The importance of afterschool programs for local students was front and center as the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) joined Afterschool Alliance and NIA to launch a citywide “Lights on Afterschool” campaign.
On Thursday, October 20, DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong, Hot 97 host Laura Stylez, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and members of the NIA visited Edward B. Shallow Junior High School, 6500 16th Avenue, to observe students enjoying a variety of programs, including cooking, robotics, sports and art.
It was a homecoming for Chong who attended the school as a child. “It’s a bit nostalgic for me because I’m the son of immigrants and a son of New York,” he said. “What’s important to see is how New York is constantly changing and for government, we always have to be good at adapting.”
As the group toured the classrooms and witnessed kids engaged in classes that the school and NIA offer, Chong couldn’t help but be impressed. “This is a crucial time in a person’s life. When I was in middle school, I spent my free time watching television because that’s all there was,” he said. “This gives kids an opportunity to learn different things, to meet new friends. And for the parents, it’s somewhere they know that their children can be safe. It’s important to look at young people as the next generation of our leaders.”
Sixth grader John Paul Tacuri has benefited greatly from the program. “I’m always feeling excited,” he said. “Every time when school ends, I go up to the gym right away and wait until we can do the activities. I love open gym and it gets me when I see a new program in NIA. It makes me curious and I want to try it.”
“It’s one of the most important things to me because I came from an after school program so I always stress the importance of giving children the opportunity to do things that they can’t experience at home,” added Stylez. “It gives kids a middle class experience that they may not be able to experience at home. I came for a lower middle class family and my parents couldn’t afford to take me to chess classes or gymnastics.”
Chong applauded NIA and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to expand the accessibility of these programs. “I’m happy about Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to young people and offering more services to them so that anyone regardless of what their ethnicity is, what neighborhood they live in, what their family income is, will have an opportunity to benefit from after school programs,” he said.
“The lives of these kids are transformed with after school programs like this and it’s critically important for the city to know it first-hand, which is why we are here talking to students and teachers so we can fund it more,” added Menchaca.