Rallying to save PS 102’s HeartShare afterschool program

May 14, 2012 Denise Romano
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Parents, students and teachers filled up P.S. 102’s schoolyard on May 11, rallying to save its afterschool program, operated by HeartShare Human Services.

The program services about 250 students a day and has a long waiting list for summer camp. It is on the laundry list of child services being cut in the mayor’s budget, along with the Beacon Center at I.S. 259, and other Out-of-School Time (OST) programs at P.S. 229, P.S. 186, and P.S 200.

Parent coordinator Margaret Sheri recalled how much the OST program helped her when she was a single mom, new to the neighborhood.

“The school day is short if you are looking for work,” she said. “It’s horrible. People have a real issue. There are few jobs where you can go out at 1:30 and be here by 2:40. Give me a Mother’s Day present and save the program!”

Third grader Alana Bookman attends the afterschool program every day, “My mom couldn’t come today because she was working late,” she said, adding that her mom and other parents need the service. “They know their children are safe here at HeartShare and won’t have to worry.”

Students spiritedly chanted, “If you care, save HeartShare!” as elected officials and their representatives spoke to the crowd.

Bill Guarinello, president of HeartShare, said he has been working with the program for the past 42 years and has never seen cuts like this. “I have seen a lot of peaks and valleys in the budget, but to cut out all these programs is Draconian,” he told this paper. “I hope in the City Council that cooler heads prevail.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile has been staunchly opposed to cuts to services for children since the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) announced it would close the Beacon Center in late March.

“With inconceivable cuts such as these, the mayor is basically telling 50,000 kids to go take a hike,” Gentile stated. “New York is one of the most expensive cities to live in, and after-school programming and childcare are of utmost concern for most working parents. This is really just further proof that our mayor has absolutely no concept of reality.”

Groups all over southern Brooklyn are protesting the cuts. On May 9, NIA Community Services Network held rallies at their afterschool programs at P.S. 229, P.S. 186 and I.S. 281. Mary Ann Cino, executive director of NIA, urged parents to sign the petition located on their website, at NIABklyn.org

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