Children rally to save Pomonok after-school program from shutting down

THE COURIER/photo by Sarah Yu

Children, parents and politicians rallied recently against the closing of after-school programs at the Pomonok Center at the Queens Community House.

The center offers a free after-school program for children from grades kindergarten to sixth that includes homework help, arts and crafts, fitness, character development and team-building games.

“I worry that without such a program in Pomonok, our youth will begin to fall behind academically and socially, which is something we as a community simply cannot afford,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz.

The Pomonok Center is funded by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development’s Out-of-School Time Program, which had its funding cut in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget.

“I call on the city to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our children and young families,” Simanowitz said.

According to Sheena Sukhraj, the youth services director for the Pomonok Center, they are currently collecting petitions and sending it out to the mayor and local officials.

“I think it’s a shame because the majority of our children come from Pomonok Houses which is a low- income housing development, so we know that the parents can’t afford after-school programming,” she said.

They only have six more weeks to fight to keep the after school programs running at the Pomonok Center.

“I’m very devastated because it is right now the only option that I have for child care for my son,” Kimberlee Farrell, a parent and educator said.

Farrell added that she’s always looking for options so that she is ready to face what might happen if their protests aren’t heard.

“I’m touched,” she said. “It takes major issues to bring it out in these communities, but you see from these children, six and seven years old, up to the adults — 50s, 60s 70-year old grandparents — all rallying together for what is right.”