Wednesday, June 21, 2017

UPNEXT and Education

At UpNext, we understand the crucial role education has in workforce readiness. We partner with Harlem Center for Education (HCE) to provide fathers access to vocational or higher education opportunities, aligned with their interests and goals. Every program cycle, a facilitator from Harlem Center for Education leads a workshop that covers educational options for non-traditional students. 

HCE workshops provide information on GED testing, college enrollment, and the benefits of higher education in the job market. The facilitator also reviews the difference between community colleges and 4-year colleges, and ways to explore both options as a working adult. The workshop also provides valuable information regarding financial aid, college credits, and certificate programs in college.

HCE’s  workshops present fathers with an opportunity to pursue higher education and increase employability through it. By the end of the workshop, many participants decide to return to school to incorporate education into their paths to success.

UpNext would like to thank Harlem Center for Education for their help in bridging the gap between our fathers and higher education. The Harlem Center for Education is located at 1 E 104th St #382, New York, NY 10029. Their website is Check them out!  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

UpNext Fathers March For Denim Day

UpNext father interviewed by local news 
In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, UpNext fathers attended a workshop and march in support of Denim Day, an annual international sexual violence prevention and education campaign. Denim Day occurs every year on April 26th

The  New York City of Department of Youth and Community Development’s Fatherhood Initiative partnered with The Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence to bring fathers from its programs to attend a workshop on sexual violence. Members of New York City Healthy Relationship Training Academy, a training institute developed by the Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence, facilitated the workshop. The workshop addressed issues around consent between partners and sexual and domestic violence. The fathers learned the importance of advocacy for sexual assault victims, and how awareness around these topics can build healthy relationships. 

Fathers hold posters in solidarity  
After UpNext fathers engaged fathers from other organizations. UpNext fathers used their experiences, and the lessons learned through the UpNext program to provide younger fathers with advice on manhood and fatherhood. 

The day concluded with a march on City Hall, where our fathers held their posters high and shouted in support of sexual violence victims.

For more information on Denim Day and resources on sexual assault awareness visit:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fatherhood & Breastfeeding

Since 2014, UpNext has partnered with the Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ), a program of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to provide a workshop during every 6-week program cycle. The BFEZ workshop educates our participants on the importance of breastfeeding and its impact on the health and development of infants. Breastfeeding has many short and long-term health benefits for babies and mothers, including a reduction in infectious diseases and mortality during infancy, improved bonding, and maternal postpartum weight loss. 

UpNext fathers participating in BFEZ workshops will also learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and how they can be supportive of their partner post-partum. The BFEZ facilitator also explains the barriers to breastfeeding- socioeconomic status, lack of education, cultural restrictions, etc.- and provides strategies on how to start or continue breastfeeding despite these barriers. The workshops conclude with a question and answer segment as well as time for discussion with the participating fathers. 

BFEZ gives our fathers valuable resources to use so they can support the co-parent in breastfeeding. Understanding the importance of breastfeeding will help our dads strengthen their approach to health and parenting. 

The Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone is a community-based initiative to make breastfeeding the norm North/ Central Brooklyn. Male partners play a critical role in infant feeding decision-making. By providing opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring, the BFEZ helps males in the community take an active role in creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment for families. The BFEZ is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is part of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Brooklyn Neighborhood Health Action Center. 

We thank Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone for their partnership and look forward to more of their programming!

Friday, December 30, 2016

UPNEXT and the Holidays!

UpNext was busy this holiday season! We began our celebration by hosting our annual Thanksgiving lunch for our current program participants and alumni. These events allow for current dad participants to engage with alumni who provide advice and share their post UpNext experience. UpNext staff and participants gathered around a decorated table to eat, laugh, and embrace one another. A special thank you to Balducci’s and the Corner CafĂ© for donating sides and a delicious turkey! Among our guests were UpNext alumni employed at Time Square Alliance, our transitional employment partner. These alumni shared their past experiences as UpNext participants, and how the program enabled them to develop the passion and diligence to succeed at Time Square Alliance. They encouraged our job-seeking fathers to remain patient, dedicated, and focused while participating at UpNext.  Although in the beginning, some fathers in the room were unfamiliar with one another, they all immediately developed bonds that reflected the true spirit of Thanksgiving. 

