2006-12-08 / Columnists

Weed And Seed Report

It's 'For the Kids'
Commentary By Cynthia Greene Queens Coordinator Police Athletic League

It's easy to bemoan the rate of juvenile delinquency, youth violence and other criminal behavior in today's society, but working towards decreasing negative influences is a much more arduous task, requiring "tried and true" as well as modern, innovative methods to provide healthy, positive alternatives.

Such is the focus of the Police Athletic League's work since 2000, as a participating community-based organization in the " Operation: Weed & Seed" strategy.

Started in the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1914, today PAL is one of the leading independent youth agencies in New York City, serving over 75,000 boys and girls annually. Throughout our history, PAL has evolved from an athletic/recreational base to providing support for young people to excel in school, socialize, explore the arts, develop critical thinking and life skills - all geared towards future employment and productive adulthood.

The simple values of playing, working, winning (and sometimes losing - especially as a team), serve as the foundation of our agency's work to help youth and families.

At Far Rockaway High School, where PAL has operated an evening center twice weekly during the school year since the 1980's, "Weed & Seed" funding has allowed the expansion of the program to the benefit of the entire Rockaway Peninsula. Basketball and swimming in the Olympic-sized pool have long been the most popular activities, while other sport offerings have come and go (depending on the level of interest) - but arts & crafts, cultural awareness and game play continue to be popular, despite strong competition from the newest electronic devices and the attraction of "the streets."

New offerings are also in development.

From ages 6 through adult, from neighborhoods stretching the entire length of the Peninsula, members of the PAL program at "The Rock" enjoy opportunities to get together and meet new people as they develop self-esteem, cultivate talents, learn the importance of team-building, fair play and sportsmanship - all under the watchful eyes of trained educators, recreational workers and activity specialists.

This year's program opened November 10th, marking a new schedule intent upon even better serving our young people: Friday evenings, 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., all for the one-time registration fee of $5 (per youngster aged 6-18 years ~ Adults, age 19+ are also welcome for a $25 fee). Sessions will continue through April 2007!

As the late-night television commercials say, "But wait! There's more ..." Thanks to other funding from city, state and federal agencies as well as private donations, the Police Athletic League also provides fun-filled activities over the summer months and school year in other Peninsula settings.

We're proud to employ Rockaway residents in all of our programming. This year's Summer Play Streets sites entertained over 400 youngsters in local New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, New York City Parks Department playgrounds, and one special location - Macedonia Church in Arverne (where PAL also works to combat student truancy in a joint effort with the Department of Education, the New York City Police Department and the Queens District Attorney's office). Additionally, the PAL Sports Department (at Headquarters in Manhattan) actively collaborates with the Parks Department's Sorrentino Center for area tournaments and other special events.

Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) funding has enabled PAL to partner with the Department of Education's "Out of School Time" initiative, where at Brian Piccolo MS 53Q currently there are busy after school sessions. From 3pm to 6pm, Mondays through Fridays until the end of the school year, this free program is registering new students daily.

Homework Help, tutoring and academic enrichment are important aspects, together with regular PAL offerings. Extended day sessions (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) will operate over the school recesses in December, February and April, and all Rockaway resident students are welcome, regardless of the school they attend.

Attention: High School Juniors and Seniors ~ Don't miss the chance to apply for PAL's "INSTEP Program," where at MS 53Q you may earn an internship stipend while training to become recreational workers, preparing for future employment with the PAL or any other youth-oriented organization!

For details, stop by the school during after school session hours.

As the new fiscal agency for "Weed & Seed ," PAL will continue to support all efforts toward the enhancement of life on the Peninsula. With the help of the community, this agency seeks to assist existing resources to "weed out" all the influences having such a negative impact upon the various communities, while "seeding" the Peninsula with new, positive attitudes and opportunities.

It is PAL's goal to spearhead the work of "Weed & Seed" by cooperating with all of our community partners as well as reaching out for additional assistance from other appropriate agencies.

For years to come, the Police Athletic League is determined to maintain our agency goals and that of the "Weed & Seed" strategy. We're committed to the kids of the Rockaways!

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