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‘Working together’ to take on poverty

140 discuss helping communities at annual faith-based breakfast
New York Teacher
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UFT President Michael Mulgrew addresses the group.

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Public Advocate Letitia James urges everyone to sign a petition for universal free lunch in the city’s public schools.

Partnership was the overarching theme of the fourth annual UFT faith-based breakfast on April 24, when about 140 clergy came to union headquarters to learn how they could partner with the union to help improve the lives of children.

Those in attendance weren’t surprised when UFT President Michael Mulgrew noted that half the families in New York City live in poverty.

“How do we mitigate some of the effects of poverty and its effect on education?” Mulgrew asked. “We can’t do it without working together.”

Mulgrew made note of some of the union’s programs that assist communities, such as its partnership with OneSight, a nonprofit that goes to schools to screen students for vision problems and provide eyeglasses for those who need them; the CookShop program that promotes healthy eating, co-sponsored by the Food Bank for New York City; and Dial-A-Teacher, which helps nearly 80,000 students and parents each year with homework help.

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Anthony Harmon, the union’s director for community and parent outreach, discusses what children deserve in schools.

“Those are the kinds of projects we’re looking to do more of,” Mulgrew said. He added that the UFT’s Community Learning Schools Initiative, which brings wraparound health services directly to students, offers an opportunity for partnerships with congregations that can help identify service providers and reach out to neighborhoods in need.

Karen Alford, the UFT vice president for elementary schools, spoke with clergy interested in learning more about the medical services delivered as part of the Community Learning Schools initiative, while Anne Goldman, the UFT vice president for non-Department of Education members, answered questions that participants had about starting charter schools.

Public Advocate Letitia James made a surprise appearance and urged the clergy to sign a petition for universal free lunch for all students in the city’s public schools. Many sought more information from James afterward.

Anthony Harmon, the UFT director for community and parent outreach who organized the event, said he was heartened by the give-and-take.

“All questions were met with honest dialogue, and the audience walked away with a better understanding of the work of the UFT and our positions,” he said.