2016 Spring Gala Speaker Remarks
Tuesday May 24, 2016
Vladimir “Prince” Baron
Former Museum Educator
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan changed my life. I applied to work at the Museum on Christmas Eve, 2006 and started two days later. I was 19 and never looked back. May 21st I turned 29. That’s a decade. Those were crucial years.
When I started working, I didn't have any parents. My aunt did a great job raising me but I always felt like “why me?” The Museum provided me with the family and love I desired and much more. The Museum was my support when my best friend was murdered in 2008. That was one of the hardest times of my life.
Throughout my years at the Museum, I was able to build thousands of relationships. From Momma Carmen at the front desk who made sure I ate, to the visitors who raised their kids at the Museum. I enjoyed one-on-one connections with them all. Over time, families would share their children’s successes – from learning their letters to getting into good schools. For many, our efforts offered a foundation for their excellence.
I discovered I could contribute to the future by working with kids. And in reality, that’s what we do every day. We encourage discovery which contributes to the future. Our programs engage kids with knowledge, creativity and fun. Our exhibits immerse children in new worlds, new cultures and offer new possibilities. When I started, we were doing simple projects. Today we do elaborate, meaningful work that introduces children to the arts, the sciences and the wonders of our world.
The programs in public housing were closest to my heart. Using art to teach kids about healthy lifestyles works! Many parents have told me their kids tell them not to drink soda. If you saw our sugar demonstration you would understand. Their kids encourage them to eat vegetables and drink water instead because it makes you strong like a super hero. Kids soak up information and bring it home. Going to the public housing programs taught me values and respect.
Andy was right when he said the museum is powered by fun. I don’t have time to tell you about the fun I had. My favorite moments were circle time when we’d gather the children to sing, dance, and read stories. It was great to hear "Prince, you are the best."
With the Museum’s support, I finished college, but I swear, everything I learned was at the Museum. Whether it was about table etiquette or Japanese culture, Ancient Greece, or early childhood education, I could go on and on.
The hardest decision I’ve ever made was to leave the safety and support of the Museum. After 10 years of growing, learning and cultivating meaningful values, this April I left to make a better future for myself in real estate. I am so very grateful for all I learned from my friends and my family at the Children’s Museum. I am proud and honored that my work contributed to the future of so many children. It’s an incredible place.
Thank you for supporting this extraordinary institution and for contributing to the future.
Former participant in the Children’s Museum’s Writing Program for teen moms which became the Museum’s Shelter Program
Good evening, everyone. I’d like to share a story with you all. At the tender age of sixteen, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl I named Chasity.
I’ve always been blessed to have the loving support of my family but sometimes you need a little more. I was in the first group of mothers in a program for teen moms that started at the Museum in 1994.
I wasn’t sure about committing to the program because I was tough, immature and I didn’t trust easily. At 16 I had a tiny new person that I was responsible for but I was just a child myself. However, after the first meeting at the Museum where we talked and wrote poems about our experiences, I realized that the staff at the Museum genuinely cared about us and was willing to support us without any judgment.
I felt safe at the museum. It became a place where I could kind of be a kid again while still being a mom. The program allowed me to express my fears, stress, laugh, cry. And, now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that it was much needed therapy!
The Children’s Museum changed my life. It offered lessons about how important education is, not only for me but for Chasity. I remember one educator Leslie, who’s here tonight, reading to Chasity with so much exaggerated emotions. Chasity loved it. So, I continued to read to her every night, mimicking what I’d heard from Leslie.
The writing session and group talks gave me comfort and unconditional support which formed an unbreakable bond between me and the other teen moms. Even today, 22 years later, there’s still a strong sisterhood between us all.
Today at the Museum under the direction of Board Member Judith Hannan the writing continues. I’d like to read a poem from Hope Came Here, the Museum’s recent publication of poetry by women living in New York City shelters.
She’s been through hard times
And still she stands,
She may stand alone,
But don’t be fooled.
She’s still here, strong
She has loved and lost,
Has seen death before her very eyes.
A mother, a daughter,
A woman standing tall.
And now, I’d like to introduce you to my daughter Chasity who is here tonight. She was the first grandchild to graduate from college and is now a pharmacy technician, working on her Masters in Mental Health counselling at John Jay College. Chastity, please stand up. The Museum’s program has had a long term impact on how I’ve lived my life and even how my wonderful daughters are living theirs. Chastity and I are just two examples of thousands of children and families who have been touched by the Museum’s programs.
Thank you, Children’s Museum. And thanks to all of you for supporting this amazing institution and its amazing programs!