“We need afterschool!”
This was the message shouted by over 100 children, parents, teachers and elected officials as they stood outside Borough Hall on the frigid and wet afternoon of Thursday, April 23. According to Campaign for Children, the contracts for six Brooklyn after-school programs, two in Sunset Park, expire on June 30 and if $5.9 million isn’t allocated by the city, the programs the children attend daily will be lost.
“I’ve worked with after school programming for elementary children for 14 years. I’ve seen the impact it makes on children’s lives and family’s lives,” said Shira Sameroff, program director for the SCO Center for Family Life Services, which students from Sunset schools such as P.S. 94 and P.S. 169 attend. “The group I came with has been amazing. I was asking why afterschool mattered to them and it was incredible the things they were saying. It was really heartwarming.”
The excited students who proudly held up their signs at the steps of Borough Hall agreed.
“We want to work together and help other schools. We love afterschool because we make more friends, spend time with other people and do really new and fun things,” said 10-year-old Kaylin, a student at P.S. 169 who attends the SCO afterschool. “At afterschool we work as a team,” added nine-year-old Evelyn, also from P.S. 169.
“Teachers in the afterschool program help us with homework we don’t understand. There is no one at home that knows English that can help me with the homework,” said Yu Lian, a participant in the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association afterschool program at P.S. 69 that is also threatened with closure.
However, according to staffers, the constant struggle to keep these beloved programs active has been a constant one. “It’s been a fight every year to try to get programming for all these children to have access. Every year, many programs are threatened,” Sameroff said. “I think there should be more slots and availability in these programs but we’re trying to fight for the ones now to stay open.”
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca addressed the excited crowd and offered his support. “The future is right here,” he said. “The voices are loud, strong and come from a source of commitment in their own education. What we’re saying to the city is that we need afterschool. Afterschool is important for so many families.”
Borough President Eric Adams also vowed to help the fight. “There’s no way 500 children should go without afterschool,” he said. “If our children are in afterschool, they’re in a safe space where they can develop and learn how to interact. And to hear that two of those programs are in Sunset Park, that is even more horrific. The programs are closing in these areas and we say no to that.”
Tiana Nunez, who is a group leader for the SCO program, discussed her experience as a student and employee of afterschool programs. “I’m a group leader. I started at eight years old. I started working at age of 14,” she said. “It means so much to We do so many different things and I know without this program they would just be going home and doing nothing. These programs are really needed in the Sunset Park area.”