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College savings program for elementary students in western Queens public schools receives $70,000 donation

P.S. 92 families participating in NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program in 2019. (Photo courtesy of NYC Kids RISE)

More than 1,900 students in kindergarten, first, second and third grade across five public schools in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona will receive a $70,000 investment in their educational futures through a college savings program.

NYC Kids RISE, a nonprofit working to expand economic opportunity and equity through education savings, and MetLife Foundation announced the $70,000 investment for the western Queens students enrolled in the NYC Kids Rise Save for College Program.

The college savings program offers universal college savings accounts for all students from kindergarten to third 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. A core component of the program is community scholarships, which enables organizations, businesses, neighbors and other institutions to direct funds and fundraise for students’ educational savings.

The students receiving the investment attend P.S. 329 East Elmhurst Community School, P.S. 92 The Harry T. Stewart Sr. School, P.S. 148 The Ruby G. Allen School, P.S. 149 The Christa McAuliffe School and P.S. 280.

Margarita Garcia, a P.S. 92 parent with children participating in the Save for College Program, said she’s grateful to be part of the program and of a community that’s investing in all children.

“Like any parent, I want my child to know they have the support behind them to become whatever they want to be when they grow up,” Garcia said.

Margarita Garcia and her two sons in P.S. 92. (Photo courtesy of NYC Kids RISE)

In addition to the financial investment, third-grade students will also receive virtual college and career sessions to help them discover their own educational and professional aspirations. The sessions, led by MetLife employees, will give students an opportunity to increase their awareness of the diverse career pathways and possibilities available to them.

More than 13,000 students in School District 30 — which encompasses the neighborhoods of Astoria, Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside — are enrolled in the college savings program, which represents 95 percent of eligible students in the district.

To date, approximately $6 million has been accumulated for those students’ college savings fund.

P.S. 329 Principal Rachel Staroba-Hallenbeck said they’re proud to be one of the first schools participating in NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program.

“Working together with partners across the community, we now have another tool to help demonstrate to our students the many possibilities for their future,” Staroba-Hallenbeck said. “Far too many children in our community grow up thinking that college and higher education just isn’t in the cards for them. The NYC Kids RISE community is doing important work to change that by helping to shift the conversation around who is able to save for college, excel in school and become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Councilman Daniel Dromm lauded the program for “breaking down systemic barriers to educational and economic attainment.”

“The financial contribution from the MetLife Foundation, coupled with their participation in virtual college and career sessions, both help to demonstrate the ways in which local institutions can become part of an ecosystem of support around our students and their families,” Dromm stated. “I urge my colleagues at City Hall to support the expansion of this life-changing model across the five boroughs.”

Councilman Francisco Moya echoed Dromm’s statement.

“This financial investment and these college and career sessions will better equip hundreds of families to help their children realize their full potential and chart a path towards educational and professional success,” Moya said. “This is how we support a community that has been hard hit by COVID-19.”

The college savings program was created in 2017 and is managed by NYC Kids RISE in partnership with the NYC Department of Education and the City of New York, with funding support from the Gray Foundation.

“MetLife’s recent investment paired with college and career sessions for third-graders is just the latest example of how we can show kids that adults from every corner of the community believe in them and are invested in their success,” said Debra-Ellen Glickstein, executive director of NYC Kids RISE.

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