Sunset Park Students Plead With Mayor: Don’t Take Away Our Summer Programs

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Students at PS503/506's CFL program made this sign to express their support for restoration of their budget. (Photo by Heather Chin/Sunset Park Voice)
Students at PS503/506’s CFL program made this sign to express their support for restoration of their budget. (Photo by Heather Chin/Sunset Park Voice)

“This Is What Summer Camp Means To Us”:

  • “Kids can become proactive and learn to be leaders.” — Erika Berneo
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  • “[We] gain new experiences, meet new people, and most of all, have fun. Kids are the new generations. Therefore, they need new opportunities.” — Kimberly C.
  • “Kids who can’t afford to go to summer camp won’t have this free chance anymore.” “Parents might not have enough money to pay for it.”
  • “Parents work and can’t take care of [us].”
  • ‘It gives people the ability to try new activities they would otherwise not try.”

These are just a handful of the dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons given by the students of Center for Family Life’s (CFL) PS 503/506, PS 1, and PS 169 Charles Dewey after-school and summer programs for why Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council should restore funding to New York City schools’ so that 31,000 summer program slots for middle school students — 10,000 of them in Brooklyn — are not eliminated.

The funding cuts were announced last week — in the middle of the spring recess, when families are away from home and it’s harder for school communities to spread the word when school is closed — as part of de Blasio’s Executive Budget, which, on the bright side, did add $100 million for physical education and increase funding for city Beacon after-school programs, including the ones in Sunset Park.

Parents speak out about why CFL summer and after school programs are so invaluable. (Photo by Sunset Park Voice)
Parents speak out about why CFL summer and after school programs are so invaluable. (Photo by Sunset Park Voice)

However, that isn’t enough for communities with low-income and working families whose work schedules don’t change with the arrival of summer — dozens of parents and students said as much at a Thursday night rally at PS 503/506, where families came despite it being spring break.

“I have six kids and don’t have to worry about things you hear on the news; I was enrolled as a child in CFL’s programs and knew I want my children here where it’s safe and full of respect,” said Tiffany, a mom and Sunset Park resident of 30 years.

“Now it will be stressful, trying to figure out what we will do,” Tiffany added. “It’s not just a place for them to be while I work; it’s a positive environment with lessons and skills. My eldest now volunteers here. They’re learning the responsibility of becoming young men and women. We need to keep kids off the streets, keep them engaged, and to invest more — not less — in our children so they become successful adults.”

Center For Family Life students told the crowd why the programming is important. (Photo by Sunset Park Voice)
Center For Family Life students told the crowd why the programming is important. (Photo by Sunset Park Voice)

Young Sally WIlliams, Angelina Cortez, Selenias Ramos, Katherine Obando, and Kimberly Braithwaite agreed.

Williams, 10, told the crowd that CFL “is fun, affordable, not babysitting, where people act like family and support you, helping with homework.”

“Like Sally said, it’s not expensive; my dad is a single parent and CFL is notable because it provides a lot of value for the same type of program other people get elsewhere. It’s very important,” said Cortez.

Ramos, a student at PS1, noted that CFL is like a second home where she feels safe. Obando, 14, added that “if I hadn’t gone here, I wouldn’t have realized I’m artistic and athletic and love working with kids. I wouldn’t be in a [job training] program now working with kids.”

“This is a lifeline program,” concluded Braithwaite, 12.

As PS 503/506 principal Nina Demos said, the after-school and summer programs serve hundreds of students, have a long waiting list, and ensure that students’ learning experiences don’t stop during the summer months.

“Currently, teachers are working with CFL counselors on homework help, integrated curriculum, and even Common Core standards within CFL’s annual [talent] show,” said Demos. “It has helped with academics and attendance. CFL has always had a powerful impact, but [these programs and funding] have helped us create a seamless day. Arts and sports help with learning [and vice versa]. We would love more money to serve more students.”

To add your voice to the call for funding to be restored,, you can call 3-1-1, tweet about it to @NYCMayorsOffice and @BilldeBlasio, or even send a letter to the mayor’s office and city council.

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