Ground Truthing: Insights from the Ground Up

The ‘Ground Truthing’ podcast unites community voices from across Westchester County to discuss topics that impact children and families

Guests represent content experts, advocates and youth voices. The show will highlight bright spots and critically question existing policies and practices through data-informed conversations. Hosted by WCA Consultant, Erica Ayala.

Ground Truthing is a Westchester Children’s Association production. The show is edited by Eloise Sherrid. Original music is composed by Al Saniuk. ‘Ground Truthing’ podcast is available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google podcasts, and more.

Please share our podcast with the world using #WCApodcast! 


Season 3: Episode 1 – Marc Dones, National Innovation Services


We are excited to kick-off Season 3 of our ‘Ground Truthing’ podcast with an interview of our Advocacy Breakfast Keynote Speaker, Marc Dones.  Marc is the Executive Director of National Innovation Services and specializes in holding organizations accountable to bold, systematic solutions for complex problems.  Our guest is a social entrepreneur, policy strategist, and social justice activist with over ten years of experience in equitable systems transformation across local, state, and federal governmental systems. Dones has spoken at the White House and Harvard University and is currently based in the Greater New York City area. [Marc Dones’ pronouns: They, Them, Theirs] Host: Erica L. Ayala

Twitter @wca4kids  Follow us #WCAPodcast

Season Two: Episode 6 – Karen Blumenthal, Student Advocacy


In this episode, we chat with WCA Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Karen Blumenthal.  Karen has retired after 25 years working as a policy advocate at Student Advocacy. She has been at the forefront of the code of conduct conversations happening throughout the county. We break down the history of codes of conduct, districts diligently working to make less punitive school environments, and what still needs to change at the state level.  Karen also discusses the Cornell Blumenthal Internship, which she and her husband David created to promote paid internship opportunities in Westchester. Finally, Karen breaks down the status of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Solutions Not Suspensions and what we can do to support more positive and less punitive learning environments for all students.

Season Two: Episode 5 – Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Columnist, and Allison Lake, WCA Executive Director discuss Advocacy Through Storytelling

Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The New York Times since 2001. Over his career, Kristof has won two Pulitzer Prizes, along with many humanitarian awards. This year, he will receive the Edith C. Macy Award for Distinguished Service at the Westchester Children’s association Spring Benefit.

Ahead of our May 21st event honoring Kristof, he sat down with WCA executive director, Allison Lake, and Project Manager, Erica Ayala, to chat about his work, various policy issues impacting Westchester County’s children, and the relationship between advocacy and journalism. We discovered we both are in the business of changing minds. Kristof and Lake discuss our societal default to rally behind one spectacular story while ignoring the decaying infrastructures that create child homelessness and other social and economic issues.

The conversation begins and ends with the subheading of a recent Kristof op-ed Overcoming life’s basic truth: Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Twitter @wca4kids  Follow us #WCAPodcast

Season Two: Episode 4 – John Tolomer, Westchester Bank Getting Westchester Youth ‘READI’


This month, our guest is John Tolomer, President and CEO of Westchester Bank. John has 40 years of experience in the banking industry and it all started with an internship. We’ll hear more about John’s first banking experience later in the show.

Since then, John has focused on paying it forward! In 2016, Westchester Bank became a key funder of the READI Campaign, a job readiness program for youth entering the workforce. We also discuss how Westchester Bank diversifies its community efforts by engaging its employees.

Season Two: Episode 2 (Part II) – Dr. Jim Bostic, Yonkers MBK Building Community through Collaboration

Dr. Bostic is the co-chair of the Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper initiative, one of 10 MBK communities recognized by the Obama Foundation as a National Impact Community, the highest tier of the first-ever MBK Community Challenge Competition.

We present the second installment of a two-part interview with Dr. Jim Bostic, executive director of the Nepperhan Community Center and the co-chair of the Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper initiative.  The Yonkers MBK community was one of 10 programs recognized by the Obama Foundation as a National Impact Community, the highest tier of the first-ever MBK Community Challenge Competition. Overall, 19 organizations across 10 states and Puerto Rico were recognized.

