1 2 3 4

Youth organization relieved after restoration of funds

SAYA was slated to lose half its budget

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

South Asian Youth Action, or SAYA, is a 501(c)3 youth development organization headquartered in Elmhurst, whose primary mission is to provide immigrants and students of color with exposure to new opportunities.

It is among several other organizations funded by the New York City Community Schools Fund, which is essentially a partnership between school staff, families, youth, and the community to ensure that students have the tools they need to learn and succeed.

According to the Community Schools website, these services include “health care, mentoring, expanded learning programs, adult education, and other services that support the whole child, engage families, and strengthen the entire community.”

For a brief period of time these organizations and their respective school communities were worried, as they were slated to lose about $9.16 million of their allocated funds from the city.

But on Friday, the city reached an agreement on a $101 billion budget for the 2023 Fiscal Year, which will restore the funds and add an additional $14 million to support the initiative.

Youth organizations like SAYA, whose most expansive program serves the South Asian student population at Richmond Hill High School, were overjoyed by the news that they’d be able to continue their services.

“I think it made us a lot more hopeful about the advocacy that we do on behalf of our youth, and that as a coalition of organizations, when we work together, we’re able to affect change on a larger scale,” Saphia Najafee, chief development officer at SAYA, said.

“We’ll certainly be doing advocacy work to make sure that we’re all set for next year,” she continued. “We’re obviously really thrilled by everything, but we also know that there’s a lot more work we need to do.”

Richmond Hill High School houses SAYA’s largest program

SAYA is part of the Coalition for Community Schools Excellence, which rallied in front of City Hall in early June to call for the restoration of funds.

They were joined by City Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, Councilwoman Sandy Nurse, and Councilman Lincoln Restler.

“Community schools in my district have become the cornerstone of our community, providing much-needed health, mental health, and family services,” Nurse said at the rally.

“The fact is, our schools alone cannot provide the full support that students and families need for our youth to get the most out of their education. These schools need partnerships to help address the life challenges that our students and families are going through: homelessness, housing insecurity, poverty, and lack of access to health care,” she continued. “The community school model has proven to increase attendance, graduation, and college acceptance rates. We need the mayor to invest the $9.16 million in funding to the 52 community schools that are facing major cuts that will completely undermine their success.”

Through this funding, SAYA receives about $900,000 to carry out their work. With the proposed cuts, they were at risk of a $400,000 total decrease.

In addition to its programming at Richmond Hill High School, SAYA also serves local schools including Thomas Edison High School, P.S. 124, and J.H.S. 202 Robert H. Goddard, where they provide mental health services, outreach for student attendance, college access programming, and after school clubs.

Sonia B. Sisodia, executive director of SAYA, said that the reason for the proposed cuts was given last year when the funding formula was changed for Community Schools by the Department of Education.

“It was framed that the DOE had created a more equitable formula, but the formula is not very equitable when it results in cuts in a high need neighborhood made up of many immigrants and mostly folks of color. Richmond Hill High School is a large high school that really relies on partnership with SAYA and the services that we’re able to provide.” she said. “Fast forward to this year, we were under the assumption—given the focus of the city on things like mental health, getting students back into the school building, and enrichment offerings as students continue to get accustomed to school and life post-pandemic—that the cuts were not likely, since these are all the various services that the Community Schools model actually supports.”

Until more details about the city’s budget become available to the public, Sisodia did not comment on the restoration of funds.

She does, however, want people to remain aware of the situation and the overall goal of SAYA, which continues to offer essential services to students since its founding in 1996.

“Our mission is to really affirm our students and our young people who don’t typically have spaces that center them, that are for them. As a South Asian myself, who went to public schools, I never had that affirmation from my school community,” Sisodia said.

“It’s so important that folks have mentors and role models that they connect with … and I think that New York City really needs to invest more in nonprofits that are led by people of color,” she continued.

“There’s not enough investment in true community based organizations.”

Green-Wood Cemetery receives $247K in funding

Green-Wood Cemetery is set to receive almost $250,000 in new funding to expand its educational programming.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services, a government agency dedicated to supporting educational institutions throughout the U.S., has awarded a $247,000 grant to The Green-Wood Historic Fund to develop environmental education programming for New York City middle school students with a focus on South Brooklyn.
The three-year grant will allow Green-Wood to greatly expand its existing school programs, which now focus on history, art, and architecture, by offering new courses specifically about the environment, sustainability, and the climate.
“Green-Wood’s education department exists to share all of the unique and special features of the cemetery with students and teachers,” said Rachel Walman, director of Education. “While nature might not be what you first think of when you think of a cemetery, Green-Wood is actually as impressive a green space as it is a burying ground.”
In addition to curricula focused on the environment, Green-Wood will also use the money to provide professional development opportunities for students interested in a career in sustainability science or other related fields.
“Green-Wood is an amazing living laboratory where children can study climate change in creative ways,” said Walman. “This funding will allow us to hire a program manager with content expertise who will plan three, different thematic programs complete with pre- and post-visit materials and pilot the programs with two local schools at no cost to them.”
So far, The Institute of Museum and Library Services has distributed nearly $30 million in funding to museums and educational institutions throughout the country.
“Our current round of grants for the museum world reflects the important work of our nation’s cultural institutions during the pandemic, and the deep thinking about the future of our culture in a post-pandemic world,” said musuem director Crosby Kemper.
The new curricula Green-Wood plans on creating with the funding will build on an already robust offering of educational programming.
This past June, Green-Wood celebrated the third graduation of its Bridge to Crafts Careers program, a unique masonry and historic preservation program. Throughout the ten-week course, students helped to renovate and restore a century-old monument in the heart of the cemetery.
Green-Wood also hosts a number of events open to the public. On Saturday, August 28, the cemetery will commemorate the Battle of Brooklyn, a famous Revolutionary War conflict fought in 1776 on the present day grounds of Green-Wood. The event will feature reenactors, demonstrations, music, and storytelling.

