After-school programs abundant in Queens

After-school programs can be an essential part of a child’s enrichment, and Queens students have an many opportunities to take part in them.

The Child Center of New York, located in Woodside, offers programs across the borough for students of all ages.

According to a 2007 study by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, participating in such programs produced multiple benefits for youth, including improvements in children’s personal, social and academic skills as well as their self-esteem. Other studies concluded that teens who do not participate in after-school programs are more likely to skip classes than teens who do participate, and are also more likely to use drugs, and to drink, smoke and engage in sexual activity.

Sandra Hagan, executive director of the Child Center, says those study results are right on the money.

“There are a number of studies that do show the majority of juveniles who get arrested do so between 3 and 7 p.m.,” she said. “So kids who do not have a place to go are at risk of getting in trouble in various kinds of ways.”

For students who live in a house where both parents work, after-school activities can be an invaluable resource.

“They provide parents with a place they know the kids will be safe,” Hagan said. “You don't want to see kids, especially elementary students, in a latchkey situation.”

In addition to helping students intellectually, ones that include some athletic component also help with battling childhood obesity, Hagan said.

“They are really beneficial in many ways,” she said.

The center operates programs in conjunction with neighborhood schools throughout the borough, and served about 7,000 students last year, said Deep Ghosh, director of youth development for the center.

He said programs are available from the end of the school day until 6 p.m., with some operating until 9:30 p.m., and on the weekends all day. The center operates 12 months of the year. Most programs operate out of the schools themselves.

“We focus on developing young people, creating social competency and leadership skills,” said Ghosh.

Ghosh noted that after-school programs differ depending on the ages of the students attending. Elementary school kids, for example, focus on basic learning skills while teens might learn about work readiness, internships and sexual health.

The Child Center has also received seed funding from JPMorgan Chase to create “community school” programs, which have more hours and partner with local groups to provide children with expanded learning opportunities in subjects as varied as fencing, community justice and ballroom dancing.

The first such program is at JHS 185 in Jamaica, and another is planned in Far Rockaway.

Valerie Sawinski, the principal at JHS 185, said the program is unique in that it offers students such a wide range of activities.

For example, she said a student who made a a short animated movie last year as part of a film media class ended up submitting it to a competition and winning an award.

“It’s a phenomenal program,” Sawinski said. “And it offers kids activities that parents may not have the financial wherewithal to pay for in these economic times.”

For more information about Child Center after-school programs in your area, call (718) 659-4000 or visit www.childrenterny.org.

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