Faculty, parents and staff rally against closure of beacon program

“When I yell P and J, you yell beacon!,” shouted program director for the Piagentini and Jones Campus Beacon Program Monique De La Oz at the rally held on Monday, April 16.

About 40 parents, staff members, students and elected officials showed up to a rally held inside the I.S. 192 building to support the program, which is slated for closure as of June 30, due to the latest round of New York City budget cuts.

De La Oz said the program currently serves 1300 people.

“What that means is, people want this program to stay here,” she said during the rally.

Executive director of Phipps Community Development Corporation Dianne Morales said she has been working with programs like this for years.

“I have been doing this for over 40 years and it is truly a driving force in the community,” she said.

As a result of the proposed cuts more than 47,000 NYC children will lose child care and after school programs.

Come September, if the program is cut, thousands of working parents will be in a bind because they have no access to the free child care and after school programs that allow them to keep their jobs while their children are afforded an educational environment to be in after school.

“We already have about 100 kids a day signed up for summer camp,” Morales said. “With this funding in jeopardy, those young people will not be served.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca said the community, parents, students and staff have his support and he will continue to fight to have the funding for the program reinstated.

“I want you all to know what that the only acceptable outcome, to me, is to keep this program intact,” Vacca said. “And I will fight for you at City Council. Young people have taken the brunt of budget cuts and that is unacceptable.”

Although Vacca said the community has his continued support, he said he felt that the community must take more action to fight against the potential closure of the program as well.

“This room should have been filled tonight,” he said, “Every parent should have been here. Those who are not here have to understand this may happen if they don’t come out and show support.”

District manager of Community Board 10 Ken Kearns, who was present at the rally, read a letter on behalf of the board, written to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Kearns said the board has requested that Mayor Bloomberg restore the funding for the program.

Sabian Bonez, a sixth grader, has attended the beacon program for the past six months.

“I think the Beacon Program is a door opener to meet new friends and also to help me with my studies,” Bonez said. “I have my state tests tomorrow and I feel confident now thanks to the Beacon Program.”

Evangelic Valez, a working mother and parent of a student that attends the beacon program said she is worried about where all of the children who are a part of the program will go if it is cut.

“Children will have to walk home alone or wait at the over crowded local libraries,” Valez said. “They will not be able to focus on their studies because of outside distractions.”

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