The Daily Plant : Thursday, March 18, 2004
AFTERSCHOOL STUDENTS CALL THE SHOTS
If you were the Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, what would you do? Every month, Parks AfterSchool students are presented with just such a challenge and are evaluated on their ability to tackle that challenge with creativity and originality. The above question was recently posited to Parks AfterSchool participants, and the responses it generated reveal that our afterschool students are indeed an opinionated bunch.
Many students felt that parks could be improved with the addition of a few simple amenities. Lawrence from Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center wrote, "I would change the Thomas Jefferson Center. I would make it a lot bigger, and on the roof I would put jacuzzis, a mini pool, and a basketball court." Vianely, Joseph, and Franchesca from Highbridge Recreation Center thought that parks could be improved by painting murals reflective of particular community values.
Others would call upon local volunteers to improve their parks. "If I were Parks Commissioner, I would talk to the Mayor and get the parks cleaned up," commented Tito of Cromwell Recreation Center. "I would run a campaign to get the community involved...I would work for a New York holiday called Parks Day where there are festivities, food, and games." Kevin, also from Cromwell, would focus his attentions on shoreline restoration. "If I were the Parks Commissioner for the day, I would go to Midland Beach. I would gather volunteers from the community to help us clean up the beaches. We would clean up underneath the boardwalk and the sand to make sure that it will be a safer place for the kids to play."
Fabiola, of Metropolitan Recreation Center, would create a Disney World in New York City. "It would be wonderful, and any kind of people could go. If it was Christmas, I would put a big Santa and he would be fat. If it was New Year’s, I would put Mickey and Minnie in carriages and Minnie would have a shiny dress."
Emmanuela from Lost Battalion Hall had a more disciplinarian take on the role of the Parks Commissioner. She emphasized that good user behavior is essential to park upkeep. "People who are caught littering should be given a ticket or spend the night in jail," she wrote. "Littering makes everything look so dirty."
While some focused on physical improvements to parks, others thought changes should be made to their own AfterSchool programs. Julius of Lost Battalion Hall would "get an ice cream truck to come by every half an hour," while Nathaniel from Cunningham Recreation Center would have homework time "shortened to one minute." In contrast, Jamaal, from Pelham Fritz, would extend afterschool time and require more computer lessons. He would also "have waiters skating with trays" to deliver snacks. J. Hood Wright participant Harby, cognizant of the restorative power of mirth, would "make people laugh by singing the SpongeBob song from the beginning." Harby would then "tell kids to celebrate their life while they live."
A number of the students displayed a touching concern for the welfare of AfterSchool staff, with whom they spend hundreds of hours a year. Carl from Sorrentino Recreation Center writes, "If I were Parks Commissioner for a day, I would give all the staff members of each recreation center a raise in pay...Most of all, I would make sure that everyone that I hired has a good time with their jobs." Another Sorrentino participant would make sure that the staff were given foot massages when fatigued, while Jasmine of Cromwell Recreation would reward the best-performing employees from each borough: "If I were Commissioner of parks...I would take the five best employees from each borough and take them out to dinner."
Some students focused on special events. "When there are holidays, I will invite Beyoncé to sing," writes Kenia from Metropolitan Recreation Center. Tarik from Pelham Fritz would have an eclectic array of "special guests," including P. Diddy, Ashanti, and Bill Gates.
Denzell, of Lost Battalion Hall was particularly concerned with communication between park management and park users. He wrote, "I would have my address on advertisements so you could write to me about any changes you want made. You would have to try your best to not write too many letters to me so my mailbox is not full and I have to take three hours looking through mail. Also, you have to remember that I cannot always do what you ask for, so do not get mad if I cannot change or add what you wanted to be changed or added."
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"I long to be in the midst of the children, and have more pleasure in their little follies than in the wisdom of the wise
From an 1801 letter to his daughter
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