This Tragedy Open A New Door
Matilda Raffa Cuomo and Deborah E. Lans
the horrible events of September 11 and its aftermath have shown
us, when most deeply challenged, New Yorkers put aside their politics,
agendas and divisiveness to come together and at great sacrifice
to help others with extraordinary courage, selflessness, generosity,
skill and inventiveness. In the same unity of spirit, we now have
an opportunity to find ways to compromise the divisions and grievances
that have impeded progress in the most important institution in
the City–its public school system.
Education reform and the financial needs of our system have been
at the top of the list of our priorities for some time. Our immediate
need to rebuild the downtown area and affected New York industries
is critical, but so is the need to educate our youth. The drastic
funding cuts implemented earlier this year must be reexamined,
and spending for building repair, educational improvement, after-school
enrichment and academic supplements must be made a current priority.
A child whose education is shortchanged this year may never catch
Mentoring USA will make changes to accommodate recent events.
Our essential focus will remain to provide trained and individual
adult support to youth living in high-risk environments. We are
accelerating programs to teach non-violent techniques for conflict
resolution and ways to address the experiences of grief, loss,
death and uncertainty. While these workshops will be more widely
presented than originally planned, they will always be an important
part of the training for urban youth workers, including volunteers.
In October, we will host a workshop at our offices on “The Hard
Questions: How to Listen and What to Say to Children,” facilitated
by a family psychoanalyst. Follow-up workshops will continue at
mentoring sites this Fall and Winter, in addition to our regular
monthly Speaker Series and Supportive Mentor Meetings.
Finally, because tragic losses spawn anger as well as fear and
grief, Mentoring USA will be heightening our work in the areas
of tolerance and non-violent conflict resolution. Last Fall, we
introduced our BRAVE (Bias-Related Anti-Violence Education) program,
offering non-violent ways to resolve disputes. We will reinforce
and enlarge those programs this year.
HELP USA, Mentoring’s affiliate, organized its resources toward
the many New Yorkers who are feeling traumatized and shaken. “New
Yorkers Share,” a drop-in support center for New Yorkers to share
their stories and concerns, was the result. The Center, located
in the intimate community space of HELP’s Genesis RFK apartment
building, served approximately 200 “walk-ins” in its first week
alone. In addition, Genesis RFK vacated apartments have provided
shelter for rescue and emergency workers.
We cannot turn the clock back to undo the events that have irreparably
changed our City and which we will never forget. Americans can
and must use their energy, skill and heart to repair not only
the physical damage done but also the emotional harm. For the
sake of our children’s futures, we must reaffirm our most precious
values and goals and work to bring peace to our world.#
Cuomo is the Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA and Deborah
Lans is the Executive Director.
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