BY YVETTE BROWN
Last month, 73 exceptional graduating seniors of Flushing High School received a special treat of having former-Flushing High School student and New York Giants defensive lineman Jason Bromley at their pre-graduation awards ceremony.
The event celebrated at-risk high school seniors who worked hard to beat the odds of not being able to graduate on time. This was all thanks to the public-private partnership between a non-profit – Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation – and AT&T’s Aspire grant program.
“I’m here today to celebrate some of the seniors graduating and participating in SASF like I did when I was here, it’s always great when you have an after-school program that helps kids,” said Bromley. “I played sports my whole time here and SASF was a big part of that and teaching me fundamentals and sportsmanship, so I’m just here to congratulate [them] and tell my story about how that affected me.”
He continued to talk about some of his other projects involving FHS and how he hopes to help them the way FHS helped him.
“I come back all of the time for their football program mostly, I did my first annual Jay Bromley football camp on May 21st, which was a huge success [we] had over 160 kids there at Flushing Memorial,” said Bromley. “I think giving back is something that you should do if you’re able to do it and it makes me happy to just see other people happy.”
Joining Bromley at the award ceremony was Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), the leaders of the SASF and AT&T executives.
“I’m here to support this program and [to] also say thanks to the leadership of SASF and Flushing High School for doing this program in our community, giving kids a second chance because a lot of kids have problems [when it comes] to finishing high school, so when they know that these kids have problems in ninth grade, they give them mentorship and resources to help them, so that they can finish high school and either go to college or go to work,” said Koo.
SASF was funded with a total of $600,000 by two grants from the AT&T Aspire national grant program over the past four years – between 2012 and 2016 – to design specialized after-school, summer and school vacation programs that help improve New York City’s most challenged high schools, including FHS. SASF offers after-school tutoring and mentoring programs with educators who work closely with each student to mentor and support them.
Thanks to the initiative of AT&T Aspire, SASF was one of 47 non-profit groups in the nation and only one of two in NYC that was selected to take part in this initiative, which provided $10 million in funding for the 47 non-profit grant recipients. The goal is to increase high school graduations and attendance rates, as well as reducing behavior and disciplinary problems in schools across the nation.
“AT&T has been a supporter of the Sports and Arts School Foundation for a number of years with their after-school activities here at Flushing High School because our company believes that no matter what the background is of a young student, they all deserve the tools and resources they need to go into the workforce and thrive,” said Neil Giacobbi, Vice President of Public Affairs for AT&T. “The Sports and Arts School Foundation has a strong history of providing excellent programming and AT&T, through its Aspire program, really partners with the best organizations across the country as part of a $250 million campaign to help young people.”
SASF also makes it so that the students get a chance to learn outside of a classroom, offering trips to Broadway shows, NYC landmarks and universities and colleges to motivate the students to continue their education.
Out of the 73 students in that graduating class, 47 of them have been accepted to colleges and universities in NYC, New York State and around the country. Some of the colleges that these students were accepted to include, City University of NY John Jay College, State University of NY Binghamton, SUNY Buffalo, St. Augustine University in Raleigh, NC and St. John’s University.
Two FHS students – Taj Meleeak Beckett and Priscilla Gilbert – spoke about their experiences being a part of the program. Beckett is a star FHS Red Devils football player, who helped to lead his team to victory in the Fall 2015 season. His plan is to attend Hudson Community College in September for a year and then move on to continuing his education at the University of Colorado, where he hopes to play football for the Buffalos.
Gilbert plans to attend St. Augustine College in the Fall on a full scholarship. She explained that the program helped her enjoy school more and she no longer felt like it was a place she needed to escape.
“They made me happy to go to class,” she said.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718) 357-7400 ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.