Children rally to save after-school programs

“Save CAMBA. After school has got to stay” read the sign, hand-lettered in many colors on green cardboard.

More than 200 creative kids from two of CAMBA’s After-School Programs rallied in the courtyard of PS 139 in Ditmas Park. The elementary age students held dozens of these homemade signs and hand-written postcards to New York City Council in their last-minute plea to save their program in the shadow of budget cuts. Under the City’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, CAMBA’s after-school programs will be forced to close.

On June 12 with their parents, students from CAMBA Creative Kids at PS 139 and CAMBA Kids Connection at PS. 240 appealed to New York City Council to restore their funding. Together the programs provide after-school homework help, educational and recreational activities and dinner to 414 elementary school age students.

Catherine’s nine-year-old daughter attends the program. The St. Lucia native is a single mom and student, “I’m a fulltime student, studying nursing. At my school, if I miss even one day, I will have to drop out of the program,” she said. “I can’t afford a babysitter. This program (after-school) means a lot to me.”

Standing with the kids, Council Member Mathieu Eugene who represents the district, vowed to struggle to restore the funding, “Every single year that I have been a member of the New York City Council, I have fought to ensure that they are properly funded.” Eugene emphasized the program’s value, “The after-school programs at P.S 139 and P.S 249 are essential in helping the families and children of our community learn and grow.”

Parents echoed the peace of mind they have in working and knowing their children are in a safe place.

After five o’clock and returning from work, Aubrey Guio of Honduran descent, picked up his three children, Aaron, age nine, Aleksa, eight, and Abrianna, five, who attend the after-school programs. He commented on how important the after-school program is to his family, particularly homework assistance, “They’re here from 2:30 to 5:15 and are able to finish their homework and get help if they need it.” Confronted with a possible closing Guio said, “Losing this program will really hurt me and other parents.”

The Guio children also participate in the many recreational activities offered when their homework is finished. Aaron particularly likes sewing the quilt project his group is working on.

CAMBA is a Brooklyn-based non-profit agency offering a variety of services to enhance the lives of those it serves. Its after-school programs provide a safe and enriching environment for 1,500 children a year, allowing their families to work and their out-of-school-time hours to build on their school-day learning.

Citywide, more than 31,000 children will lose placement in after-school and summer-break programs if the Council does not restore some $130 million to keep current programs in place.

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