Hunts Point Playground

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tomorrow's Leaders Bloom in Bronx Afterschool Council

Kids at conference room table

Inspired by the recent election season, children from Afterschool Programs in the Bronx have formed Afterschool Councils at Hunt’s Point, Owen Dolen, St. James St. Mary’s, and Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Centers. The Afterschool Council allows children to participate in the development and management of their own program. Each site came up with its own officer positions such as Commissioner of Afterschool, Afterschool President, Afterschool Ambassador, Afterschool Governor and Peace-maker. Children who wanted to take on leadership roles ran for posts; those who did not want to run became involved by being campaign managers for their friends. The centers chose an election day and votes were cast by secret ballot for each position. With four to five representatives from each center, the Bronx Afterschool Council was formed.

The first Bronx Afterschool Council meeting was held on the evening of November 20 at the conference room at Ranaqua. Each center had previously held meetings to discuss everything from snack to safety concerns before setting the agenda for the borough-wide meeting. The 21 representatives took the meeting very seriously and many dressed professionally for the occasion. Eleven-year-old Jason Curtis, the Owen Dolen Ambassador, took his seat at the conference table and exclaimed, “Oh, I feel so important!”

Renee LaJeunesse, Citywide Chief of Recreation, Robert Wright, Chief of Bronx Recreation, Pete Jones, Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation, and Thelma Mayo, Bronx Afterschool Coordinator, along with center managers, were on hand to field questions. The floor opened with the issue of increasing daily afterschool attendance. While afterschool attendance numbers in the Bronx are already high and hover at over 80% of capacity, children brainstormed ways to increase their attendance rate to over 90%. Ulices Gonzales, age 8 from St. James, suggested telling parents that children will have two hours of homework help instead of one to encourage better attendance. The rest of the Council screamed “NO!” The proposal of having special treats for children who came on low attendance days was much better received. The Council agreed that having “game monitors” was a good way to make sure game pieces are not lost and that supplies are taken out and put away properly.

The children voiced many concerns but were also able to come up with creative solutions. They wanted more fun trips, but understood the cost associated with admission and transportation. The Williamsbridge Oval representatives proposed having a bake sale to offset the costs or going to more free Parks programs like the rock climbing wall in Central Park. Representatives from St. Mary’s spoke about possible improvements to the recreation center interior and suggested asking volunteers from City Year or parents to come in and paint. After the first successful meeting, representatives looked forward to returning to their centers with the group’s ideas. We look forward to the next borough-wide assembly!

Written by Adrienne Meryl


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