Season Two: Episode 2 (Part I) – Dr. Jim Bostic, Yonkers MBK Building Community through Collaboration

Dr. Bostic is the co-chair of the Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper initiative, one of 10 MBK communities recognized by the Obama Foundation as a National Impact Community, the highest tier of the first-ever MBK Community Challenge Competition.

In Part I of this two-part interview, Dr. Bostic talks about the Yonkers MBK initiative and its impact on the fourth largest city in New York State. A lot of the success of the MBK model in Yonkers comes from collaboration.

From the Yonkers School District to other MBK Communities in Westchester County, Dr. Bostic strongly believes it takes many organizations working together to create a better Yonkers for boys and men, especially young men of color.

In this episode, we also hear from MBK leaders from across Westchester County. This audio was taken from the Lower Hudson Valley My Brothers Keeper Alliance Youth Leadership Summit promotional video. The first-ever MBK Alliance Summit took place on October 25, 2018 at the Westchester County Center. The video was produced by Jamon Lewis, Steven Lewis, and the Greenburgh Central School District.

To watch the full video clip, visit the Greenburgh CSD YouTube page.

To learn more about the Yonkers MBK initiative, visit the Yonkers Public Schools website.

To learn more about the Ground Truthing podcast, visit the WCA website.

Ground Truthing is a Westchester Children’s Association production. The show is edited by Eloise Sherrid. Original music is composed by Al Saniuk.

Season Two: Episode 2 – Flipping the Script on Vote for Kids

In 2013, the Westchester Children’s Association launched the Vote for Kids campaign that aims to elevate Westchester’s children and youth to the top of the public agenda among candidates, elected officials, media and the general public during the upcoming elections.

Vote for Kids provides tools to help child advocates, parents, caretakers or community members – keep children’s issues at the forefront of this election cycle. In the past, the campaign has reached out to politicians, asking how they will put children and families first. However, this year we put local student at the forefront.

In a meeting at Berkley College on September 27, we spoke with 16 students between the ages of 14 and 17 who participate in the White Plains Youth Court. They told us what they like about their local communities, what needs to be improved, and what they wish politicians would speak about more often.

Overall, the students implored politicians and other adults to listen to them and their peers. Much like Ever Mack at the March For Our Lives rally, the students were eager to fight the stereotypes of their generation being uninterested or incapable of adding to political discourse.

“They need to hear our voices more,” said Chelsea from White Plains during our group conversation. “Our voices should be heard and something should be done about what we’re asking for, especially if it’s repetitive.”

Episode 6: Season Finale – Local Students speak on Gun Violence

The first season of Ground Truthing has focused on creating positive learning environments for children in Westchester County. We would be remiss to omit the issue of gun violence before closing out this season.

Earlier this year, students across Westchester County organized several rallies in support of the national #MarchForOurLives movement. WCA staff and board members were on-hand to support and learn more about the rally from the student speakers and student organizers.

In this, our final episode of Ground Truthing for the season, we bring you the voices, concerns, and proposed solutions of local youth on the issue of gun control.

Ground Truthing is a Westchester Children’s Association production. The show is edited by Eloise Sherrid. Original music is composed by Al Saniuk.

Episode 5: Data on the Ground

Show Notes:

This month, we are joined by Katie Pfeifer, the Director of Programs & Evaluation at Volunteer New York.

Katie brings a strong professional and volunteer service background to Volunteer New York!. In her current role, she ensures the organization is on track to meet grant deliverables and evaluates program impact. Katie also oversees the Job Readiness Through Volunteerism program, a program designed to increase awareness of job seekers of the valuable role volunteering can have on the community.

Prior to joining Volunteer New York!, Katie was the Program Coordinator for Back on My Feet in Philadelphia. Her responsibilities included outreach and recruitment of volunteers, analysis of program trends, strong collaboration with other staff and partners, and more. Katie has a Master’s in Public Policy from George Washington University and a BA in Economics and International Relations from Bucknell University.

Join us next month as we bring you clips from the #MarchForOurLives Westchester County. The rally for gun control was coordinated by Kelly Marx, a student at White Plains High School.

