PRYSE Reports on Progress in Rockaways
By Miriam Rosenberg
PRYSE (Project for Rock away Youth in Safety and Education) celebrated the conclusion of its three-year, $8.4 million grant with a report to the community on February 27 at the Penin sula Health Center.
PRYSE began its work in 1999 when a coalition of community and faith-based non-profit groups got to gether and submitted a winning proposal for a federal grant from the Safe Streets/Healthy Students initiative. Commun ity School District 27 received the money on behalf of PRYSE, and the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center manages the program.
The program’s original aim was to reduce and prevent youth violence and strengthen the families of the Rock aways. Michelle Ronda of Baruch Coll ege (which did the evaluation report) explained some of the work that PRYSE has done over the years.
"There are some encouraging trends we discovered over the three year period of PRYSE," said Ronda, of the report’s findings for June 2000 to May 2003. "[There’s been] a drop in crime [in the Rockaways], an increasing sense of improvement in the problem of youth violence and substance abuse in the Rockaways, an increase of children and teens involved in summer and after-school programs and an increase in parental involvement in schools over time.
"The coalition itself [that makes up PRYSE] is one of the biggest outcomes. It’s impressive to have these groups, especially funded and non-funded part ners, coming together so consistently with so much devotion over the last three years."
Ronda also said that the coalition that makes up PRYSE has brought in additional grants worth $3.4 million.
Most of the original grant money went for school-based or after-school programs. There have been 40 programs impacting children and families during the past three years.
PRYSE has also found the flexibility to come to the aid of the community when necessary.
"When a young man was shot and killed in the Rockaways several years ago, the community came together to share their grief and decide what they wanted to do," Ronda reported. "One of the things that came up in these community town hall meetings that were held, is the need for grief counseling."
In the wake of the World Trade Center attacks and the crash of Flight 587, PRYSE provided grief counseling to those who needed it.
In June 2002, PRYSE came together with Rockaway’s Children’s Network to educate the community though a conference about domestic violence and how it affects children and families.
For the last two years, PRYSE has joined Weed and Seed, the Joseph P. Addabbo Health Center and the NYPD in sponsoring a Multicultural Festival that has annually drawn approximately 1,500 people.
Queens DA Richard Brown and Region 5 Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Cashin were guest speakers. The Queens District Attorney’s Office and Community School Board 27 (now part of Region 5) are partners in PRYSE.
"[PRYSE] brings together a diverse partnership who share a number of common goals," said Brown, who said that everyone is committed to education being the key to stop violence and keep neighborhoods safe. "Our commitment is to move forward and help our kids."
Cashin thanked Brown and his office for the work they do with PRYSE.
"I’ve met with [DA Brown] personally, and he’s never to busy to meet with us," said Cashin. "It’s wonderful programs he offers our children."
Among the PRYSE programs the DA’s office is involved in are STAR TRACK, The Summer Youth Employ ment Program and Operation Sum mer Fun.
The grant ends in May, but the extra $3.4 million in grants PRYSE has received allows it to continue.
"As long as we’re able to maintain the PRYSE committee and the management as the foundation, our partners might change but we can continue the effort of bringing in new people, going after new grants and addressing new risk issues," said Fern Zagor, PRYSE’s Project Manager.
Also attending the PRYSE Report To The Community were State Assembly woman Audrey Pheffer, State Senator Malcolm Smith and the District Man ager for Community Board 14, Jona than Gaska.