Beep announces new Elmhurst Hospital funding

Borough President Donovan Richards last week announced two multi-million dollar allocations for new projects at Elmhurst Hospital. The event also served as a celebration of the borough’s healthcare workers who have spent over a year on the frontline fighting the pandemic.
“A year ago, Elmhurst Hospital was the epicenter of the epicenter of the world’s worst public health crisis in a century,” Richards said before a crowd of doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. “The staff here at Elmhurst Hospital were working double and triple shifts to fight a virus we knew nothing about. They handled the unprecedented crisis with true grace and kindness.”
“The best thing you can do to support health and hospitals is to hire the best people and support the best people,” added Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals
The funding will be used to build a new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Elmhurst Hospital. The facility will be the first of its kind in Queens and will serve children in need of immediate medical attention.
Additionally, the investment will support the conversion of two undersized operating rooms into full-service operating rooms.
“We have secured more than $5 million for projects at Elmhurst Hospital that will expand access to critical care for thousands of families,” Richards said.
He also stressed the need for a more centralized medical center for Queens.
“No family in Far Rockaway or Long Island City should have to travel more than 30 minutes by car or 90 minutes by public transportation to get the care that they need,” he said.
“Over the course of the last year we have been clapping for our healthcare heroes,” said Richards, “but one of the commitments I made when I was elected Borough President was that I would not simply clap for you but that we were gonna put our money where our mouth is.”
Richards also celebrated the over one-million people who have been vaccinated in Queens, a figure that leads all other counties in New York State.
Other elected officials, including State Senator Jessica Ramos, Councilman Fancisco Moya, and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz also spoke at the event.
“I know that as the years continue and as you continue to be reelected, which I know we aren’t here to talk about but I just got to plug that in, I know that your commitment will always be with the people,” said Cruz, “the people that need it.”
Richards is facing a primary battle against Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley next month. He took office last year after winning a special election to fill the seat.
Councilman Danny Dromm, who chairs the Finance Committee, stated his intention to direct more money to Elmhurst Hospital in the finalized $90 billion budget proposal.
“It doesn’t matter if your documented or undocumented, rich or poor, when you come to Elmhurst Hospital you get the service that you need,” he said.

Beep announces new Elmhurst Hospital funding

Borough President Donovan Richards last week announced two multi-million dollar allocations for new projects at Elmhurst Hospital. The event also served as a celebration of the borough’s healthcare workers who have spent over a year on the frontline fighting the pandemic.
“A year ago, Elmhurst Hospital was the epicenter of the epicenter of the world’s worst public health crisis in a century,” Richards said before a crowd of doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. “The staff here at Elmhurst Hospital were working double and triple shifts to fight a virus we knew nothing about. They handled the unprecedented crisis with true grace and kindness.”
“The best thing you can do to support health and hospitals is to hire the best people and support the best people,” added Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals
The funding will be used to build a new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Elmhurst Hospital. The facility will be the first of its kind in Queens and will serve children in need of immediate medical attention.
Additionally, the investment will support the conversion of two undersized operating rooms into full-service operating rooms.
“We have secured more than $5 million for projects at Elmhurst Hospital that will expand access to critical care for thousands of families,” Richards said.
He also stressed the need for a more centralized medical center for Queens.
“No family in Far Rockaway or Long Island City should have to travel more than 30 minutes by car or 90 minutes by public transportation to get the care that they need,” he said.
“Over the course of the last year we have been clapping for our healthcare heroes,” said Richards, “but one of the commitments I made when I was elected Borough President was that I would not simply clap for you but that we were gonna put our money where our mouth is.”
Richards also celebrated the over one-million people who have been vaccinated in Queens, a figure that leads all other counties in New York State.
Other elected officials, including State Senator Jessica Ramos, Councilman Fancisco Moya, and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz also spoke at the event.
“I know that as the years continue and as you continue to be reelected, which I know we aren’t here to talk about but I just got to plug that in, I know that your commitment will always be with the people,” said Cruz, “the people that need it.”
Richards is facing a primary battle against Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley next month. He took office last year after winning a special election to fill the seat.
Councilman Danny Dromm, who chairs the Finance Committee, stated his intention to direct more money to Elmhurst Hospital in the finalized $90 billion budget proposal.
“It doesn’t matter if your documented or undocumented, rich or poor, when you come to Elmhurst Hospital you get the service that you need,” he said.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing