The programs offered at the library have guided us. It has been two years since the kids started reading books in English, enjoying the activities at the library and sharing their knowledge with their friends back home. It has given them the confidence to continue learning and to be open to others.                

Samika’s a very bright and energetic 6th grader, who lives with her mother, step-father, and much older siblings. Earlier this year, the family’s main source of income was lost due to an employer-imposed workforce reduction that also coincided with an injury suffered by Samika’s mother. As a result, they could no longer afford rent, and became homeless. Separated from the rest of the family, Samika and her mother moved into a rooming house where they slept on one air mattresses, with all of their belongings close by, in a plastic bag, to keep them from being stolen.

Samika’s Professional Mentor or “Friend” from the Friends of the Children, was on hand throughout the ordeal because of the organization’s ability to follow its Achievers no matter what or where and be involved in every facet of their lives.  Samika’s Friend was not only able to be there for Samika, she also was able to help Samika’s mother find housing, all while providing basic necessities and social emotional support to Samika while she was in transition.

Samika knew her Friend was doing everything possible to help reunite and stabilize her family. It took over 7 months, and the family is back together living in a great apartment. Importantly, throughout this very difficult situation, Samika stayed in school, kept up with her studies, and was able to enjoy her summer doing fun activities with her Friend.

Solar Car Alumni Shine

Children's Librarian: Svetlana Negrimovskaya

Brooklyn Public Library Thanks National Grid Foundation for its support of the 

Summer Reading Program.

​Read this mother’s testimony of how her children’s lives are transformed as they improve their reading skills.

Two years ago I came to New York from Lebanon with my husband and my twin children, Aya and Iwan. They were 6 years old at the time. English was their third language and they used to take class a few hours a week.

The first thing we located in our neighborhood was the library. With the help of a wonderful librarian team, the kids quickly felt at home and loved the place.

The librarians helped us choose books and the kids started reading in English. It was hard at the beginning but with the help of the variety of programs my kids were excited to come to the library, read and play.

We left New York for home in early 2017 but came back in June for a two month visit. The first thing the kids asked was, “Can we go to the library, please, please, pleaaaase?” This time they were more confident to choose the books they liked.

The librarian told me about the Summer Reading program and the kids once again were excited to take part.

True Life Story:

2017 True Life Story:

​Samika*: An Achiever at Friend of the Children, Boston

By Christine Berardi
The true testament to the importance of an educational program is how participants use the information or skills they learned to improve their lives. A first-person testimony of that transformation also highlights the significance of the program. Helen Keller Services for the Blind’s College Bound and Beyond Program guides students with low vision and vision loss on an avenue for college and the future.
Beginning in December 2020, Helen Keller established a new SAT preparatory and college readiness program for Brooklyn-based high school students with vision loss. College Bound and Beyond enables students to learn critical SAT test-taking skills via braille, large print, text-to-talk and audio systems to earn higher scores. In addition to SAT prep courses for 11th and 12th graders, the program offers 9th and 10th graders a transition program that equips them with the skills needed to succeed in high school and provides a framework on the road to college.
The program already has glowing reviews from students. Cindy Liu, a visually impaired rising senior at LaGuardia High School in New York City, has participated in the program and realized results.
“I enrolled in the SAT program at Helen Keller Services for the Blind last year and saw tremendous changes to my SAT score. We would meet individually with instructors for an hour and a half weekly, and 2 hours with the class. The individualized work helped me pinpoint areas that I would often get wrong. This helped strengthen my score overall,” said Cindy.

Cindy LiuSenior

LaGuardia High School in New York City

Angelo Cardinale

I am a current third-year Computer Engineering student at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Originally, I planned to be a civil engineer, however, after working on the Green Technology Club Corp’s solar car team I gained a new love for wiring and electronics. This led to me changing my major to computer engineering with a focus on hardware development. During my time on the Staten Island solar car team, I served as a co-captain which helped me develop leadership experience that greatly helped during my summer internships. The most important skills I learned at the time were project management and quality assurance.

To enter the Solar Car challenge race in Texas, we had a strict deadline to have the car completed. Over the course of the year, we made plans and managed to completely rewire the battery and solar systems of the car. Without proper planning, this would have not been possible.

When it comes to quality assurance, as a captain and a driver of the car, one of the biggest factors I needed to investigate was safety and standards. The car needed to be safe enough to drive on an actual NASCAR track or it could not enter the race. For this reason, the Solar Car Challenge had very strict standards each team must meet to participate.

By working towards these standards, I learned the importance of quality assurance (QA) and picked up the skills to do it properly. These skills helped me in my QA role at my job for the last two years. Without my experience on the Staten Island Solar car team, I may have never gotten this job and would probably still be following the path of a civil engineer. From time to time, I still visit and advise the team back on Staten Island in the hope that new members can get as much out of the team as I have.


“It was hard for me to read big books. Mom and the librarian helped me. I got the idea to draw a summary and later write about it. After that I started reading and reading alone. It is fun doing all the categories [on the Summer Reading game board]. I volunteered, invented a doll and music instrument, wrote songs and played.”

