment to youth and families throughout Western New York.  Our longevity with both charter and traditional public schools is a result of our organizations willingness to think outside the box, be transparent, and continue to invest in the training of our staff.

CCNY: What lessons have you learned in this first year of the grant cycle?  What do you hope to accomplish by next year?  In ten years?

BGCB: We have learned the importance of investing in staff training, being transparent, and holding each other accountable to the mission.  Meeting the needs of the children and families that need us the most is our top priority.  Our goal for the next year to ten years is to continue to provide the type of programs our children and their families need to be successful.  We want to continue to tell our story through measurable outcomes.

CCNY: For educational/ after-school organizations looking to improve, what advice do you have, whether it be in terms of data collection, evaluation, selecting community partners, engaging with parents/ board members, etc.?

BGCB: Our biggest advice is to allow integrity to be the common denominator in your program.  Don’t be afraid to reach out when struggles come, and they certainly will come.  Know that data collection should be the norm.  Build relationships with other partners whose focus is aligned with yours.  Allow parents to be a part of the decision making, support them.  Allow their voice as well as their children to be heard.

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?


Happy World Sexual Health Day!

Sexuality is a natural and normal part of being human.  We’ve all heard it before, enough for it to qualify as a truism.  But to what extent does the average person take that to heart, especially when one is enculturated with fear and misinformation?  A recent international synthesis of published data on Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) illustrated that traditional approaches were failing to reach students in a meaningful, productive way due to blurred boundaries, lack of anonymity, failure to address embarrassment, het-cis normativity, unwillingness to acknowledge adolescent sexual activity, and inadequate training.  Participation in negative sex ed can also underscore points of vulnerability for youth, with girls socially conditioned to downplay sexual experience and boys encouraged to hide their own ignorance.  Students reported that SRE was highly gendered, omitted mention of female pleasure, and reduced female sexuality to passivity and lack of desire.  These results highlight a very real need throughout the world for an overhaul of education that is sex-positive, evidence-based, and inclusive.

Puberty is difficult enough to navigate even without major trauma.  Maintaining control and confidentiality in the classroom as well as building trust between students are essential.  Researchers found that teachers who set ground rules for behavior, injected humor into lessons, and protected students from ridicule created a safer, more engaging learning environment.  Furthermore, decades of public health research have shown that comprehensive SRE equips youth with vital facts and skills that enable them to reduce their risk for unwanted pregnancy and STDs.  Therefore, direct and equal access to honest information and supportive adults lays the foundation for optimal sexual health and relationships.

To tackle the potential for alienation and frustration during what is often a turbulent life stage, a local effort spearheaded by Niagara Falls School District (NFSD) Superintendent, Mark Laurrie, and Teacher on Special Assignment and Wellness Coordinator, Scott Wojton, aims to bring sexual education into the 21st century.  Laurrie has always felt that current practices and policies were very outdated, which was confirmed by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results in November 2015.  After commissioning a study committee that included nurses and holding multiple fora inviting public and faculty, they met with the Board of Education (BOE) and devised a plan.

Together, they have adapted the age-appropriate curriculum to explore such salient topics as mental health, nutrition, dating violence, gender diversity, and media portrayals of sex.  Alongside community partners such as CCNY, Planned Parenthood (PPWNY), Teal Project, and Native American Community Services (NACS), NFSD seeks to improve the quality, consistency, and availability of sex ed in the region.  PPWNY graciously shared their data with our evaluators to help with this project.  Their Manager of Outreach and Education, Robin Meister, advises any organizations seeking out data of a sensitive nature thusly: “Thoroughly explaining the purpose of research and how the data will be used to participants is important, and, if possible, providing incentives or compensation.  Anything that shows researchers are sensitive to potential feelings of exploitation from participants and approaching data collection respectfully.”

We spoke to Mark (ML), Scott (SW), and Planned Parenthood Health Education and Outreach Supervisor, Lynne Neveu (LN), to learn more about their collective experiences and inspiration for sex ed initiatives.

[This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

CCNY: What do you think are the most pressing issues in American education today?

ML: Apathy to what a solid education can bring a person.  We live in an instant gratification world, where if something doesn’t come quick and easy, many students do not persist long enough to attain it.  Education requires work, patience, and “stick-to-it-iveness”.  It does not come quick and easy!

SW: Blending the concept of the whole child.  For a school to reach educational capacity with a student, education cannot end at 3:00 PM.  Support from parents, communities, and specific programs such as the NFCSD Healthy Behaviors program are imperative for student success.

CCNY: What does “sex ed” mean to you?  What did it mean when you were children/ adolescents?

ML: Respect for your body and that of another and all of the information that comes with it.  Learning at a developmentally appropriate stage and rate what is appropriate and not appropriate with respect to healthy relationships.  It meant listening to what my parents and teachers told me when I was an adolescent.

SW: Sex ed means understanding the physical and emotional concepts of sexual behavior in my opinion.  For example, at the elementary level, learning about your body, at the PREP or Middle School Level, understanding how choices can affect your future, and at the high school level, the emotional connection involved with sex.  Embedded within the process, abstinence is preached but in the event students do not practice abstinence, understanding of choices/ supports are necessary.  Growing up, sexual education was somewhat of an unspoken concept, teachers and support services were in place but that was the extent of sexual education as an adolescent.

