Lights On Afterschool promotes awareness for the need for after-school programs and to make sure they continue being offered in public schools around the country, despite the annual threat of budget cuts.
The rest of the country also celebrated and supported the cause with 9,000 other events in the United States. Even the Empire State Building in Manhattan was celebratory by lighting up yellow to honor the only nationwide rally for after-school programs.
The Queens Community House reached out by helping to organize events around Queens, including open houses in P.S. 82 and P.S. 86 in Briarwood and a two-day event for the Beacon Program in J.H.S. 190.
“This is an opportunity for youth and their parents to join others around the nation in raising awareness for the programs and services that empowers our young people and helps working families,” said Patrick Pinchinat, Beacon Program director and Afterschool Alliance ambassador.
On day one, an event at J.H.S. 190 in Forest Hills brought out a number of family-friendly carnival events with advocacy booths, face painting, family games and activity demonstrations.
Day two of the event included a march along the popular shopping area of Austin Street in Forest Hills.
During the open houses in P.S. 86 and P.S. 82, parents, students and teachers discussed the issue of cuts to after-school programs, brainstorming ways to keep programs up and running.
Yelena Baranovskiy, site director of the after-school programs in P.S. 86, explained how these programs provide a vital outlet for the youth.
“After-school programs allows kids to explore various educational avenues that may not have been open to them before,” Baranovskiy said. “I wish my children had been offered these same programs.”
Many New York families, many of which are low income, look at these after-school programs as a necessity rather than a luxury, allowing their children the ability to receive extra educational and extracurricular time without the thousands of dollars that so many families spend on test preparatory courses, sports and other programs.
For families dealing with a language barrier, after-school programs also provide opportunities for children to practice their English.
“Without after-school programs, life for these children just wouldn’t be as rich,” Baranovskiy said. “These are truly enrichment programs.”