“I enrolled in the SAT program at Helen Keller Services for the Blind last year and saw tremendous changes to my SAT score. We would meet individually with instructors for an hour and a half weekly, and 2 hours with the class. The individualized work helped me pinpoint areas that I would often get wrong. This helped strengthen my score overall,”


“I love reading, playing with the computers, doing arts and crafts, and building with Legos. The first summary I prepared for the reading competition was so hard but when I continued reading and doing summaries it became easier and faster. I loved the invention category and I enjoyed sharing with others and getting likes 

​[on the Beanstack website].” 

In Memoriam  Donald H. Elliott

Alijah could have cared less about his future, but through the support of his mother, and unexpectedly meeting the President of Schenectady County Community College, his life was transformed. Alijah made the decision to SHOW UP! and successfully passed his GED, is enrolled as a college student at SCCC, and presents his story and the impact of YouthBuild at SEAT Center sponsored events. As Alijah stated, “I just want to thank my mom for pushing me to finish school and for being that inspiration in my life and showing me that it’s never too late to be successful. I want to thank the staff at SEAT for helping me realize the potential I never thought I had. Last, but not least, I want to thank my cycle. While I know we didn’t always see eye to eye, you all showed me the true meaning of family and for that I just want to acknowledge, WE DID IT!”

Greetings, my name is Mandy Chen from the Staten Island Solar Car Team.

I want to share the eye opening experience I had with the club, its members, and with the Solar Car Challenge. I joined the team in my freshman year of high school with absolutely no knowledge on cars nor technical activities. Terms like soldering, schematics, and circuits were all unfamiliar to me in March of 2021. In June of 2021, I was at the closed-track race event at the Texas Motor Speedway watching the solar car take off. I took on the role of trailering, flagging, and handling the aux batteries within the solar car. I even had the opportunity to create my own schematic of the main battery system within the solar car. Did I mention I pumped my first tire at the Solar Car club?

What started as a spark of curiosity ended in a new pathway of engineering and a secondary family. I have learned so much within the span of a few months on the Staten Island Solar Car Team and I hope to spend the remaining years of my high school career a part of the team as well. This experience was truly one I could not have imagined and it has impacted me so much as a timid high schooler afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.

So, I want to personally thank you for your sponsorship and contribution to our team.

Michael DiGregorio

I was the captain of the Stevens Solar Car Team from 2016 to 2017.

Before joining the team, I was torn between two paths - Engineering and Business. In fact, I was so undecided I split my college applications between Engineering and Business schools. Once I was exposed to the rigors of truly working on an engineering project and was able to experience the dynamic atmosphere, high-stakes troubleshooting, and exciting technical challenges that came with the domain, I knew I wanted to be an engineer.

Once in college, my time on the team also helped me solidify which projects I wanted to work on. For example, last summer I began research regarding autonomous vehicle navigation - a choice inspired by my passion for pushing the boundaries of vehicle technology, and a love of electronics.

Lastly, being on the solar car team helped me tremendously in my professional career. Thanks to my time on the team, I have been extremely successful with job interviews.

Mr. Dazzo taught me and my teammates how to carry ourselves in front of cameras and crowds. He taught us how to communicate advanced technical details to those with no experience in the field. And he taught us to have confidence in our abilities and in our work - that even a group of 16-year old students can build a solar powered car.

My time on the team was integral in shaping who I am, and my accomplishments with the team remain some of my proudest. The people I met at races and events have stayed with me, and some continue to guide me to this day. Anything you can do to ensure the continuity and growth of the Staten Island Solar Car Team / Green Technology Club would help inspire engineers for generations to come.

Angelo Cardinale and Michael DiGregorio are two Staten Island students who participated on Green Technology Club Corp.’s Solar Car Challenge team a few years ago. Due to working on the solar car team, both realized their passion and are now studying at Stevens Institute of Technology located in Hoboken, New Jersey. National Grid Foundation supports Green Technology Club Corp. as it furthers the pursuit of learning, passing along knowledge and learning technical and interpersonal skills.

Angelo and Michael provided brief accounts of their time on the team.

Branch: Sheepshead Bay

Helen Keller Services’ College Bound and Beyond Preps Students for Future

Ray Lewis learned some hard lessons very early in life. Born in Manhattan and raised in a single family household, at the age of 13, Ray’s life changed dramatically. Due to a fight one evening, Ray was sentenced to five years in a residential lock up facility. His brother had been incarcerated as well and Ray soon learned that this was the life that he was meant to live. When Ray turned 18, he participated in a 20-week Energy Warriors Course provided through a partnership with the Office of Children and Family Services, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and the SEAT Center. Energy Warriors gave him insight into weatherization and energy efficiency practices. As he became eligible to leave the residential facility, Ray transitioned to the city of Schenectady and began college at Schenectady County Community College, working on a degree in Business Administration. Making the transition to Schenectady was manageable with the knowledge that he has the ongoing support of SEAT Center. He currently receives support with employment, tutoring and mentoring and knows that he has a family at SEAT who believes in him and is there to support him.

