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Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a dozen of New York’s brightest — and smallest — stars used the opportunity to set a stunning example of the power of young minds and talents. Their viral rise in visibility offered a timely reminder that children are bursting with bright potential and deserve the opportunity to shine.

Taking the message national

Haven Kids Rock, a group of musically talented children from a charter school in the South Bronx, have had an exciting year so far. First, they starred in a musical commercial for the New York Lottery, singing Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend” in an epic scene inside a New York convenience store.

Then, on April 23, they went before a national audience and performed the song on NBC’s Today Show. The show’s hosting duo, Kathie Lee and Hoda, introduced the young singers and their local claim to fame before they performed against animated backdrops of floating balloons.

For the finale, two of the smallest boys broke out into break-dancing moves and poses atop the spinning white stars of the studio’s dramatically lit stage floor.

Culture in the schoolroom

The members of Haven Kids Rock learn voice and performance technique, as well as songwriting, in their school’s weekly music program. Thanks to the resources and support of The New York Foundling, these children have benefited enormously from the transformative powers of creative education.

They all attend Mott Haven Academy Charter School, a one-of-a-kind school where more than half the student body is in the state’s child welfare “system.” Students at Mott Haven Academy also get easy access to social services that pave the way for their creative and academic success.

Many of the 232 children who currently attend the school have had to conquer pretty bleak circumstances to start thriving as students. Poor nutrition, poor or no access to health care, abusive families, incarcerated parents, and neglect all have negative impacts on a child’s opportunities, and The New York Foundling understands that.

How to make it work

Social workers, nutritionists, and even health care workers collaborate with the school’s faculty and administrators to provide the support that each child needs to overcome the odds and tap into their full potential. For the members of Haven Kids Rock, who continued their national performance tour with a rendition of Katy Perry’s resilient battle song “Roar,” the school’s resources are already working.

Child abuse and other threats almost never go away completely for the youngest residents of at-risk communities; security requires support on a larger scale. However, as long as young talents receive the right amounts of encouragement and guidance, they can defy even their own young ages and skyrocket to early success.

The New York Foundling offers invaluable tips for preventing child abuse and increasing awareness of the problem, which still plagues thousands of families and often goes undetected. For example, neighbors should make an effort to communicate with one another on a regular basis.

This fosters an atmosphere of community support and camaraderie that can be life-saving, because more concerned eyes notice every child and lessen the chances that a serious problem will be ignored. Parents should also remember to ask their children how they are doing and to maintain a trusting relationship, in case there’s something they know about a friend or neighbor.

 

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