In her native Puerto Rico and her current home, New York City, Helena Yordan has spent her entire adult life working to improve the lives of children. As Site Coordinator for the Coalition for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF) afterschool program at PS/MS 279 in the Bronx, Helena designs and implements a program that offers 250 students in kindergarten through 8th grade homework help, literacy activities, sports/recreation, community service, and arts and cultural programs. For seven years, she has encouraged the young people in her program to look beyond their neighborhoods to the world beyond, using innovative strategies and curricula to introduce her students to global cultures.
Integrating school day learning with such engaging pursuits as Afro-Caribbean dance, comic book creation, choral music, and more, is a hallmark of Ms. Yordan’s vision for afterschool. This vision resulted in her program being named one of the ten highest performing afterschool programs in the city for 2005 by Policy Studies Associates, based on changes in students’ achievement on New York’s statewide mathematics and English Language Arts tests.
Ms. Yordan’s trademark predominance of arts and cultural activities brings academics alive for young people, using percussion, visual arts, storytelling, and dance. Partnerships with organizations including Putumayo World Music, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Hall of Science open new worlds for youth. An active participant in the Bronx community, Ms. Yordan is part of the School Cabinet Members and the TASC Advisory Committee.
A model of fairness, dedication, and hard work, Ms. Yordan entertains a continuous stream of student visitors looking for advice, to share an accomplishment, or just for a hug. Her connection with young people, particularly those who have literally grown up with her from first grade through eighth, is clear and tangible. Every day, Helena reminds her students that the sky is the limit when they’re willing to work for their dreams.