Episode 4: Beyond Just Sports

Show Notes:

This month, we are joined by Danny Bernstein, the Executive Director of Backyard Sports.

Backyard Sports was created to bring these powerful youth sports experiences to today’s aspiring young athletes. In 2010 Danny launched Backyard Sports Cares, a not for profit 501(c)3 which brings youth based sports development programming to at risk and special needs children in the Westchester community.

In 2011, the program received the Rosemarie Siragusa Award for Youth Activity Achievement from the Westchester County Youth Board. In addition, the activities have been recently cited by the cities of White Plains, Elmsford, and Mount Vernon for contributing to community life and the advancement of young people through sport and play.

In addition to the sports programming at Backyard Sports, Danny has partnered with Frank Williams of the White Plains Youth Bureau, and Fred Goldberg, retired assistant principal from Scarsdale High School, to host the Keepers of the Dream dinner and discussion group. The group provides over 20 student leaders representing White Plains, Scarsdale, Chappaqua, Yonkers, Irvington, and New Rochelle an open forum to communicate with one another about their feelings on race relationships, engagement with difference, and the issue of gun violence on school campuses.

To learn more about this and more, visit byardsportscares.com.


Episode 3: The Health of Our Babies

Show Notes:

Welcome our third episode of Ground Truthing, a Westchester Children’s Association podcast where we offer policy insights from the ground up.

For the month of March, we are joined by Cheryl Hunter-Grant. Ms. Cheryl Hunter-Grant, is a lifelong child advocate who has worked in the field of Maternal, Child and Family Services for more than 35 years. Cheryl earned a Masters of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work in New York City, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Presently she serves as the Executive Director of the Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network and Vice President of Perinatal Programs for the Children’s Health and Research Foundation, the parent company of the Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network. Through advocacy and education, with a life course perspective, the Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network works with its partners to achieve health equity in birth outcomes striving to ensure all babies within the region are born healthy.

Again, we thank Cheryl Hunter-Grant for joining us on the latest episode of Ground Truthing. We are eager to work with her and others to find innovative solutions to our largest challenges. For more information about the Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network, visit: www.lhvpn.net.

Join us next month as we chat with Danny Bernstein, Executive Director of Backyard Sports. We will discuss the importance of sport for play and engaging children in opportunities to step outside their social, cultural and economic environments.


Episode 2: Raising the Age in New York

Show Notes:

We are joined by author and Raise the Age advocate Jim St. Germain on the latest episode of Ground Truthing.

At the age of 15, Jim found himself in trouble with the law, just months away from his 16th birthday. Had he been a few month older, he would not have received the rehabilitative services that he did.

Today, Jim is a college-graduate, father, author and chairperson of a nonprofit organization called Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT).
On this episode, Jim tells his story and why he continues to advocate for court-involved youth.


Episode 1: Early Childhood Learning in Westchester County

Show Notes:

Welcome to the first episode of Ground Truthing, a Westchester Children’s Association podcast where we offer policy insights from the ground up.

This month, we will discuss the state of early childhood education through the perspective of Carol Robinson of the Greyston Early Learning Center. Robinson began as the Director, Early Education at Greyston in 2015. During her time, she expanded their infant program and formed new partnerships and enhanced curriculum.

Recently, it was announced that Greyston will close the Early Childhood Center where Robinson is the director. According to Greyston, the center closed due to a consistent lack of sufficient funding to cover operating costs associated with running the center.

After our interview with Carol, we will be joined by Executive Director of the Child Care Council of Westchester, Kathy Halas, to discuss the impact of the Greyston Early Childcare Center closing and where the county stands on providing adequate access to quality, affordable early education.


Podcast Teaser Episode

 Show Notes:

This short episode is a teaser for season one of Ground Truthing. Get a taste of the exciting interviews coming to you starting in January 2018.

Ground Truthing unites community voices from across Westchester County to discuss topics that impact children and families. Guests represent content experts, advocates and youth voices.

The show will highlight bright spots and critically question existing policies and practices through data-informed conversations. Hosted by WCA staffer and GPS4Kids Program Manager, Erica Ayala.

Original music composed by Al Saniuk
Logo designed by Tara Framer
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.