In North Brooklyn, hundreds of children from afterschool programs throughout the community assembled at the St. Nicks Alliance’s Arts at Renaissance Building, located at 2 Kingsland Avenue, to showcase just what can be accomplished with a plan for afterschool.
Students from P.S. 18, P.S. 19, P.S. 250, M.S. 577, the Beacon Centers in Williamsburg and Greenpoint and the School Settlement Association formed drum circles, wrote about the importance of afterschool programming on the St. Nicks Alliance’s “Shout Out Wall” and showcased their “Lights on Afterschool” light sculpture, made from recycled plastic bottles.
“The overall message here is that afterschool programs are important and they are vital to our community,” said Shonda Streete, the deputy director for after school programs for St. Nicks Alliance. “Between the hours of three and six, they are the most dangerous for kids to be out in the streets, and our programs offer a safe space.”
Ursula Helminski, the vice president for external affairs at the Afterschool Alliance, explained that not only are students affected when less slots are available for students, but parents also struggle in the workplace.
“We know that most families today really need some kind of afterschool care for their kids and the policies are way behind where our families are,” Helminski said. “Parents could lose a job because they don’t have that care for after school.”
According to a Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College study in California, for every one dollar allocated toward afterschool programming, taxpayers would save roughly three dollars in future costs to childcare, remedial educational and criminal justice.
In a report from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, the number of students in afterschool programming has decreased to 57,000 seats from 87,000 enrolled just five years ago in NYC. The report, called, ”Keeping Track of New York City’s Children, Tenth Edition (2013), also predict that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for FY2014 leaves room for an estimated 21,482 students.
Helminski explained that providing more space for students in afterschool programs is crucial to high performance numbers, and that there would be a significant dip if the proposed cuts became reality.
“We need a system so that every program isn’t figuring out their budget and who they can serve every year,” she said. “ We need policies to catch up with the realities of today’s families, especially NYC families who are working so hard.”
Councilwoman Diana Reyna said she hopes the parents never have to go back to the days of the “latchkey kid,” a term she often uses to describe kids who let themselves in their homes, and are unsupervised after getting off the bus from school.
“Without afterschool programming we would not have families working,” Reyna said. “That is a time that we do not want to revisit.”
Reyna said she would continue to fight for protecting afterschool programs for the remainder of her term in the NYC Council.
“Every school should have afterschool programming,” she said. “It provides the opportunity for tutoring, creative writing, creative activities and it’s a challenge for the most developmentally important years in a child’s life.”