​​Former National Grid Foundation Board of Director Donald H. Elliott passed away at the age of 89 last December,  2021. The Foundation board and staff valued his dedication and years of service.

Don served on National Grid’s predecessor company Brooklyn Union Gas Company’s board of directors and later as KeySpan Energy’s longest serving director. He also was very involved in the renaissance of downtown Brooklyn.

He was an attorney who specialized in land use regulation and real estate finance. While nationally known as a titan in the industry, Don crafted many regulations achieving private investments while protecting public values.

Shawnyce dreamed of being a health care provider and when she came to SEAT, she had no idea how this dream would become a reality! Shawnyce successfully completed the YouthBuild program, although she continues to work hard to pass her GED exam. She completed a successful internship at Mohawk Ambulance Services, and the staff loved her work ethic and positive attitude! Rather than waiting for her to pass the GED exam, they decided to hire her immediately as an Administrative Assistant and the entire team surprised her and attended her YouthBuild graduation! They believe in her goals and dreams and are a top workforce partner for the SEAT Center.

Visit Brooklyn Public Library to find out more about the Summer Reading Program.          

ANSWER:Yes, when their students make life-changing decisions about their education and future careers because of what they have learned in school. Important lessons are taught every day in class and in extra-curricular activities.

Continuing she added, “Moreover, the instructors are very flexible with their schedules, making group and individual meetings very easy to manage. There are also accommodations available for those who use text-to-talk programs and are visually impaired. The course thoroughly covers the topics on the exam, starting from basic functions to more difficult ones. I took my first SAT in April, nearing the end of the program, and got 1450, a score I am quite content with. I highly recommend this program to anyone hoping to make significant progress in their SAT score.”
Helen Keller Services for the Blind’s instructors and administrators also are pleased with the program and student results.
“The program is proving to be extremely helpful to students,” said Kandyce Turner, Director of Youth Services, Helen Keller Services for the Blind. “Many schools do not have a prep course. Our program fills that gap providing the needed services for students. We provide study aids, test-taking strategies, and support for all students with low vision or vision loss.
“Helen Keller Services for the Blind’s College Bound and Beyond prepares students for future success. They learn to be independent, study and take the SATs, get into and graduate college, and prepare for work and their future,” said Turner.
For the past year, students and instructors met virtually. That all changed in March when they met in person for the first time since the pandemic to continue their studies. A bright future awaits students thanks to Helen Keller Services for the Blind.

“Whenever I went to a library as a child, I never borrowed a book. I was more interested in exploring the library than actually reading books. I grew up with the idea that a library was just a weirdly quiet ocean filled with waves of books. I honestly did not know what to think when I signed up to volunteer at the Sheepshead Bay Library two years ago.

However, what I saw was not a place of gloom and boredom, it was a place of culture and love. What I never expected to see was a loving community of staff, volunteers, teens, children, toddlers, SYEP participants, program participants and patrons. I am so happy that I get the opportunity to work at Sheepshead Bay Library again. I was surprised to see the many exciting, informational, and cultural programs and events for everyone in the community. Everyday I come to the library to join other teens for summer reading, I see kids enjoying their books and pleading their parents for five more minutes. I see children eating the free lunches and writing book reviews for the Summer Reading program. I see the staff and patrons interacting through the many programs and activities that we have. Everyday, I see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

Summer Reading 2018 really changed my life. I usually never read in the summer. However, because of the Summer Reading 2018 program provided by Brooklyn Public Library and Beanstack, I found myself reading more than I ever had before. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the books and wanting to read more. I was also extremely excited to share my reading experience on Beanstack.

I would like to thank everyone at Sheepshead Bay Library for being so accepting  and so friendly. I hope that this library will continue to prosper and grow and that the community will forever be so lively and lovely.” – Peggie Liang, age 17​

Archived  true life stories

*name changed to protect the identity of the Achiever

As an attorney, he worked at several legal firms including Butzel Long, as a partner of Webster & Sheffield, Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon and Hollyer Brady Smith & Hines.

Eileen Cohen, Chair, National Grid Foundation, said, “The Board and I are saddened to learn of Don’s passing. He was a special person who believed in the Foundation’s mission to create stronger communities for all.” 

In addition to National Grid Foundation, he had served on several boards including Long Island University, WNET/Channel 13, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the New York City Hospital Corporation.

Don was also Counsel to New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay before becoming the Chairman of the New York City Planning Commission. As a visionary master planner, he took a different route than some of his contemporaries – implemented creative plans, sought, and involved the public in decision making and insisted on specific guidelines for the best urban designs. Through legal work and using the planning potential of development rights transfer, Don truly changed the landscape of New York City. During his seven years at the Planning Commission, his important and far-reaching zoning innovations influenced land use regulation across the country.

QUESTION: Do teachers ever know they have made a difference in students’ lives?