The high school is turning to local resident and volleyball legend Gerry Matacotta, who is currently coach of the girl’s volleyball team at Maspeth High School, as well as the Police and Fire Department volleyball team, which participates in the World Police and Fire Games.
The team uses the high school’s gym after school hours to practice, which got Matacotta thinking. “We’re going to put together clinics for kids in the neighborhood,” he said.
Along with learning the sport of volleyball, Matacotta wants children to interact with members of the FDNY and the NYPD in a productive environment.
“The goal of the program is to view these first responders as a positive thing rather than a negative thing,” he said.
Another project that Maspeth High School is working on is a “future doctors” program that will give student firsthand experience with medical professionals from the community.
“We want to have a program for young students to get their feet wet in the medical field and just see what it’s about,” said Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir.
Abdul-Mutakabbir said that when he and the biology teacher began to brainstorm the project, they found nothing else like it in the New York City school system.
He said that while there were health-related clubs, “we didn’t see any that were solely based on medical issues and how to solve them,” he said.
Abdul-Mutakabbir said that he is in talks with Premier Care, a local walk-in urgent care medical center just down the block from the high school, which is located on 57th Avenue.
Premier Care donated volleyball equipment to the school, which Abdul-Mutakabbir hopes will be the beginning of a relationship between the two Maspeth neighbors.
Another program that Maspeth High School offers students is a Law Club that puts students in a mock court setting to teach them about the justice system.
“One of our groups is called the Green Club and they’ve done a lot of graffiti removal and beautification working with one of the civics over here,” he said. “The real goal of our school is to give kids choice,” Abdul-Mutakabbir said.
Abdul-Mutakabbir said Maspeth High School is unique because of its facility, noting it’s rare for a high school to open with its own building.
“There haven’t been many over the last ten years,” he said.
The building wasn’t Maspeth High’s for long, though, as Rockaway Park High School of Environmental Suitability has moved into the school temporarily because their own school was damaged in Hurricane Sandy.
Abdul-Mutakabbir said some aspects of the temporary placement were difficult. For example, students at Rockaway Park High School aren’t required to wear uniforms and are allowed to have electronic devices on them during school hours, which are prohibited in Maspeth High School.
However, Abdul-Mutakabbir said it was important to help a Queens community in need.
“We gave them plenty of classrooms, they had the access t the gym they needed, and any facility they wanted,” he said. “We treated them as a true equal when they came into the school.”