This school library lucks out with 250G grant

This school library lucks out with 250G grant
Pelham Bay’s PS 14 library teacher Aura Polanco with two of her library monitors, Rachel Asprilla (left) and Agnesa Zeqiri (right). The library will be entirely renovated thanks to a $250,000 grant won by Polanco.
Photo by Jaime Williams

One Bronx elementary school is getting an Extreme Makeover: Library Edition.

Pelham Bay’s PS 14 library will get a total renovation thanks to it’s library teacher, Aura Polanco.

She took it upon herself to write for the grant, funded by a partnership of Target and the Heart of America Foundation, which will provide about $250,000 for renovations, technology, and books for the school, also known as the Senator John D. Calandra School.

“I’ve always had a dream of bringing my library from where it is, more in to the 21st century,” Polanco said. “And I really want my kids to have tech at the core of library research and learning.”

Previously, her classes only had five computers to research their projects, and any data she wanted to show would be drawn on chart paper that would cover the classroom.

30 iPads

The grant will provide her with 30 iPads and an interactive board to incorporate into her curriculum and give students the opportunity to do more online research and learn in a different way.

Polanco said the school’s large English Language Learners population would especially benefit from the online applications available through the iPad.

“I’d love to see them utilize this technology and further their learning of English,” she said.

Polanco believes the iPads would also help special needs students who struggle to write.

She also said the technology is necessary to help the school move forward and serve its students better. “If we don’t adapt we will not thrive as a school system.”

Although she’s excited to incorporate the technology into the library, Polanco said she’s a huge proponent of print. She still teaches her students the most traditional library skill, how to understand the Dewey Decimal system. “I don’t want them walking into a library and feeling at a loss.”

Book donations

Along with the technology, the grant also provides a donation of 2,000 books as well as $3,250 for books of Polanco’s choice. The additions will substantially increase the library’s current collection, which Polanco estimates at 9,000 books.

The grant also contributes to individual student’s book collections, gifting each of the school’s 620 kids with seven books at their reading level.

Polanco said her students help her take care of the library by keeping it clean and organized, and its important to her that they take ownership of the space.

‘“It’s vital that children feel like they belong.”

She said she considers the library a community center within the school, and the renovations will only enhance that.

“It’s always been a beautiful library,” she said, “but now it’s going to be modern.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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