The grants—totaling $600,000— have been awarded by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. They will fund University efforts to provide mental health services to young people, help women asylum seekers, and teach English language learners.
Fordham Provost Dennis Jacobs, Ph.D., said he’s grateful to the foundation for supporting the University’s work in the community.
“Fordham is deeply committed to applying its academic and programming expertise in partnership with organizations in the surrounding neighborhood to help address the most pressing needs within the Bronx community,” said Jacobs. “Through the generous support of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, Fordham is particularly focused on how it can assist those who have been most devastated by the interconnected crises of 2020.”
The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation provides grants to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable New Yorkers, aiming to eliminate barriers to care. The foundation’s values reflect Fordham’s mission and those of the organization’s namesake, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who was known during her lifetime as a staunch advocate for immigrants, children, and the poor. The foundation originated from the 2018 sale of Fidelis Care, a nonprofit health insurer run by the bishops of the Catholic dioceses of New York.
Virtual Mental Health Services
The first grant of $300,000 will support a virtual mental health program to be run by the Graduate School of Education called Clinical Mental Health Services in the Bronx Community. It will use telemental health services to reach at-risk students between the ages of 8 and 16. The program responds to the pandemic-related suspension of existing programs that Fordham delivered at schools and community organizations before the crisis began. Four cohorts of 25 students in need of help—whether from stress related to gun violence, racism, the pandemic, or other factors—will be assessed and receive therapy. The program will offer two 45-minute intensive sessions per week for the students. Anita Vazquez Batisti, Ph.D., associate dean for educational partnerships at GSE, helped facilitate the grant and GSE psychology professor Eric Chen, Ph.D., will direct the program.
Helping Women Asylum Seekers
A second grant of $150,000 will be used to help women asylum seekers in New York City gain access to much-needed mental health care. According to a 2020 report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, more than 79 million people are displaced worldwide, more than half are under the age of 18, and more than 50% are women. In 2019, there were 46,000 asylum seekers in New York City alone, said Associate Professor Marciana Popescu, Ph.D., of Graduate School of Social Services (GSS). Popescu has extensively researched the problem and will be directing the program with GSS Professor Dana Alonzo, Ph.D., a specialist in mental health treatment. With increasingly restrictive policies pushing asylum seekers to go underground, few attempt to access mental health care services, said Popescu. The pandemic has only made the situation worse—for asylum seekers in general, and for women in particular. The project aims to identify the challenges of these women and connect them to services that are within their rights.
English as a Second Language
An additional $150,000 will go toward expanding the Institute of American Language and Culture’s Community English as a Second Language Program (CESL). That grant follows a $116,000 grant awarded by the foundation in 2019. The program provides free ESL instruction primarily to adults in the Bronx in partnership with churches and other community organizations. The CESL program began in 2018 with financial support from the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, which has annually renewed funding, scoring the program’s attendance, educational gains, and program management as “above standard.” The Cabrini grant will help the initiative continue to grow. CESL serves more than 300 students and hopes to serve at least 500 a year by 2023. Institute director James Stabler-Havener will continue to direct the program with Jesús Aceves-Loza, who serves as the institute’s advisor for Latin America. In spite of the pandemic this year, students continued learning and instructors continued to teach virtually via apps and cell phones. In the coming year, the group plans to build on existing partnerships with community organizations and the city to offer citizenship courses as well. The growing initiative will also provide internship opportunities to underrepresented students at the University.