PHOTO: The College and Career Preparedness Program, sponsored by The Child Center of NY, is one of the successful afterschool projects at Basie Beacon. Pictured here (l to r) are Jonae Adams, Fatoumata Camara, Tyheema Marvin (Child Center staff), Izaya Adams, Unique Walker, and Ashanti Atkins in front of their Breast Cancer Awareness Month Display. Forum Photos by Eugénie Bisulco
Lights On Afterschool, a program of the Afterschool Alliance, was celebrated last week around the country, with nearly 400 schools in New York participating in afternoon and evening festivities to increase public awareness about the importance of afterschool programs. Gov. Andrew Cuomo named October 22 Lights On Afterschool Day, and, at many participating borough locations, performances and other events marked the special occasion: At COMPASS PS 223, Broadway was the theme of the evening; at Beacon 43, students celebrated a “Worldwide Day of Play.” And at Basie Beacon Middle School 72, the theme listed on the program was literacy, but the actual show – and diverse talents of the students — covered so much more.
Basie’s presentations by elementary, middle, and high schoolers began with brief synopses of the presidential election and aspects of the three branches of government. Students strutted their stuff in other ways, too, with an African dance ensemble performance, a violin solo, and a campaign: a pre-politico running for Youth Council savvily used the opportunity to ask for more votes. Teachers and administrators were also on hand to talk about their work with robotics, the arts, and special projects such as Beautiful Me, a curriculum based self-esteem program for girls. Posterboards displayed Breast Cancer Awareness appeals and other projects hand-created during the school’s diverse extracurricular programs.
“Lights On is a great idea to let the community know about what services are available to them,” said Kidwise Supervisor and licensed mental health counselor Adriana Scott-Wolf, one of the evening’s presenters, who manages the in-school clinic. KidWise, a project of Sheltering Arms/Safe Space NYC, offers individual and group crisis counseling, as well as other services, during the school day at lunchtime and afterschool, promoting parental involvement and referring students at risk of serious emotional disturbance to other programs as needed.
Mom to twins Tyheema Marvin, a youth advocate with The Child Center of NY, presented on the College and Career Readiness program and introduced several students she has been working with, both to prepare them for college and beyond and to set examples for younger afterschool participants. The Child Center of NY, a partner of Basie Beacon and many other afterschool programs, employs youth advocates to maintain regular contact with deans, teachers, family members, and of course the students themselves to ensure that they are in school and keeping up with their assignments. Advocates receive and monitor report cards and are available to give assistance with both academic and social challenges.
Marvin’s students were inducted into the CCR program in seventh grade and have been going strong ever since, commuting by bus to get to the school when their classes (at other schools) let out in the afternoon. In addition to their own college prep, they volunteer by teaching senior citizens how to use smart phones, reading to younger children, and other community-centered activities.
Fatoumata Camara, a 10th grader, said she benefits from the afterschool programs mainly because, “If you want to succeed, you have to keep your priorities straight,” and that Tyheema and others had helped her make those priorities and set goals. “Someone has to be there to make me feel engaged,” she explained further.
Jonae Adams, also in 10th grade, said, “I’ve been on the honor roll since sixth grade because of the tutoring offered by The Child Center of NY.”
And Unique Walker, a senior, also extolled the virtues of the tutoring and mentoring she has received over the years: “Starting high school, I wasn’t on the right track, but becoming active with CCR and Beacon, my grades shot up.”
To learn more about The Child Center of NY, which serves thousands of Queens children and their families each year, visit childcenterny.org. For the Lights On Afterschool program, now in its 16th year, go to afterschoolalliance.org.
By Eugénie Bisulco firstname.lastname@example.org