Sunset Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, May 27, 2003


For those of us who grew up with adults who nagged us to finish our assignments before watching television, there was no avoiding homework, but for many of New York City’s children, finding the time and space to read and write is a challenge. Last week, in an after-school program designed to promote literacy, five of Parks & Recreation’s recreation centers hosted "Literacy Week," a three-day volunteer event designed to provide children with one-on-one attention and tutoring. From Tuesday, May 13 to Thursday, May 15, Parks & Recreation employees visited recreation centers all over the city, getting to know a few of the 3,000 children who use the centers every day. Participating locations included Hansborough, Cromwell, Owen Dolen, Lost Battalion Hall, and Sunset Park recreation centers. Sixty-two Parks & Recreation employees participated, from a wide range of offices, including PEP, Revenue, Capital, M&O, Recreation, Government Relations, E-Government, and OMP.

Parks Literacy Week was a collaboration between Parks After-school and the Computer Resource Centers Program. After-school Coordinator Julia Schaffer and Director of the Computer Resource Centers Program Ariel Behr organized the program with two goals in mind: to give children in Parks After-school a positive and memorable learning experience, and to give Parks & Recreation employees a chance to see some of the services the agency provides to children every day. Each Parks & Recreation volunteer was paired with a child for an afternoon. Together, the children and volunteers completed homework assignments, read books, and played word games. In a computer-based literacy game, children and volunteers interviewed one another, learning everything from each other’s favorite flavors of ice cream to the superpower they would most like to acquire. Deputy Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey, who visited Hansborough Recreation Center, pronounced Literacy Week a success, saying that "the children had a chance to spend quality time with a caring, nurturing adult, and the staff, many of whom had never been in a recreation center, had an opportunity to view the magic of working with children."

Parks & Recreation Resident Engineer Michael Ho-Shing, who volunteered in Lost Battalion Hall, echoed Commissioner Jeffrey’s comments: "It indeed is a quiet pleasure to be given the opportunity to serve some of our young friends," he said. "Apart from the personal involvement with the children, this opportunity has actually placed a tangible connection between the work we do in the capital division and the lives it touches."

The children who participate in Parks & Recreation’s after-school programs are some of New York’s neediest kids. Less than fifty percent of these children are reaching their academic potential and more than fifty percent receive public assistance. Literacy Week not only introduced children to professional, caring adults, but it also encouraged them to explore the world of reading and writing in a comfortable setting. "The Literacy Day had the perfect effect on the children in the After-School Program," said Hansborough Recreation Center Afterschool Coordinator Deborah Edwards. "It made them aware of the different opportunities and doors that can be opened by just picking up a book and writing down your thoughts." Because last week’s pilot program was so successful, Julia and Ariel are hoping to expand the program in the fall, so that children are paired with volunteers for a longer period of time and therefore have the chance to develop a relationship and work on longer projects together. The success of the program was also a reminder that educating children in athletics, arts and academics is one of the critical services Parks & Recreation provides to New York City. Little by little, Parks & Recreation after-school programs are helping to educate the city’s children and make the future better for everyone.

If you would like to volunteer in a Recreation Center please call Julia Schaffer at 212-360-3307 or Ariel Behr at 212-830-7730.


"The only way to have a friend is to be one."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Directions to Sunset Park

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