GATEWAY YOUTH OUTREACH, INC.
Gateway Youth Outreach, Inc. (GYO) has been an entity serving young people and their families within the confines of the Sewanhaka Central High School District, with an emphasis on those families living in Elmont, for 40 years. Although GYO has been a fixture in this community, many people are still unaware of all the services the agency provides. It is my intention that this brief introduction may assist in making more people aware, and take advantage of the services provided.
GYO is most prominently known for its extensive after school program. Nearly 800 students who attend four schools in the Elmont Union Free School district (Clara H. Carlson, Covert Avenue, Dutch Broadway and Gotham Avenue) participate in after school programming that is administered from the close of school for three hours each day school is in a full day session. GYO’s after school programs work with youngsters in the first through sixth grades, providing homework assistance, a healthy snack, recreational outlets and holiday and cultural events designed to highlight the uniqueness and diversity of the community in which these young people reside.
A typical day would consist of the following activities:
DROP OFF & ATTENDANCE – This time is allotted to the beginning of each day to both allow for the safe and efficient transition of students from their day school obligations to the after school program as well as to allow for teachers having an opportunity to speak with the counselors about any incidents, educational concerns or practical talking points.
HOMEWORK ASSISTANCE – After being separated by grade and moving to assigned classrooms the children begin the process of completing their homework. Children are instructed that if they are having difficulty understanding the assignments that they are to raise their hand and a counselor will be there to help them. Counselors and students are set at a ratio of 1:10 so the instruction is not individualized but sufficient to address homework concerns over the one and one half hours dedicated to this exercise. Should more time be needed the students may remain back from other activities and complete their assignments. It is rare for few students that the time allotted is not sufficient to complete this task. Parents are instructed to review the homework to insure accuracy and neat completeness. If there are consistent issues with the homework both the parent and teacher are notified and a plan of action is developed to address these issues.
HEALTHY SNACK – In the schools where GYO provides programs, many of the students could have had their “lunch” as early as 10:30 or 11:00 am. By the time they have reached the After-School Program, most would be very hungry. GYO, in conjunction with the NYS Department of Health, has developed a program to provide healthy snacks for all of the children. The menu itself is designed and approved by the NYS Department of Health and would include items such as fruit, juice, milk, cereal and even on some days, pizza. The snacks are distributed in the cafeteria and require no cooking or heating that may cause a dangerous situation. Creativity lends itself to the youngsters usually enjoying all snacks and consideration is given to those youngsters who may have food or other allergies.
REACREATION – The recreational component consists of games and activities either specially requested by children, parents and teachers or by those counselors that have a relation to some particular talent. For example, basketball and soccer are staples of what most children in the Elmont area participate in so it is only fitting to expand their horizons in the GYO Program. Floor hockey, volleyball, badminton, tennis, golf and others are all sports that the children get exposed to. If sports aren’t something the children are interested in, they can participate by engaging in a myriad of board games or Tae-Bo, Karaoke, movies, limited and controlled video games, dance and whatever other activities youngsters request. All of the programs are designed to promote interaction, leadership skills, cooperation, teamwork, skills development, diversity and array of other social traits. Each of the four schools also have unique attributes and they contribute to the array of activities offered.
CURLTURAL & HOLIDAY THEMED EVENTS – Students also participate in offerings related to their own cultural backgrounds and seasons. For example the most recent activity held at the Gotham Avenue School is GYO’s Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration. Children participate in dance, song, poetry and other activities designed to represent the teachings of Dr. King and promote a culture of cooperation and acceptance of people’s similarities and strengths. The show always attracts a vast array of parents, elected officials and community leaders who greatly enjoy the hard work and motivation of the students who put on the show. Other examples of such events include: the Holiday Party that incorporates themes from the many varied religious and ethnic cultures the Elmont Community has to offer, Veteran’s recognition programs, Election time reflections, Caribbean celebrations, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day and a host of other holiday events and recognition. All of these are designed to promote unity and understanding of cultural pride. Next week’s edition of the paper will explore GYO’s contribution to counseling, mentoring and neighborhood events.