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The Justice Center News blog features our advocacy on issues affecting low-income New Yorkers today and the latest CBJC happenings.  For press releases, click here. For publications, click here.

Kidspire: Building Connections for Young Minds

by NELP Staff May 1, 2019

With over ten years of professional experience in architecture and design, Karen Domingo-Moran knows the value of art and creative expression. So, when her kids’ Queens elementary school – like so many other underfunded public schools – didn’t have the budget for art extracurriculars, Karen was determined to do something about it. Drawing on her professional expertise and her commitment to art education, she volunteered to develop and teach in-school architecture workshops, creating a space for kids to exercise and explore their creativity.

Karen’s workshops were an immediate hit, drawing rave reviews from students, parents, and staff alike. Energized by this wave of positive feedback, she decided to expand her program into a business venture, in order to serve other public schools and kids in the community. Two consecutive artist teaching grants from the Queens Council on the Arts and the Queens Economic Development Corporation’s StartUP! Business Plan Competition gave Karen the financial backing and community support she needed to begin planning for her new business, Kidspire.

Though Karen now had financial and community support for Kidspire, she still lacked the legal help she needed to create the organization. Fulfilling the legal requirements for starting a business, including legal entity formation, tax, insurance and liability concerns, and commercial leasing, is expensive and often cost-prohibitive for entrepreneurs. Like so many other entrepreneurs, Karen needed to use her funds to invest in other parts of her business, and couldn’t spend all her money on a lawyer. Hearing about the City Bar Justice Center’s free legal services, she turned to the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP), and, beginning in 2014, went to five of the Project’s small business legal clinics, where she worked with volunteer attorneys to obtain legal advice. Supported by the pro bono legal services offered by NELP and the City Bar Justice Center, Karen could focus on developing her business and expanding her impact.

Karen credits legal assistance from NELP with making her business possible. Speaking about her experience, she says, “I am grateful that a service like this exists in the city. It gave Kidspire the support it needed to start-up and grow the business.” She also noted that while the legal clinics were an invaluable resource, working directly with attorneys on a pro bono basis gave her the confidence she needed to negotiate fair terms and establish agreements between Kidspire and NYC public schools as well as with other organizations.

After just a few years, Kidspire has become a growing success, and has served four NYC K-6 public schools and over 3,000 kids. Kidspire provides children with a space where they can push their creative boundaries through hands-on projects that target critical thinking, problem solving, and spatial reasoning skills. The curriculum that Karen developed is flexible enough to be integrated with teachers’ lesson plans and allows students to build on their knowledge of math, sciences, and technology, increasing their likelihood of developing interests in STEM fields.

To learn more about Kidspire, click here.


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