Howard Beach after-school program will stay open after lawmaker secures city funds

Photo via Facebook/SASF

The Champions Club at P.S. 207 in Howard Beach is still alive.

The after-school program operated by the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF) will stay open after Councilman Eric Ulrich agreed to procure discretionary funds for it to stay open through the end of the school year, Ulrich announced on Monday, March 27.

Started by SASF in 2014, the Champions Club offers a three-hour program every afternoon, Monday through Friday, providing kids from kindergarten through fifth grade with homework help, educational trips and physical fitness activities. The learning activities are focused on enriching children’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Earlier this month, Ulrich learned that the program was in danger of closing at the end of the month. Marco Hernandez and Jan Vazquez of SASF told QNS that fewer students had signed up for the program than anticipated. SASF projected at the start of the school year that between 90 and 100 students would attend the program, but only 50 students had enrolled.

The nonprofit SASF is primarily funded through monthly dues, Hernandez said, and the program at P.S. 207, located at 159-15 88th St., was “facing a severe loss” because of the lower-than-expected enrollment.

With resources for the program running low, Vazquez said, SASF had sent letters earlier this month to participating families that the Champions Club would close at the end of March.

Ulrich met with P.S. 207 Principal Eileen Davies and SASF representatives on March 20, and pledged to do something to keep the program going.

“Programs like the ‘Champions Club’ offer students a safe place to go after the school day is over, where they can learn, engage in physical fitness and socialize,” Ulrich said. “In nearly half of all households with children, both parents work full time. It is essential that families have access to programs like this in their communities.”

Both Davies and Maureen Fonseca, CEO of SASF, expressed their gratitude to Ulrich, as did parents from P.S. 207 whose children attend the Champions Club.

“It would have been a tremendous hardship to have the program come to a close at the end of March, as it provides an invaluable service to families and a safe environment for students,” said Peter and Mary Laddomada, parents of P.S. 207 students.

While the funds will enable the Champions Club to continue through June, Vazquez said that SASF will re-evaluate the program before deciding on whether to continue it this fall.

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