Toolbox: From the Field

Literacy and Service Learning

Comic Book Project Award winners: 3 smiling bots hold their original art comic
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New Settlement Apartments’ Bronx Helpers program is an academic enrichment, leadership and community service program for middle and high school youth with the aim to support the overall well-being of young people in the Bronx. The program empowers youth to be part of positive community change through project based learning.  Bronx Helpers learn about and address social issues through a variety of literacy and leadership activities that allow them to explore their own strengths and interests.

In Spring 2014 the middle school groups focused on bullying.  This was an issue of concern because of its potential impact on each of them and on the community.

New Settlement's Bronx Helpers

New Settlement’s Bronx Helpers visited the Society of Illustrators’ Exhibit as part of our work on the Comic Book Project. Here, two youth write their thoughts about a particular piece of artwork. Youth shared varied responses to the pieces that stood out to them the most – they saw images which made them laugh; inspired them to continue their community work; and gave them ideas for their comic books.

The Bronx Helpers learned ways to identify, prevent and respond to bullying.  They learned about Restorative Justice practices as a therapeutic response to bullying and what to do to be an Upstander; someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right..  They conducted research on bullying at the New York Public library and in their schools.  They shed light on the issue through creating comic books as writers and illustrators with the Comic Book Project.

Bronx Helpers has a community service component, and Bronx Helpers prepared a brochure, a presentation and a video in their effort to raise community awareness about bullying.  Their community presentations took place with parents of New Settlement’s Multi-Cultural After School Program and with children of New Settlement’s After School Program at PS 64.  Their messages were clear and well-received by both audiences.  Their video can be viewed at

Vanessa and the C-Squad

A page of 6th grade Bronx Helper, Elvira’s, publication, Vanessa And The C-Squad.

Each of these activities tapped into Bronx Helpers’ skills and interests while building literacy skills.  Integration of the arts was a collaborative, enjoyable and safe way to increase verbal and comprehension skills of the English Language Learners in the program.  Bronx Helpers had to research, analyze and organize the information on the topic of bullying while remaining close to their central idea of raising awareness in an effort to prevent it. We were so proud of Bronx Helpers and more importantly, they were very proud of themselves!

Jennifer Classon has been the Director of New Settlement’s Bronx Helpers since 2007.  Education and youth voice are two key elements of the program that allow young people who are active in the program to learn and practice healthy ways to advocate for themselves. Jennifer works collaboratively with the Bronx Helpers program staff to integrate these elements into all aspects of their programming. For more information about New Settlement’s Bronx Helpers programming, contact


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