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The Daily Plant : Monday, May 7, 2007

Reaching Out To Immigrant Communities

How can a park respond to demographic changes in neighborhoods? Forest Park reaches out!

In November 2006, the administration of Forest and Highland Parks in Queens welcomed an Immigrant Outreach Coordinator to its staff to explore ways in which Forest and Highland Parks can engage immigrant communities. The latest development in this project, funded by a $50,000 grant from the J. M. Kaplan Fund, is a partnership between Forest Park and South Asian Youth Action! (SAYA!), a Queens-based organization providing academic and leadership development for South Asian youth. Beginning in fall 2006, Forest Park collaborated with SAYA! to develop a new park-based afterschool youth development program. This program, Desi Youth Growing (DYG), meets at the administrator’s office, Oak Ridge, twice a week during the school year. Over the course of DYG, South Asian youth engage in team-building activities, learn about media activism and environmental justice, and explore Forest Park and the natural environment.

But that’s not all. Forest Park turned over responsibility for It’s My Park! Day over to DYG, who are planning “Family Fun Day…ya DYG?” an event featuring an afternoon of dance workshops and performances, a magic show, crafts, and games. Family Fun Day will be held at Jackson Pond where DYG put their new gardening skills to task, implementing Phase II of Jackson Pond’s landscape design. On event day, DYG will showcase their hard work, be honored with a plaque, and display their own temporary signage for the gardens they renovated. They will also help visitors plant flowers and demonstrate the skills they learned from their media activism workshop by displaying a photography exhibit on Forest Park.

Debby Kuha, Administrator for Forest Park said, “This process is a significant departure from previous It’s My Park! Days, as it is the first time immigrant youth from local schools are fully responsible for planning and carrying out a park event. We’re excited to see the results.”

Neerja Vasishta, the Immigrant Outreach Coordinator for Forest Park remarked, “It’s been a great process to watch. Some of these high schoolers rarely came to the park. Now they come to Oak Ridge every week and are transforming Jackson Pond. They are planning and putting on all elements of a neighborhood event and are reaching out to their community to celebrate at a site they renovated and now feel ownership for. That’s a big change!”

Through the Immigrant Outreach Project, immigrant communities involved in park decision-making have resulted in fruitful new partnerships that yield original ideas with positive benefits for all. Come out to Family Fun Day on May 19 from 1-4 p.m. at Jackson Pond in Forest Park (Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue) and see for yourself!

Submitted by Neerja Vasishta


“There are two types of people – those who come into a room and say,
‘Well, here I am!’ and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.’”

Frederick L. Collins

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