Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and several City Council members joined families and students at P.S. 148 to celebrate the third cohort of public schools students in the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program in District 30 on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
“When a student sees their parents open an account that is specifically for college, there’s no more powerful lesson for that student,” Carranza said at the event. “It’s more than just saying you’re gonna go to college. It’s more than just saying we want you to go to college. It is a parent taking an active step [to] set the pathway for students to go to college. What we are doing today is empowering New York City.”
The program is in its third year and has enrolled 95 percent of kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders in District 30 from 39 elementary public schools across western Queens — 10,000 students to date.
The program offers universal college savings accounts for all students from kindergarten to second grade, regardless of immigration status or income, by giving parents the option to create an NYC Scholarship Account invested in a 529 college savings plan with a $100 seed. It is managed by the nonprofit NYC Kids RISE in partnership with the NYC Department of Education and the City of New York, with funding support from the Gray Foundation.
In addition to the initial seed money, families can also receive up to $175 in their child’s NYC Scholarship Account through program rewards from NYC Kids RISE as well as funds from Community Scholarships, in which they work with organizations across the city to raise funds. Students have already received more funds to their accounts through Community Scholarships collaborations with organizations like Seamless and Astoria’s Center of Hope International and Community Church.
During the event at P.S. 148 (known as The Ruby G. Allen School), one of the Queens schools that participate in the program, newly enrolled families got to activate their children’s accounts while teachers led an activity with the elementary students to decorate the school’s Money Tree poster.
According to Principal Yolanda Harvey, more than 340 students at P.S. 148 now have a college savings account, with a total of more than $46,000 of funds in those accounts.
Carranza spoke in Spanish and English during the event’s lighthearted program. He talked about his own experience as a son of Mexican immigrants who worked as a sheet metal worker and a hairdresser, but encouraged him and his brother to do well in school so they could go to college.
“To all parents, thank you. Thank you for believing in the future of your children and thank you for helping us help you,” he said in Spanish. “My team will be doing everything possible so that our children have the pathway and have the support to continue their studies, because we know that a child who graduates from high school, but better yet, who graduates from college, not only changes that child’s life but also changes the future of their whole family.”
Councilmen Daniel Dromm, Francisco Moya and Jimmy Van Bramer were in attendance and praised Carranza for his work as the head of the Department of Education.
Dromm, who was a teacher for 25 years, said NYC Kids RISE is particularly important for his community in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, and promised to allocate $6 million of the city’s budget in order to expand the program to every school district in the city.
“In New York City we are saying that no matter what your immigrant status is, you can open an account and begin to think about sending your children to college,” Dromm said. “I’m going to fight to get $6 million put into the city budget so we can guarantee this program in three additional districts and eventually in every district in New York City.”
Their support comes during a turbulent week for Carranza. Last week, he abruptly left a CEC26 town hall in Bayside after parents raised serious concerns about safety in their schools. When he was asked about the incident during an unrelated press conference this week, he said outside “agitators” and lack of control from local officials made him leave, according to Politico.
Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside, said he is “proud to stand with Carranza,” adding that people who take strong positions and “exemplify real leadership” often “take hard hits.”
“I do want to say, honestly, I love Chancellor Carranza,” Van Bramer said. “I don’t want to be one of those voices who — when good people take tough hits, sometimes unfair hits, and you know it’s unfair — rather than saying something you say nothing, and your silence is sometimes misunderstood as agreeing with those vicious and sometimes untrue voices.”
Moya added that Carranza’s support of programs like NYC Kids RISE will help the city “level the playing field” for children to get quality education and an opportunity to get to college.