As a result of City budget cuts, kidsmART, Rockaway's jewel of a program, is slated to be eliminated. A greater travesty one couldn't imagine for our children and the families of Rockaway. For more than 11 years, both the after school program and the summer art camp have educated and entertained our children with the ONLY program of its kind. The brilliant and devoted leadership of Marina Callahan and Christine Mullally has served as inspirational role modeling to the participants in the program and equally important, to the teens who worked for them.
My two children have gained experiences both in understanding the values that kidsmART espouses and the opportunity to model them for the children in their class. This type of work ethic incorporated in a community environment goes far beyond providing wages, it is an essential part of a thriving neighborhood. I use the term neighborhood because Rockaway is a small place where everyone knows one another. My children, as counselors, often had children in their group who were patients of mine.
I know that the sense of familiarity was important to the younger children when they arrived on their first day of class or camp. When they came to my office they would happily exclaim how my son or daughter was their counselor. After his first year as a counselor I asked my son how he liked it and he told me that he had learned so much about himself from the experience. This comes from the way in which the relationships are structured and encouraged at kidsmART. Connection and relationship within a community is the glue which keeps it together. When strong bonds are formed, crises are faced more easily. People gather together to support one another. In the Greek language, there are three words for love. One of them is agape, the love of community. It is a testimony to Marina and Christine and the countless others who put their heart, soul and love into this program that it is viewed as agape.
When one needs to cut corners and tighten your belt financially, never does one decide to cut family ties to do so. It is unthinkable that you would tear apart the fabric of your community to save money. Where are all the Wharton grads? Can't someone crunch the numbers to keep Rockaway's ONLY program intact? Mayor Bloomberg is certainly intelligent but where is his understanding of community? kidsmART develops leaders, artists, PEOPLE. Doesn't humanity trump money? If we have learned anything from this recent financial crisis it is that people put money first and that led to devastation. Mayor Bloomberg, I, as a leader in the Rockaway community, ask you to reverse your decision to eliminate Out-of-School Time, Option II programs. If we leave our children stranded, what hope do we have for the future?
DR. NANCY GAHLES