2002-09-21 / Columnists

The RDRC Community Update

By Curtis Archer

By Curtis Archer, Executive Director

Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation's Beacon Program (RDRC) is a school-based community center funded by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). The Beacon Program is also known as The Reverend Thomas Mason Community Center which is located at Middle School 198 on Beach 56 Street. The Beacon is one of 88 city-wide programs first established in 1991 through the New York City "Safe Street, Safe City" legislation as "safe havens" for community youths.

The Mason Center is open Monday through Friday from 1:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. All of the services offered are free of charge.

As a multi-service program, RDRC's Beacon Program at The Reverend Thomas Mason Community Center (Mason Center) primarily offers programs for youths; however, programs for adults do exist. The Mason center reaches over 1,800 youths and adults by delivering recreational, educational and social programs. Among the programs offered are homework assistance; computer instruction, arts and crafts; martial arts; drama and dance; sewing instruction; aerobics instruction; conflict resolution and mediation; individual, group and family counseling; substance abuse counseling; sports tournaments.

RDRC's Beacon Program, originally established by DYCD, is designed to be the focal gathering point for community events, programs and services for youths and adults. Moreover, various groups and community service organizations such as Far Rockaway NAACP Branch Neighborhood Advisory Board to name a few, who are able to utilize space in the beacon program: thereby cultivating and solidifying the service integration approach and intent of all beacon programs. In essence, Beacon program can be used as "one -stop shopping center" for service.

We are most proud of The Reverend Thomas Mason Community Center Youth Council. The Youth Council consists of a group of positive, strong and devoted young adults and teens that focuses on non-violence and constant elevation. With the war of black on black crime dominating their community, they are charged with trying to safeguard the streets by hosting non-violence rallies, talent and fashion shows and sports tournaments as well as recreational outings such as trips to Dorney Park and Great Adventure.

One activity, which originated as a suggestion but has blossomed into an annual event, is the "Annual Black Tie Affair." The Black Tie Affair is a community dinner dance/fashion show that is used as a general fund raising event to help sponsor "RTMCC Youth Council Spring College Tour." The event is coordinated, planned and executed by the RTMCC Youth Council who put in a tremendous amount of hard work in order to make the event a success.

Another successful RDRC Beacon program, perhaps the most successful, is the center's summer day camp program. The summer program is a six-week program for youths between the ages of six and twelve. This program affords over 100 youths the ability to participate in the only free summer camp program located on the Rockaway Peninsula. As a result enrollment into the program is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The youths participating in this program are taken on educational, cultural and recreational trips such as Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, Liberty Science, Don Juan Restaurant, along with a host of recreational trips. Campers are provided with tee shirts and lunch bags. However, participation in the program is not only geared towards only having fun. Those taking part in the program receive academic instructions from adult college students who are obtaining degrees within education.

The Beacon Program staff ensures that the campers participating in the program receive any needed support and instruction. At the end of the camp program a luncheon is given for the campers and parents so that each camper can display and highlight his/her achievements through dance, drama, singing, karate and artwork.

Registration for the school year programs will take place starting September 9, 2002. Summer day camp registration will take place during the month of May 2003.

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