Leake and Watts Executive Director, Alan Mucatel (far right), and Biondi Elementary students, (left to right) Victor Inoa and Uridalis Martinez, present Corporal Nicholas Sbano and the 69th Regiment Thank You letters for their courage and service to the country.
The spirit of John Watts, Jr., who founded Leake and Watts Services in 1831, was alive and well this week. On Wednesday, May 13th, fifth grade students from the Leake and Watts Biondi Elementary School in the Williamsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx visited the home of the 69th Regiment at the Armory on Lexington and 26th Street in Manhattan. The site of the Armory was once the farm of founder John Watts, Jr. himself.
Earlier this spring, students at Biondi Elementary wrote thank you letters to the soldiers of the 69th Regiment who had recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nineteen members of the 69th Regiment were killed in action on their most recent tour to Iraq.
As fifth grade teacher William Burrows began to research the 69th Regiment for his lesson plans, he discovered the extraordinary connection between the 69th Regiment and the founder of the school’s parent organization. John Watts, Jr., a prominent Westchester County Judge, founded the then named Leake and Watts Orphan House in response to the rise in urban poverty and reduction of public welfare aid for children in the 1820’s and 30’s. When the Leake and Watts Orphan House opened its doors, it was at the forefront of a new “social responsibility” movement as one of the first private charitable institutions in the country dedicated to children in need.
Biondi Elementary students studied the history of the 69th Regiment from its inception in the 1850’s just before the Civil War, through World War I, and up to the present day. Once William Burrows found the Leake and Watts connection, he decided that it was too important to ignore and reached out to the 69th Regiment. On Wednesday, May 13, 2009, the students and the Executive Director of Leake and Watts, Alan Mucatel, personally delivered thank you letters to the soldiers of the 69th Regiment for their bravery, dedication, courage, and service to the country. Alan Mucatel spoke of the connection to John Watts and thanked the soldiers for giving the fifth graders the unique opportunity to tour the Armory, the home of the 69th Regiment. The kids enjoyed a full tour with an interactive display of weapons from the Civil War and WWII and were able to try on helmets from WWI and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Leake and Watts Services is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that provides the foundation for individualized success for vulnerable children, adults and families dealing with emotional, psychiatric and cognitive challenges, as well as an array of traumas, through a continuum of high quality campus- and community-based programs and services. Each day, over 2800 children and families turn to Leake and Watts for help. Their comprehensive array of services include family stabilization services, child care and Head Start, special education programs for children with emotional disorders and learning disabilities, family foster care, residential, day, and respite/recreation services to people with developmental disabilities, as well as residential treatment services and group homes for youth. In addition, Leake and Watts provides a full complement of psychiatric, medical, social work and related therapeutic services to children in its care.
The Biondi Elementary School is a private, 12-month program providing specialized educational services for children with social and emotional difficulties and severe academic deficits. Many students have a history of abuse, general delinquency, depression, psychotic thinking, suicidal ideation, impulsivity, anxiety and poor social skills.
John Watts would be pleased to know that his vision to help struggling children still lives on at Leake and Watts Services 178 years later. It is even thriving right where he once lived at 26th and Lexington.