PS 215 Hosts City-Sponsored After School Program
By Miriam Rosenberg
PS 215, located at 535 Briar Place in the Wavecrest section of Rockaway has been designated as one of 558 after-school program sites in the city’s “Out-of-School Time” (OST), a $200 million initiative to provide young people with a safe after-school environment.
The free program, open to youth between the ages of 5 and 21 years, provides students with homework help, reading and writing as well as drama, preparation for exams, dance and sports.
“It is part of a larger citywide idea that provides a comprehensive program,” said Jeanne Mullgray, the city’s commissioner for the Department of Youth and Community Development, who told The Wave that OST challenges youngsters academically, recreationally and culturally. “It is an opportunity to build on the school day.”
“We looked at the city as a whole, looked at where services [were lacking], poverty indicators and more,” Mullgray said.
Each OST site is run by a community-based organization such as Safe Space – which runs the program at PS 215.
A normal afternoon for those at attending the OST program at PS 215 begins with some wind-down time after school lets out, followed by homework help, test preparation for end of year tests in reading and writing, followed by gym with soccer or basketball, drama and dance and the arts.
One mother, Vaida Velazquez – the vice president of the parent’s association, has nothing but praise for the OST program. Her daughter, Charlene Lemand, is a member of the after school dance group at PS 215.
“It’s a great program,” said Velazquez, who said that Charlene is learning a lot by attending.
When he announced the program last October, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said “Our new Out-of-School Time system will better serve children and working parents by engaging youth at precisely times of day when they are likely to be home alone or are most vulnerable. For these young people, the learning and growing will continue even after the school bell has rung.”
Mullgray said the program teaches writing skills and how to communicate and interact with both peers and adults. In addition, students learn about different cultural traditions and how to get along with each other.
Olu Atanda-Ogunkeye, the educational director at Safe Space, said the program provides students with a chance to “discover hidden talents.”
“Sometimes, after school, [youngsters] can discover talents, skills not used during the day and it carries over to their self-esteem and their studies.”
Far Rockaway has 10 of the 105 OST programs in Queens. Citywide, OST will serve almost 47,000 elementary, middle and high school students during the 2005-2006 school year. It is expected 65,000 students citywide will be taking part in the program next school year.
Parents interested in enrolling their children in the program should contact Diana Rodriquez, program supervisor at PS 215, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Applications in English, Spanish and Creole are available.
Everyone is accepted said Rodriquez. “No one is left behind,” she added.