The possibility of losing summer programming in neighborhoods across the city has New Yorkers raising their voices to see a change — before it is too late.
Elected officials joined parents and children on Wednesday afternoon on the steps of City Hall to call on the city to restore funding to summer programs this year.
According to officials, the city plans to cut programming this summer for close to 31,000 middle schools students — with a large amount of the cuts being made in communities with the greatest needs.
Not only is the programming essential for students’ academic and life achievements, advocates said, it also helps parents have a place they know their children will be safe while they have to work.
“We know how dangerous are our streets, if [the children] don’t have the opportunity to go to the summer program, where are they going to go? In the streets,” said Councilman Mathieu Eugene, chair of the Committee on Youth Services. “For them to become the leaders of tomorrow we have to provide them with the resources and opportunities that they need, like summer programs.”
According to a report released by the Citizen’s Committee for Children and Campaign for Children, the neighborhoods that will most heavily be impacted with the cuts — like Brownsville which faces up to 1,577 cuts — also have child poverty rates exceeding the citywide average of 29.6 percent. The areas also see some of the lowest academic achievement rates in the city.
Summer programs, the report said, are essential especially in these communities because it prevents summer learning loss and also keeps children safe while parents are working to provide for their families.
“We’re talking about families that are already vulnerable from the beginning. We know that summer programs for our young people are an opportunity at success not an opportunity to be a statistic,” said Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, whose district is seeing a total of 1,246 cuts this summer. “When you invest in children, you invest in our future, you invest in our families and you invest in the fabric of this great city.”
The report, called “Cuts to Summer Programs Hit NYC’s Poorest Communities the Hardest,” also mentions a survey conducted of 2,500 parents last year that found 20 percent of the parents would quite their jobs if they lose access to a summer program. A total of 12 percent of the parents would leave the child home alone.
Mericia Thomas Reid — a mother of a seventh grader who has been going to the PAL Beacon Community Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn for two years — said that the programming has given her daughter an opportunity to be exposed to things that she might not have been able to provide for her, such as field trips.
She added that her daughter absolutely loves the program and asked the mayor to reconsider refunding the program because it is essential to parents, the children and the community as a whole.
“It would be a big disadvantage if we lose the summer program because [it] gives the children something to look forward to, somewhere to go every day and it’s safe,” Reid said. “It fills that gap between June and September and the community would be devastated if we lose it.”
For 13-year-old Kayla Charles, who has been part of the University Settlement Beacon in the Lower East side for five years, the possibility of losing the summer programming is devastating.
According to Charles, the program has allowed not only herself but other children as well to stay clear from violence and also be provided a more positive road in life. She added that the program gives students a place to go where they know someone will always be there for them.
“If I didn’t have beacon I might have been in jail right now, I might have been on the streets,” Charles said after mentioning many of her family members are currently incarcerated. “I’m going to fight for these kids so they don’t have to go through the things the rest of my family had to go through. They deserve better. It’s not something that we want, its something that we need.”
For the parents, students and elected officials, this is the second year in a row having to fight for the refunding of the summer programing. Last year, after rallying for the cuts not to be made a total of 34,000 were funded by the city.
However, according to the mayor’s office, the administration made it clear last year that the city funded the 34,000 seats for only last summer so families and providers were not left hanging after an administrative error resulted in accidental notifications.
“After hearing from parents and kids, we’re pleased to announce that the administration will fund the full 34,000 middle school seats for this upcoming summer, for this year only,” said a statement from the mayor’s office last year.