Greenpoint Gazette
Jeff Mann
PS 84 LeAp 4th and 5th grade dance

Lights on Afterschool Shines

BY Jeff Mann

For many parents, afterschool programs are their only option for giving their kids a safe environment in which to learn and play until they return home from work. To help navigate the variety of available programs and choose the one most appropriate for their children, communities celebrate “Lights on Afterschool” each October, where families can see firsthand what particular programs have to offer.

On Thursday, October 18th, the Greenpoint Y held “Lights on Afterschool” event at the McCarren Park Play Center and PS 84. Over 100 parents joined their kids and the YMCA staff at McCarren for the event and nearly as many headed to PS 84. At both locations, they witnessed the important and positive effects of afterschool programs and participated with their children in various activities.

At McCarren, the theme of the night was Food and Fitness. Kendell Monk, the Out of School Time (OST) Director, who heads the YMCA program at McCarren Park Play Center, wanted to get the message across about healthy eating and living. “Our goal tonight was to promote healthy eating, healthy recipes, physical activity and family time and to take what they’ve learned and practice it at home,” he said.

Kindergarteners and first graders created a “My Plate Meal” masterpiece from various food options such as apples, cucumbers and garlic.

Second graders created a trivia game, with three teams of 5 or 6 kids playing a “Jeopardy” style game on five topics: Food Facts, Finish the Phrase, Work it Out, Kid Trivia and Fix It. A typical question asked which green vegetable is rich in fiber and has high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K? (Broccoli, of course.)

Y nutritionist Maurie Raphaely led third graders in a cooking class of “White Bean Olive Spread.” The kids helped select the ingredients and poured them into the blender. Nutritional information was provided for all the ingredients in the recipe.

Fourth and fifth graders led a “Food Testing Challenge” where they created their own trail mix with cereal, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and coconut. The counselors explained that this is a good way to get the kids comfortable preparing their own meals, and getting to know different types of foods.

At PS 84, kindergarteners and first graders displayed their newly gained dance skills, second and third graders sang and fourth and fifth graders did step dance displaying some of what they had learned in their Learning Through an Expanded Arts Program (LeAp), run by site coordinator Karen Murk and YMCA site director Troy Calhoun. Arts and academic enrichment clubs including dance, drama, music, visual art, culinary art, fitness, spoken word, homework/academic assistance and literacy/STEM enrichment are available to each grade.

Several elected officials were on hand at each “Lights on Afterschool” event. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Councilmember Diana Reyna encouraged kids to continue their healthy activities at PS 84, while Assemblyman Joe Lentol bravely tried the wraps the kids had made at McCarren Play Center, saying they were delicious. He also stressed the importance of positive afterschool programs.

The OST YMCA Afterschool program at McCarren Play Center started in September 2012 and is funded by the Department of Youth and Community Development and in partnership with the NYC Department of Parks. The federally funded PS 84 LeAp program started in September 2009, and now serves over 150 families. Both are free for kids from kindergarten to 5th grade.

Kids who participate in the YMCA OST afterschool program receive a free Strong Kids Card giving them free access to the Greenpoint Y’s pool and gym for recreational activity. They also receive free parks membership for access to the McCarren Play Center Gym.

For more information on the YMCA/OST Afterschool Program at McCarren Play Center, contact Kendell Monk at For more information about the PS 84 LeAp program, contact Karen Murk at


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