CUNY college courses will be offered in Far Rockaway in spring, providing new pathway to economic success

Far Rockaway adults will be able to take CUNY college courses right in the heart of the community at Challenge Charter School with a spring semester starting on Jan. 28. (Photo courtesy of CUNY SLU)

The Far Rockaway community is one of the most impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic and its residents continue to struggle toward economic recovery due to a chronically high unemployment rate.

Starting this spring, adult residents will have a new avenue to improve their quality of life thanks to a new educational partnership that will offer college courses right in the neighborhood.

The Far Rockaway Community Educational Leadership Team and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU) will begin offering courses taught by SLU faculty at Challenge Charter High School located at 1520 Central Ave. A special event to launch and showcase the educational initiative will be held at the school on Friday, Oct. 22, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Participants will learn about SLU’s educational programming including several advanced certifications, undergraduate and graduate courses of study, and GED completion. Special scholarship information will also be shared.

“As a higher educational institution founded on the principles of expanding higher educational opportunities and on preparing students who aspire to careers dedicated to public service and social justice, we are thrilled to be partnering with the Challenge Preparatory Charter to do just that — provide access to college courses, academic support services and opportunities for career advancement to the Far Rockaway community,” CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies Dean Gregory Mantsios said.

In addition to hearing from elected officials and community leaders, staff will offer tours of the learning hub, and SLU faculty members and administrators will meet with prospective students to answer questions and provide registration information.

Challenge Charter School in Far Rockaway. (Photo courtesy of CUNY SLU)

“A thriving community is one that recognizes the importance of education and the opportunities it creates not just for its children, but for residents of all ages,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Queens is thrilled to welcome the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies to Far Rockaway, creating yet another pathway towards prosperity for our adult students looking to gain a new set of skills. We encourage all our Far Rockaway families to participate in Friday’s informational event.”

The strategic partnership between key Far Rockaway educational leaders and the SLU creates a viable path for residents to obtain academic and professional skills to develop a new career plan no matter what level of education they have currently.

“As a strong proponent of quality education and as a resident of the Rockaways, I wholeheartedly support bringing college courses and a GED completion program to the peninsula to allow people to conveniently complete high school or a four-year degree right in their own community,” state Senator James Sanders said. “I hope everyone who can take advantage of this opportunity does so. A bright future is built on quality education.”

Over the last few decades, Far Rockaway has been hammered by economic challenges and exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy nearly a decade ago as well as the COVID-19 pandemic that further disrupted the community growth and new development. As a result, many in the community are without work, leaving many families dealing with the financial strain.

Increasing educational opportunities and offering workforce training is the goal of the partnership with the SLU.

“As a proud Far Rockaway resident, CUNY graduate and advocate in the state Legislature, I am excited for ‘SLU by the Sea,’ a game-changing partnership between Challenge Charter and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies to provide college course offerings to our communities on Far Rockaway,” Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson said. “We know that access to higher education promotes a healthier community and is directly tied to economic opportunity, social mobility and quality of life.”

With no local college in the community, the educational partnership removes one of the major barriers that residents interested in upscaling their skills or education have faced: a long commute.

“You don’t have to go to college; college comes to you,” Challenge Charter School CEO Rev. Dr. Les Mullings said. “This is a momentous occasion for our citizens and for the future of Far Rockaway. Anyone interested in building a better life should take a look at what this amazing program has to offer.”

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