LN: When I was younger, sex education meant a very brief and awkward class filled with stigma and shame.  Now I realize that sex education should be fun and spark open conversations that share factual information and empowers young people to make positive choices for themselves.  The most common misconception is that sexual health education encourages sex.  We teach a heavily researched curriculum shown to delay sex and encourage safer sex.  In my experience, teens want to establish boundaries but don’t know how, so we focus heavily on practicing negotiation skills that they can use in their relationships.

CCNY: In what ways were Niagara Falls’ policies/ sex ed curriculum outdated?  In what ways could it be better?

ML: Teaching abstinence-only was an impractical and outdated strategy for today’s youth.  This is especially true in a city where pregnancy and STD rates are extremely disproportionate.  We need to give factual, direct information.

SW: If there were an area that could be classified as outdated, it’s the belief that abstinence-only instruction was beneficial for NFCSD students.  The Healthy Behaviors team is always looking for ways to improve instruction; the current area of focus is ensuring culturally appropriate content and information for all students.

LN: As an educator, I see firsthand just how vital non-judgmental, accurate sex education is for young people.  Many teens don’t have access to this education and when we don’t teach our young people about their bodies or how to practice safe, responsible sex, we do them a huge disservice.  Teens want to make great choices but we’re not giving them the tools to do so.

CCNY: What inspired you to take on this difficult task?

ML: Inherently, I knew information we were sharing was very dated, but the 2015 YRBS drove home the point.  Along with an obligation to teach students where they are at, not where adults want them to be.

SW: Supporting the needs of NFCSD students.  As Mr. Laurrie highlighted, based upon the YRBS results, it was clear the district needed to take action.

LN: I am an alumna of NFCSD and will never forget my sex ed class. The teacher stuck a piece of tape onto their sweater, ripped it off, and compared the lint left on the adhesive to the contamination of a woman with multiple sexual partners.  “This woman will never be clean again,” they explained, shaming several people in the room who had already become sexually active, including myself.  As soon as I came to work for Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, I decided I wanted to make a change so that future teens would not feel the shame that I felt.

CCNY: My understanding is that this new set of guidelines is abstinence-based and yet courted a fair amount of “controversy”, how do you respond to those who fought these changes?  How do you outline your case for support when confronted with naysayers?

ML: The use of data cannot be refuted. We have to meet students where they are and we need to listen to the voice of the student body as well.

SW: Overall, I think the program was well received.  [There was] minimal opposition of implementing the program but I view opposition as a positive; it allows for a complete understanding of everyone’s perspective.

CCNY: How did you come to work with CCNY on this project?  What are your thoughts on the infographic created by 12 Grain?

ML: CCNY was referred by a very credible partner at Population Health Collaborative of WNY who has supported the district efforts in a multitude of ways.  The 12 Grain project is outstanding and completely captures the plan in a very easy fashion.

SW: The district wanted to have an outside evaluator ensure program growth.  OUTSTANDING: the infographic clearly represents the “four legs of the table” and the support content of the program.

CCNY: Best case scenario, what do you hope this program will achieve or perhaps precipitate?

ML: Great information and better choices by young adults in the City of Niagara Falls.

SW: Reduction in STD rates, teen pregnancy, and increased/ sustained knowledge of sexual education for all students.

LN: In a dream world, schools in all states would provide age-appropriate sexual health education starting in grade school and continuing through high school.  Curriculum varies so much district-to-district leading to disparities in knowledge.  We need to start early and use an evidence-based approach to create an atmosphere where young people feel equipped to make great choices when it comes to relationships and sex.

CCNY: For the layperson, what is the significance of YRBS in relation to your work?

ML: This is the overarching set of facts that will tell us if we are making a difference with our programming.

SW: It provides the objective to the initiative.  The YRBS provides data that formed a baseline and eventually measure of current sexual education practices of students.

CCNY: Do you have any advice for other educators looking to implement similar reforms?

ML: We listened to the community, parents, staff, and students and held many forums open to the public to garner feedback.  From there, specific decisions needed to be made and a plan set, which is continuously evaluated.  Listening to students’ voices is key.

SW: Being transparent and sharing the needs of students based upon data.  Mr. Laurrie devised a plan to create, implement, and sustain appropriate healthy behaviors education for all students.  To implement similar reforms, you need to have data to support the reform as well as collaborate with community partners and internal staff members.  And finally, be transparent with district leadership including the BOE.

CCNY: Do you have hopes for NFSD’s success to be a model for other school systems and communities?

ML: Absolutely, we need to impact and change one student at a time.  Most importantly, we need stamina to stick with this initiative.

SW: YES!  Ultimately we’re trying to support the needs of students, if the NFCSD model can be embedded or modeled in supporting districts, we’re helping students.

