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Scholarships draw kids to Usdan Center

By making scholarships available as part of a major initiative, the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts is exposing more Queens students to their summer program and giving them a chance to experience the arts.
Located in Huntington, Long Island, Usdan is for students between the ages of six and 18. They have programs in music, dance, theater, and visual arts, among others. Some of its past attendees include Natalie Portman and Mariah Carey.
“We recognized several years ago that we wanted to increase our enrollment in Queens,” said Usdan Assistant Director Andrew Copper. “We decided that we would put some effort into outreach in Queens to expand.
The Queens initiative began in 2005 as the center started contacting parent coordinators at local schools. One of the first schools that responded was P.S. 165 in Flushing. Parent Coordinator Susan Friedman, who formerly worked in the theater, said their brochure caught her eye and that it looked like a wonderful place.
That first year, Usdan gave 14 P.S. 165 students scholarships. As it has grown each year, Usdan now gives out 60 scholarships to Queens students, including 40 from P.S. 165, for the summer program, which will run from June 30 to August 15.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for many of them,” Friedman said. “They just really love the whole experience. It’s like a living lesson about how much the arts can affect a child’s life.”
P.S. 165 fifth grader Jalil Howard will be returning for the second time this summer to study the violin. He said that when he first joined the Usdan summer program he was “thrilled” because he had heard so many great things about it. He also said that it made him even happier to find out that he had received a scholarship. Howard, a resident of Flushing, liked the learning environment, which has open spaces with nature all around.
“To a child, it’s like an adventure,” he said.
Bayside resident Keyana Browne, also a fifth grade student at P.S. 165, is a returning ballet student as Usdan. She said that her favorite part about the program was making new friends and learning more about singing and dancing.
“I’m hoping to learn more about ballet so I can get better and teach other kids and people that want to learn about ballet,” said Browne, who is a dance mentor at her school.
Adel Alaiev, a fourth grader at P.S. 165, is a member of the junior chorus during the Usdan summer program. She said that it was a privilege to get to spend time there. She likes that she gets to be with her friends while also getting exercises as she goes from one activity to another.
During the bus ride on Flushing resident David Ortega’s first day at Usdan two summers ago, he was so excited that he was unable to sit in his seat and kept jumping up and down. The P.S. 165 fourth grader has been studying painting at the Usdan Center. While also learning more about painting, Ortega said he learned how to swim. When he returns for the second time this summer, he wants to learn more dance and how to play more instruments.
Copper said that they hope to form relationships with more schools, parent coordinators and principals. He also said that they want to continue to find students who will benefit from the Usdan Center experience and the financial assistance.
For more information on the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, visit www.usdan.com.

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