Sesame Flyers International, Inc., perennial mas band winners in the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, is celebrating its 36th anniversary.
According to spokesman Keith L. Forest, Sesame Flyers International, Inc. is “the largest contracted Caribbean American organization in New York that provides youth development, cultural, social welfare and supportive services to individuals and families.”
Founded in 1983, Forest told Caribbean Life on Tuesday that Sesame Flyers International delivers a variety of year-round program “that preserve youth, community and cultural development.
“Whether it’s serving the younger population by tutoring students, providing safe and nurturing spaces for children to play, organizing community service activities, running job readiness programs, providing case management and counseling for families in crisis, giving adult learners access to GED programs and computer literacy, instructing health and fitness or celebrating the rich traditions of the Caribbean Diaspora, there are few aspects of community life Sesame Flyers does not touch,” he said.
“Day in and day out, Sesame Flyers International strives to better the lives of those in our community by not only providing important services for both youth and adults, but by forging lasting relationships in an attempt to strengthen bonds and enhance community development,” said Executive Director, Curtis Nelson.
“Celebrating our 36th anniversary this year, we are grateful for the tremendous support, and look forward to continuing to provide comprehensive, multi-faceted, holistic strategy to youth and community development,” he added. “Moving forward, we will work to develop new, innovative programs that enrich the lives of all who participate.
“It’s pretty sad to say, but many great organizations, like ours, had to merge or close their doors,” Nelson continued. “That said, Sesame Flyers International has managed to survive and thrive, and we are happily and grateful that we are in our 36th year.”
Former staff member Chanel Hill said: “Working at Sesame Flyers was one of the best times of my life.
“My supervisor was very supportive of me and wanted to see me succeed,” she said. “It was my first real job after college, and I was prepared for it because I worked with them as a teenager in their Summer Youth Employment Program.”
“I worked with Sesame for five years and learned about my strengths and weaknesses,” Hill added. “I realized that I wanted to become a teacher. I was able to get my Master’s in Education while working there and have been a teacher now for 10 years!”
Board Secretary, Dr. Pearl Elie said: “To enjoy being a part of something for over three decades says a lot.
“My children grew up at Sesame Flyers,” she said. “My grand-children are now enjoying the benefits of the social, cultural and educational programs still being offered.
“I am extremely proud of the fact that many of our young people have benefitted from our various programs and are now productive, contributing members of our society,” she added. “As we continue to be a beacon within our Diaspora, our dedication, especially to the children gives voice and life to our motto ‘Love a Kid Today and Everyday.’”
Parent Keisha Sydney said Sesame Flyers is “an amazing company that has a lot of resources and a lot of potential for our community.
“I hope we can get more exposure so people can take advantage of what they have to offer,” she said. “Stepping foot in Sesame Flyer at the age of 14 has been the best experience, besides giving birth.”
Julie Sooknanan, program director, said she was given “the opportunity to grow within the program and now a program director.”
“Sesame played an instrumental part of the woman that I am today,” she said.
Forest said Sesame Flyers is “extremely active” in the Caribbean community and a 13-time winner in the Large Band category in the West Indian American Labor Day Parade.
Since its inception, he said the organization has provided year-round programs that preserve culture, tradition and values to more than 5,000 East Flatbush and Canarsie residents a year.
In addition, Forest said Sesame’s two school-based Beacon Community Centers have provided “endless educational and recreational programs for school aged youth, as well as well as GED programs, job placement and computer classes for older youth and adults.”
Offering a safe, nurturing environment, Forest said Sesame Flyers’ after school programs serve elementary, middle and high school students with educational support, enrichment recreation, cultural arts and career- readiness activities.
Included in the historic organization’s slate of programming is the Steel Pan Orchestra, which combines music education, cultural arts and educational enrichment, Forest said.
He said Sesame also has a comprehensive family counseling center to support families and sponsors sports and physical activity programs.
Last year, he said Sesame Flyers joined then New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, elected officials, and advocacy groups to support the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
“This call to action on the steps of City Hall was organized for increased investment to allow for the expansion of the program that provided over 70,000 jobs for youth 14-24 last summer,” Forest said.
He said Sesame Flyers International has been awarded new contracts to provide 550 project and work-based experiences to the youth community for summer 2019.
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