New playground honors beloved school aide

Many Bronx public schools have received a brand new playground over the past year, as part of the city Parks Department’s initiative to open 256 new parks or playgrounds across the city.

But the playground that P.S. 76 the Bennington School opened on Thursday, October 7, is a bit different. For children of P.S. 76, it’s special.

School officials, students, parks reps, and an impressive turnout of parents all came over to the Adee Avenue building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on its new playground,.

They came in droves to honor the memory of Evaristo “Rico” Peralta, a school aide who himself had gone to P.S. 76 and returned soon after high school to work at his elementary alma mater, which celebrated 75 years in 2007.

“The students have been so excited leading up to this,” said principal Louise Sedotto. “It’s such a special day, with the playground opening and the dedication, too, and we feel really lucky to have been one of the schools chosen for this.”

Sedotto said that Peralta would always bring in food on Thanksgiving, which he would share with the children, and on Christmas would dress up as Santa Claus.

The ceremony began with words from Sedotto and David Barker, a parks deputy director of sustainability initiatives, who said, “It’s always so encouraging to see such an outpouring of parents. That’s a good indication that the space will be used well.”

After words from other speakers and faculty members, the Select Chorus sang “Give Us Hope” before a commemorative plaque was unveiled in memory of Peralta, who died last spring of a heart attack at 43.

Their beloved friend and mentor was remembered in two student poems. “We never got to say goodbye, why did you have to go? You left without us telling you how much we loved you so,” read Kiki Matthew.

Leah Washington, the second student poet, said, “We found our special angel at P.S. 76” in an original poem called “Angel.”

At last, the Peralta family cut the ribbon on a playground that features a brand new jungle gym, volleyball court, track with quad in the center, hopscotch lines, and benches with checkered tables. Children were let loose on the new playground, but not before they performed “We Are Family,” which had parents bopping up and down, helping them to get into the spirit and also stay warm.

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