When School Lets OutAfter the last school bell rings in the afternoon—or for the summer—the City’s two million kids need something to do, and year-long youth programs fill some of the demand. With parents busy working, caring for younger siblings, or out of the picture, these programs give kids a safe place to hang out, do homework, play sports, learn about careers and college, and stay out of trouble. Immigrant-led nonprofits play an important role in running youth programs in their communities.
“Succeeding in school can be hard for any child, but for immigrant kids, trouble with English, a lack of prior education, or different social norms can make it very difficult,” says Roderick Jenkins, program officer for youth at The Trust. “Social isolation and poor performance in school can make joining clubs and mainstream after-school programs very uncomfortable. Even when kids are willing, parents may be less so, especially when it means sending daughters into co-ed environments.”
Unfortunately, there are still not enough free programs to go around, and many are now in jeopardy of closing, especially those in communities where many kids live in poverty, enter foster care, do poorly in school, and are around drugs and violence. On streets where kids become either predator or prey, after-school programs in libraries, settlement houses, and community centers provide an oasis for kids that the City can’t afford to let dry up.
To sustain or expand year-round youth programs in all five boroughs, The Trust is making 16 grants totaling $690,000 to immigrant-led and mainstream nonprofits that will serve 13,000 young people.
Giving BOOST a Boost
Already the nation’s largest, the Queens Library system is facing an increased demand for its after-school programs. “More people are coming to the libraries because neighborhood programs are closing their doors due to lack of funding, and parents who once could afford private after-school programs are now choosing the free library programs,” says Diana Chapin, executive director of the Queens Library Foundation. And while the library doors are still open, State, City, and private funding cuts may cause them to close on Saturdays and Sundays and cut back on other free programs.
With a $130,000 grant, the Queens Library Foundation is expanding BOOST (Best Out-of-School Time), an effective and inexpensive program that trains high school and college students to help younger kids with their homework and assist library staff with sessions of reading, poetry, music, games, and other projects that help kids develop a better understanding of tough subjects.
The grant will enable the Queens Library to hire 15 BOOST assistants and serve 226 more kids for a total of nearly 2,500 children in 11 local branches, largely located in poorer parts of southeast Queens. In addition, it will fund a math and science program that brings in presenters from zoos and museums with slideshows, curiosities, and live animals in tow. “Kids often try to avoid subjects they’re not good at, but at BOOST we help kids improve in these areas by making them fun,” says Chapin. “We hold scavenger hunts, use play money and bingo cards—we even explored data and probability by charting the popularity of snacks.”
Giving Adolescents What They Need and What They Want
A shortage of youth programs on the North Shore of Staten Island has left thousands of kids to their own devices, contributing to some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, drug use, and juvenile felony arrests on the Island. Although there still aren’t enough programs for the 25,000 youth in North Shore neighborhoods, United Activities Unlimited (UAU) is able to involve more than half in 31 youth projects.
As part of their year-round youth programming, United Activities Unlimited runs a camp for kids ages 5 through 12, and the Summer Youth Employment Project for young adults ages 14 through 24. Up until now, 13-year olds were left in the lurch, too old for camp and too young for the employment project. “Because these kids don’t want to be at little kid summer camp with their younger siblings, we have designed a special program tailored to help 45 13-year-olds start exploring possibilities for their future,” says Louis DeLuca, head of the agency.
A $40,000 grant supports this new program, which will respond to what the kids find useful and fun. “By taking them on field trips to Wall Street and other business hubs, we can cover everything from map reading and local history, to exploring career paths and dressing to impress,” adds UAU associate director Liz Licata. “Adolescents like being treated like young adults with interests and opinions of their own. We encourage kids to explore different career paths, and then start teaching them the skills they will need to get there.”
Helping West African Youth Succeed in America
Grants to immigrant-led organizations are helping youth from dozens of countries such as Bangladesh, China, Korea, Yemen, Syria, and Haiti. A $20,000 grant to Sauti Yetu Center for African Women is funding a program to help girls from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other West African countries adapt to life in New York. Although these girls are placed in classrooms based on their age, some have had severely interrupted formal education and limited English, and often fall behind in school. Sauti Yetu pairs each young woman with a volunteer coach who helps with school work and English. A young women’s leadership group gives teens a space to come together and puts parents wary of co-ed socializing at ease.
The program’s manager, Ramatu Banguram, explains why this is important. “Boys have more freedom of movement when they come to the States, and women don’t—they need a space of their own. We help them adapt to American culture, where you need to speak up to get what you need. We help them brainstorm on how to balance their parent’s expectations with American social expectations.”
Janet Dweh, an immigrant from West Africa, said that after being in the leadership program she feels that, “anything I put my mind and my heart into, it will come . . . you are going to hear in about ten years that Janet Dweh, that came from Africa, was on TV.” Eighteen year- old Adama Barry says, “I want to graduate and get a good education and work for the President, or even at the U.N., and work in human rights.”
Seeing Your Name in Print, in English and Spanish
Finding your voice isn’t easy, but it’s even harder when you are in a new country where your native tongue is no longer native. For immigrant youth still learning English, speaking and writing in a public forum can be difficult and embarrassing, but they are important steps toward taking part in civic conversation and decision making.
A grant of $20,000 is supporting Make the Road New York’s efforts to help 40 youth from Mexico and Central America produce a newspaper printed in Spanish and English. “Writing for our youth newspaper, The Word on the Street, is cool,” said Oscar Cruz, a 17-year-old immigrant from Mexico. “It is great to be able to express your point of view on whatever topic you choose. It makes you enjoy the process of research and writing.” Producing the newspaper is part of weekly literacy workshops for youth in Bushwick, Brooklyn and Elmhurst, Queens.
The other grants are to:
Arab-American Family Support Center, $40,000 for programs for Yemeni, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, and Egyptian youth in Cobble Hill and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Asian American Coalition for Children and Families, $20,000 for leadership training and other programs for Bangladeshi, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean, Pakistani, and Vietnamese teens in Queens and the northeast Bronx.
Beit Shalom, $20,000 for academic, health and dance programs, and financial literacy workshops for Bukharian Jews and Central Asian girls in Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and Jamaica Estates, Queens.
Council of Peoples Organization, $20,000 for a leadership training and community service program for Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim youth in Flatbush, Kensington, and Midwood, Brooklyn.
Dwa Fanm, $40,000 for self-defense classes, financial literacy and leadership training, and college and career counseling for Caribbean and African girls in Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Kensington, Brooklyn, and Jamaica, Queens.
Esperanza Del Barrio, $20,000 for a leadership program for Mexican, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Colombian youth in East Harlem.
Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, $40,000 for a tutoring and summer program in Far Rockaway, Queens.
Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, $40,000 for a tutoring and summer program in the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development, $20,000 for leadership training, community service activities, and paid summer internships for West African and Dominican girls in Morrisania, Tremont, and the South Bronx.
Police Athletic League, $130,000 for paid internships and academic, sports, leadership, and work-readiness programs for youth in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.
Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, $50,000 to provide youth in Bushwick, Brooklyn with after-school tutoring, sports, clubs, and a summer program.
Southern Queens Park Association, $40,000 for a year-round academic program in south Jamaica, Queens.