Unity Prevails On The Peninsula
Parents and Local Organizations
Help Make 'The Action Center' A Success
By Gary G. Toms
In an atmosphere where budgets are being cut, school programs are being discontinued, and parents and students disappointed in the quality of the education they are receiving, the community came together recently to illustrate how the power of parental involvement can change the Rockaway community and children's lives.
A little over a year ago, in September of 2001, just before the trade center attack, Aria Doe sat in a school leadership meeting, where she was told that funds for yet another school program had been cut. Disappointed and frustrated, she left the meeting determined to pull her kids out of public schools and place them into a private one.
"I wanted my kids to have the same kind of education and opportunities I'd had growing up in Florida," said Doe.
"Students there are able to participate in music, dance, marching bands, debates, cooking, sewing, and a host of other creative outlets that can lead to college scholarships and better job opportunities. It was from these very opportunities that I was able to go to college on a full debate scholarship. I was appalled that there was nothing here on the Rockaways in public schools like that for our children."
Doe told The Wave that she went home following the meeting determined to pull her kids out and put them into private schools. Her husband stopped her by saying they should take a stand and try to make a real difference in the Rockaway community, and so they did.
"We pooled my experience as a corporate executive at American Express, along with his business management experience as the CEO of his own firm, and partnered with other community and school administration leaders to create the Action Center for Education and Community Development Inc," Doe stated.
"Our primary mission is to develop and implement programs designed to help at risk youth and their families."
Now, after just one year, the Action Center had employed nearly 50 Rockaway residents, has four departments (Marketing, Evaluation, Program Development, and Program Management), and is directly responsible for a host of student, parent, and community enrichment programs.
According to Doe, the most important aspect following the implementation of the Action Center has been the development of special classes, which are held between 2:45 and 5:45 p.m., in the halls of MS 180. She noted that the school and the hallways are alive this year with many of the classes that are now offered, such as piano, choir, dance, karate, drama, cooking, and television production, where students run their own television station. They will also learn about website building this year, where students learn to build and market websites, homework assistance, and so much more.
"We call our after school program "Building Better Bridges" (Triple B!). We view it as an avenue for building better bridges to our children's futures, to colleges, to serving the community," said Travis Harris, the Action Center After School Program Director.
"Each period is broken up into ten-week cycles with a big production at the end of the cycle. This cycle's production will be "Roc Side Story" aka "West Side Story." New classes will also be added next year that include band, fencing, tennis, soccer, conflict resolution, fashion, and record production."
Doe is quick to add that this is true community collaboration, and that it would not have been possible without the help of local political leaders, the Board of Education, The After School Corporation (TASC) and MS 180's George Giberti.
To show their appreciation, and to give parents a taste of what their kids have learned in the Triple B program, December 12 was set-aside as a showcase to the community. It was standing room only as nearly 900 parents, teachers, residents and community leaders packed the MS 180 auditorium-to see a future Mozart, judge, lawyer, Bruce Lee, Bill Gates, Toni Braxton or Halle Berry display their talent. Afterwards, the crowd retired to a banquet feast prepared by the Triple B cooking class.
"While we are proud to note that there is no other place like this on the peninsula, where parents can have their kids take advantage of these opportunities all under one roof and at no cost to them, The Action Center does not plan to operate the Triple B program solely at MS 180," Doe continued.
"Our goal is to have a program at each school on the peninsula, so that all students will have the same opportunities for exposure, to broaden their social and cultural horizons, and to further their educational opportunities."
You can learn more about the action center at www.theactioncenter.com.