CALL TO ACTION: Help Us Advocate for Westchester's Youth

Published Friday, March 9, 2018

Hundreds of children, living in Westchester communities challenged by poverty and other forms of disadvantage are at risk of losing access to safe and educationally and personally fortifying after-school programs.

For more than 40 years, WJCS has provided high-quality, full-time after-school programs for elementary school students at Edward Williams and Hamilton Elementary Schools in Mt. Vernon. These programs, which serve 250 children each year, have a positive track record of supporting the academic and social success of students while offering unique, enriching opportunities for them to discover their passions in such areas as the visual and performing arts, gardening, cooking and creative writing. WJCS after school programs have become a critical resource for children and working families confronting poverty, under-resourced schools and lack of safe, productive and affordable after school environments.

If you have any doubt about the impact of these programs, please take a minute to view this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXTB7Mdx-QI.

WJCS after-school programs in Mt. Vernon, as well as others in Westchester, will be in extreme jeopardy of closing unless $5 million in funding is restored to the Advantage After-School Programs (AASP) so that the FY 2018-19 budget matches the $22.3 million provided for Advantage After-School in the FY 2016-17 budget. The five-year grant for the Amazing Afternoons program at Edward Williams Elementary School in Mt. Vernon will expire in June and, as a result, the program is at-risk of not opening its doors for the 2018/19 school year. (Please note, New York State provided $35 million in FY 2017-18 and is proposing $45 million in FY 2018-19 for the Empire State After-School Program. Last year, the only Westchester community eligible for Empire funding was Yonkers and we have received no information about eligible communities for this year other than the funding will likely target schools in Long Island.)

Please make your voice heard and request that after-school program funding be made a priority in the New York State FY 2018-19 budget. Below is a letter to cut and paste into an email. Please include your name and address and send letters to your State Assembly Member and Senator. Here are links to find your representative. It will only take a few minutes to help close to 2,000 children statewide and hundreds here in Westchester.

https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator
http://nyassembly.gov/mem/

Below is is a letter to cut and paste and send to your representative.

Thank you for your consideration and action! If you have any questions, please email Jan Fisher at [email protected].

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Dear

I am writing as a Westchester resident to express my concern about children in our Westchester community. I am requesting that you add $5 million in funding (from the FY 2016 level) to the Advantage After-School Program in the FY 2018-19 budget, restoring it to a level of $22.3 million.

While I recognize that last year represented a historic investment in after-school programs through the Empire State After-School Program, there are many more communities experiencing poverty, homelessness, crime, and substance abuse than the 27 school districts being funded by that program. Last year, the only Westchester community eligible for Empire funding was Yonkers. At least 1,800 students are at risk of losing access to after-school programs beginning next school year if Advantage funding is not restored to $22.3 million. One of the programs at risk of closing for the 2018-19 school year if funding is not restored is Amazing Afternoons, administered by WJCS.

As you may know, WJCS has provided outstanding enriching after-school programs for elementary school students at Edward Williams and Hamilton Elementary School in Mt. Vernon for more than 20 years. These programs provide safe, high-quality, and transformative experiences that lead to a hopeful future for children in one of our county’s neediest neighborhoods. Nearly 90% of the children quality for free/reduced lunch, most come from single-parent homes, and many live in homeless shelters.

I am gravely concerned about the future for the Advantage After-School Program (AASP) and the 250 young children in Mt. Vernon who benefit from it, as well as the 22 paid teen mentors from the community who work in the program. These programs benefit all communities in Westchester and throughout New York State.

As you prioritize your support for New York’s children and families, I ask that you restore funding for the Advantage After-School Program to $22.3 million in the FY18-19 budget to ensure that an estimated 1,800 students do not lose access to after-school programs next year.

Thank you so much for your attention to this important issue

Sincerely,

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