Monique Flores and Sairalyn Ansano are, to say the least, excited to see their new site blossom this year. Cornerstone Community Center at Campos Plaza, located in the Stuyvesant neighborhood on 13th Street, is still in its early phases but is already building friends in the neighborhood.
Monique joined US in 2000 as the director of the Beacon and 21st Century Program, which focuses on youth development and teen activities. Beacon's programming runs the gamut, from academic assistance to physical activities, to art. At Campos Plaza, Monique's team will introduce many of the same programs and activities, but along a wider spectrum with the expertise of Sairalyn Ansano, the new Site Director and former Beacon Coordinator. Ms. Ansano plans to infuse the new community center with a common theme of making a change – providing resources so others can make changes for themselves and for the betterment of their community.
"We want the community to feel that this new center is an extension of their home," Monique noted warmly. "It's what I love. We've had such a positive experience already with the community, with the neighbors." These bonds are exactly what Monique hopes to foster with Campos Plaza's efforts, as well as a sense of ownership of their neighborhood. Part of this sense of ownership is already being employed, as teens and community members will be involved in the beautification of the center. "They'll be painting murals, making mosaics and updating the children's garden," Sairalyn added excitedly. "I am looking forward to bringing my art therapy background and passion for youth development, and to showing our community that we're here for them."
Looking ahead, Sairalyn and Monique are ready for a busy year. As more children, youth and adults come, they are hoping to provide entrepreneurial training that – when coupled with arts programming – can provide additional income and a source of pride for the community. Together they envision skill sets in marketing and business for teens, jewelry and ceramics for sale and, perhaps one day, a café with food made by future cooking programs. Most important of all, though, is to create a similar environment to the one Monique and her team have cultivated at the Beacon for the past 14 years: "It's all about the love. We want that same culture at our new community center."