Collaborative of Community Programs for Youth & Families

Columbia University, institutionally anchored in Central and West Harlem as well as Washington Heights, has been a pioneer in the field of civic engagement by institutions of higher education.  In the 1960s, it created a Citizenship Program to address the negative conditions in low-income communities.  Undergraduate students tutored community youth, provided assistance in medical facilities, and worked in government offices.  Today, youth and families in the neighborhoods that surround Columbia remain challenged by the negative effects of persistently high levels of poverty and distress.  As the community’s needs have grown and become increasingly complex, Columbia has responded with new opportunities for meaningful community engagement. 

In 2018, the Columbia University Collaborative of Community Programs for Youth & Families (Collaborative) was convened to provide staff running community engagement programs with a forum to share insights about their work and to identify opportunities for partnership in order to achieve a more concentrated impact on improving the experiences and outcomes of community members.  In addition, the Collaborative explores the approaches of other institutions of higher education to define, fulfill, and assess their roles as engaged anchor institutions within their communities; and the implications of their efforts to their communities and their institutions.  

If you are an educator, you can sign up for the collaborative newsletter here.


Government and Community Affairs - Connecting Youth Initiative
The Connecting Youth Initiative (CYI) is a community and school-based outreach effort providing educational support and workforce development services to 16-24 year old’s in Harlem, Washington Heights and the South Bronx who have yet to graduate high school and are not employed.

The Double Discovery Center
Since 1965, Columbia University's Double Discovery Center (DDC) has been a pioneering leader working to advance the social mobility of racially and economically marginalized community youth. DDC leverages resources from across Columbia University and the community to design, implement, and monitor evidence-based activities across the three core areas – Academic Enrichment, College & Career Success, and Healthy Minds & Bodies – to meaningfully respond to the college-going needs of low-income, first-generation students primarily from Harlem and Washington Heights. DDC is dedicated to ensuring students' readiness for success to, through, and beyond college. Our persistent commitment and innovative approach to addressing the racial and economic inequities in education reflects a longstanding vision and legacy of transformative civic engagement by the University.

Outreach Programs at Columbia Engineering
Columbia Engineering Outreach Programs aim to provide greater accessibility to academic and professional opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, especially for traditionally underrepresented local stakeholders. Through community engagement, we enhance the quality and reach of learning at all levels. Programs connect local K-12 students and educators with the world-class STEM resources at Columbia Engineering, including on-campus and in-school education and enrichment opportunities.

Outreach Programs at Columbia School of Professional Studies

  • Manhattanville Course Auditing for Community Members: The Columbia University School of Professional Studies Manhattanville Course Auditing program provides adult community members not currently enrolled in college with the opportunity to attend selected courses from the University’s offerings in the Arts and Sciences during the academic year free of charge.
  • Columbia University A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholars Lectures: public presentations by Bundles Scholars, community members who are awarded tuition and all-university student access for three years to pursue their goals and projects. Lecture topics have included teaching students with learning disabilities as well as teaching technology for youth and families.

Freedom and Citizenship
Freedom and Citizenship is a free humanities and civic engagement program for New York City high school students run by Columbia's Center for American Studies. Participants begin the program by attending a three-week summer seminar taught by leading professors in political philosophy. During the academic year students develop civic leadership projects in small groups and receive assistance with their college applications.

Wallach Art Gallery Education and Public Programs
The Wallach Art Gallery offers Education and Public Programming experiences for visitors of all ages. Gallery programs, family workshops, educator resources and public programs promote discussion about exhibitions and offer a framework for thinking about the role of art and creativity in contemporary life.

Public Programs at the Zuckerman Institute
Science and community come together at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute. We are delighted and eager to share with our neighbors the challenge and excitement of learning how our minds and brains work. Our programs include:

  • BioBus: A scientific lab-on-wheels that visits schools and community centers in upper Manhattan and the Bronx. 
  • BRAINYAC: Connects high school students with scientists for intensive summer lab internships. 
  • BioLinks Scientific Journal Club: Building an interest in biological research through scientific literature. 
  • Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach (CUNO): Connects Columbia students and scientists with NYC school students and the public.
  • Saturday Science: Monthly activities for elementary aged students to learn neuroscience from real scientists. 
  • STEM Starters: Weekend science workshops for middle and high school students.

Office of Education and Outreach (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
The Office provides the institutional structure needed to support STEM education efforts at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the basic science research arm of the Earth Institute. The Office encourages the participation of leading scientists and engineers in education and outreach and creates new partnerships with STEM educators and organizations.

Secondary School Field Research Program (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
Lamont-Doherty’s Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) is a project-based instructional program focused on environmental measurements in the New York metropolitan area. The program includes coursework after school in the spring and fall. It implements a layered mentoring strategy, with experienced and new students on research teams led by undergraduate science majors, and mentored by Columbia scientists and in-service NYC science teachers. The program recruits about 50 high school students and 15 undergraduates each year.

Hudson River Field Station (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
The Hudson River Field Station (HRFS) is a community hub for Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s local research, education, and outreach programs. The Hudson River Field Station’s core education mission is to facilitate place based learning opportunities of the Hudson through field investigations, allowing participants of all ages to explore and learn from the natural world. HRFS offers family-friendly Science Saturday programs, public-drop ins, teacher workshops, school and after school programming, community science projects, and environmental stewardship opportunities that promote collective action and increase scientific literacy. 

Project STAY (Services to Assist Youth)
Provides confidential, comprehensive medical and psychosocial services to youth (ages 13-29) at-risk or living with HIV. In the community, Project STAY provides STI and HIV screening and risk reduction counseling to youth serving organizations such as high schools, colleges, community based organizations and work force development centers.

Community Impact
Community Impact's mission is to advance the public good by engaging Columbia University and Barnard College students, and community volunteers in high-quality service to meet critical community needs. More than 900 Columbia University and Barnard College student volunteers, alumni, university staff, and local community residents serve approximately 9,000 low-income residents of Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights through 25+ educational, job-related and social service programs, in partnership with 60 community organizations and offer services in three major areas:

  1. Youth Education - mentoring, tutoring and cultural enrichment programs for children;
  2. Emergency Services - programs addressing food insecurity, including advocacy and government benefits services; and
  3. Adult Education - job training, employment assistance, Test Assessing Secondary Completion (formerly GED), and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs.

Community Alliance for Youth Development through STEM (CAYDS)
CAYDS is a development-stage project to expand youth (mainly high school) mentoring to all of Columbia's STEM departments, institutes and schools. CAYDS has support from the Dean of Science and the chairs of the 9 science departments in A&S, as well as education/outreach specialists at Lamont-Doherty, Zuckerman, SEAS, the DSI, and the about-to-exist Columbia Climate School. It has made contact with many schools in the "academic corridor" near Columbia campuses, including the upper west side, West Harlem, Inwood, the SW Bronx and Rockland County. CAYDS is currently pursuing funding and strategizing about how to make inititial steps.