Nearly half of all Niagara Falls High School (NFHS) students report being sexually active and not using a condom during their last sexual encounter.  Despite being more likely than other NYS students to learn about HIV and AIDS in school, NFHS students are also more likely to have had multiple sexual partners (defined as having had sexual intercourse with four or more partners) and to have had sex for the first time before age 13 than their counterparts throughout the state.  Although the new sex ed program is abstinence-based and led by certified teachers, there is still an opt-out form available for concerned parents and guardians.

A curriculum that is stuck in the past harms not only students but also the children they may eventually go on to have.  The digital age has brought new challenges and discussions to the fore, including but not limited to hypersexualization of minors, sexting, cyberbullying, gender fluidity, and that indispensable core component of all healthy relationships: consent.  A class on the basics of reproduction has no real-world value without teaching respect and responsibility.  For example, safe sex now must include safe technology use and information-sharing.  Moreover, a well-rounded approach necessitates embedding sexual health in students’ conversations and not relegating it to a single class.

We applaud our interviewees for their dedication to students, their wellbeing, and their commitment to promoting healthy body images and judicious decision-making.  By setting an example of clear, open communication about a subject that has historically been cloaked in shame, anxiety, and denial, these educators are doing their part to build a healthier, happier community.

John’s Paid Paid Vacation


Last year, in order to support wellness within our agency, CCNY launched a new Paid Paid Vacation perk.  On a bi-monthly basis, a random name is drawn from a pool of full-time staff.  Once a name is pulled, that person must take two days off with an added bonus of $300 to use during that time. These days are in addition to their normal paid time off. The staff person must use the money towards something fun, i.e., not pay off existing bills, etc.

Read on to find out more about our Quality Improvement Manager, John Rooney‘s summer excursion.

I truly appreciated being the lucky winner of April’s Paid Paid Vacation drawing.  My wife and I enjoyed a long weekend in Canandaigua, New York, the highlight of which was going to see Roger Daltrey perform The Who’s 1969 rock opera “Tommy” in its entirety alongside The Who touring band and a full symphony orchestra at the CMAC.

The concert took place on June 30th and with the two days of paid time off we rolled right into the July 4th holiday for fun and relaxation.  Thank you, CCNY!

Photo credit:

Age-Friendly Erie County (AFEC) Community Assessment Report Now Available


Happy National Senior Citizens Day!

Two years ago, Erie County Senior Services sought to learn more about the overall “age-friendliness” of the county by surveying residents on issues related to the so-called Domains of Livability, which include housing, public and outdoor spaces, transportation, respect and inclusion, communication and information, civic participation and employment, health and community services, and social participation.  They also wanted to share information about communication methods and technology as well as rate community satisfaction with local information.  In all, nearly a thousand respondents were included in the final analysis.

CCNY’s own Dr. Molly Ranahan Arent co-directs the Age-Friendly Erie County initiative with her friend and colleague, Brittany Perez, Director of Outreach and Engagement, Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at SUNY Buffalo.  Brittany in turn, co-founded the initiative in 2014 with Randall Hoak from Erie County Senior Services.  Dr. Ranahan Arent had the opportunity to work on the initiative in a full-time capacity while working as an Erie County Senior Services research analyst.

The assessment and report was completed by Molly, Brittany, Jimin Choi (an Urban Planning doctoral student and employee at the IDeA Center, and Ryan Gadzo (now Research Analyst at Erie County Department of Senior Services).  All four have collaborated on the Age-Friendly initiative since 2016 and worked in partnership with many local organizations.  The report findings informed dedicated efforts at CCNY to further develop Arounja, a free community resource app.  Click here to read the full report.

The AFEC team incorporated stakeholder feedback from the AFEC Network Needs Assessment Workshop to inform priorities for gathering input from Erie County residents.  Participants across the ten domain groups identified three primary issues to address as part of assessment activities:

1.  Older adults and their caregivers experience barriers when accessing local information and communicating with agencies and service providers in the county
2.  Local groups and organizations struggle reaching older adults and caregivers when disseminating information about programs, activities, and services
3.  Local groups and organizations report having limited knowledge about other local resources and services

Many older adults in Erie County described challenges obtaining local information, most frequently pointing to issues with customer service, automated answering systems, and website navigation.  Survey results also indicated widespread lack of knowledge about and low rates of utilization of community-aging resources in Erie County, including 2-1-1, Erie County Senior Services, and NY Connects.

The Health Foundation of Central and Western New York provided support for CCNY to increase the knowledge of and the engagement of residents living in Western New York in further development of Arounja, namely a new feature meant to screen individuals for social needs and link them with targeted services in the app.  The screener will be used by individuals looking for personal information or by others, such as care coordinators and families, seeking information for a client or a loved one.  It will include the primary domains for screening recommended by the Institute of Medicine and additional questions developed from community input.

The screener used throughout the pilot study was created by combining new and previously validated screening questions related to the social determinants of health and age friendly domain areas.  In conjunction with our resident Americorps VISTA member’s work, graduate student interns, Jaydra Smith and Tim Hurysz, were brought on to modify and distribute the questionnaire.  For the purposes of pilot testing, discussion questions related to the use of the tool and comprehension of the content were added.

Click here to learn more about Arounja.