We’ve all gotten used to the fact that we live in a world that is shifting beneath our feet. Many of those changes have adversely impacted the children, both here and in the many communities beyond Woodhaven.
Children spend an inordinate amount of time on their computers or on their smartphones, texting with their classmates and friends. These activities end up displacing more healthy activities that expand the young mind, but what is a parent to do?
Identifying a problem and identifying a solution are very different skills. The world is full of the former, and could use much more of the latter. One person who is looking for a solution is Denielle Loprete, who developed and manages MYAP Inc. a program that runs weekday afternoons out of PS 97 on 85th Street.
Loprete operated Deneille’s Dance on 94th Street and Jamaica Avenue for nearly 25 years, and could see a major shift occurring in the neighborhood through the window of her studio.
“It’s a very different avenue from when I opened my studio,” she told us. “Back then, mothers walked the avenue with their children in their strollers, they did most of their shopping on the avenue, and they did most of their everyday errands on the avenue.
“But now, most of the time, both parents are working,” she continued. “I would sit at my store hours on end and no one would walk through my door. We’d be packed on every Saturday, though, because the parents worked all week and now had time to bring them in.”
But even though business was good on Saturdays, it wasn’t very productive for the children, it felt forced and rushed. “We weren’t able to do anything else on that one day, so that’s what led me to design a program that would be tailored to the needs of children that want to do something other than dance.”
And once Loprete identified the problem, she looked to develop a solution, which turned out to be MYAP Inc. MYAP stands for Multicultural Youth Art Program and currently has nearly 80 students enrolled in classes that run from 2 to 6 p.m., Mondays through Friday.
“We really wanted there to be a heavy arts feel to the program and what we found out was that there was a variety of things that the children would like to do,” she said.
Besides dancing, students enrolled in MYAP sing, learn music, perform in plays, draw, paint, learn arts and crafts and much more. Learning takes many forms at MYAP including some traditional forms, such as a recent spelling bee.
“They loved it!” Loprete told us. “They couldn’t wait to do it again. In fact, it was the kids who came up with the idea of holding a Math Bee.”
According to Loprete, it’s that involvement by the students in shaping the curriculum that is the key to the program’s success. “We use the free time built in to the program to get to know them and really explore what it is that each child would like to do.”
The current semester is coming to a close and will culminate with a fair that will showcase the talents of the children in the program. This showcase will take place at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 17, at PS 97. It is a free program, open to everyone. If you plan to attend, be sure to bring photo identification, as you need that in order to enter any city school.
Loprete sees a real need for this in the community, and is working hard to provide it. If you would like more information, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by any afternoon between 2 and 6 p.m. between now and May 17.