December soon came after and to close out the we also held our annual holiday party for UpNext dads, their co-parents, and children. A big special thank you to AT&T Northern NJ Leadership Team for donating toys for our UpNext children! The party was filled with good conversations and food!  After eating, the children participated in fun arts-and-crafts activities. Everyone in our room was festive and holiday-theme music gave the atmosphere a merry vibe. It was a wonderful feeling watching our fathers leave the party happy and in the comfort of their loved ones.

These parties and the smiles they brought to the faces of our fathers and their families remind us of the reason why our program matters. We at UpNext hope that our fathers spent a safe and memorable holiday season with their families. We also wish them and our readers, a Happy New Years!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Home for the Holidays: Supporting Preparing Incarcerated Fathers for Reentry

UPNEXT  is dedicated to transforming noncustodial fathers into active, financially supportive parents. Our services are not limited, however, only to fathers that walk into our offices. We have extended our services to include fathers incarcerated at Edgecombe and Queensboro Correctional Facilities. Incarceration inevitably decreases engagement with loved ones and frequently strains relationships between father and child(ren). By connecting with incarcerated fathers, we can prepare them for the difficult process of reintegrating into their children’s lives. 

In partnership with Edgecombe and Queensboro Correctional Facilities, UPNEXT staff facilitates a weekly transitional curriculum that encourages positive decision-making regarding family planning, parenting, and employment. The curriculum challenges negative, consequential thinking, and empowers fathers to make positive decisions in the interest of their children. The goal of these sessions is to encourage incarcerated fathers to recognize reckless thinking and decision-making by drawing connections between past actions and consequences. This is a crucial first step in helping fathers take responsibility, be accountable, and change how they think in order to make improvements in both their lives and their families’ lives.
Many fathers continue to refer to the lessons learned at through the UPNEXT curriculum even after their release. UPNEXT staff remains in contact with them, inviting them to join the 6-week program cycle or, if employed, commit to our individual work track. Several fathers have joined the program and subsequently have rehabilitated relationships with their children and other family members. One father accredited the sessions at Edgecombe as the reason for the bond he made with his son and co-parent, a task that he admitted he could not accomplish before enrolling at UPNEXT. His story, and other similar ones, inspire our work in these facilities. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Harry's Newfound Success Through UPNEXT

After his release from prison, Harry joined UPNEXT in a quest to improve both his and his daughter’s life. Harry’s determination led him to successfully complete our program and obtain employment at Time Square Alliance, a partner organization which employs our most qualified graduates. At the same time, he was rehabilitating his relationship with his daughter by helping her with school, playing with her and supporting her talents. Despite being on the right track, Harry was not satisfied. Harry lamented on the precious time he lost in prisons. He sought to push himself further to right his wrongs, and build a bright future for himself and his daughter. 

While at TSA, Harry worked long hours, covered shifts, and mentored new hires. Impressed with his work, his superiors offered to train him for an upcoming supervisory opportunity. Harry started seeing his daughter more. He took her out to eat, brought her to friendly family gatherings, and encouraged her succeed in school. Harry’s efforts to be a better father did not go unrecognized; and, after appealing to the courts,  he was awarded joint-custody of his daughter. To prepare for this responsibility, Harry budgeted and developed a financial plan with a counselor from Neighborhood Trust, another UPNEXT partner organization. With a sound financial foundation, Harry applied for, and secured, his own apartment in New Jersey. 
As things are looking up for Harry, he remains humble and diligent. He has arranged to have his daughter live with him next year. Since she is an aspiring scientist, he looks forward to taking her to science museums around the Tri-State area, and enjoying the father-daughter bonding time that he so longed for.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Networking and Professional Growth At UPNEXT

On July 28th, UPNEXT partnered with Christie's to host an event on networking, interview preparation and professional growth. 

The event kicked off with volunteers helping our fathers to develop their elevator pitches. This was a challenge for many of our fathers, as many of them lacked experience in succinctly introducing themselves and their skills. But while some of our guys showed hesitation, others were filled with excitement. After a few minutes of preparation and practice, our fathers were all ready to present their pitches. The presentations were great, and the fathers all received constructive  feedback from the volunteers. 

In the next activity, each father was asked to participate in a simulated panel interview with three volunteers.  Our fathers' strengths and weaknesses were highlighted by the volunteers. At the end of the panel interviews, our fathers were given notes with tips on mastering key interviewing skills such as posture, presentation, tone and content. 

After the exercises concluded, the fathers, staff and participants all gathered to enjoy delicious pizza. 
The fathers expressed their appreciation for the lessons learned, and many commented on how the event had inspired them to continue improving their approach to interviewing and networking.