Education / Politics

HPAC’s Back-to-School Fair introduces two community-based projects

Caroline Aguirre

HPAC’s Executive Director Jill Roche, accepts a check from Councilmember Rafael Salamanca for the organization’s career readiness programs at last month’s Back-to-School Fair.

Two new community-based projects were introduced at the Hunts Point Alliance for Children’s ninth annual Back-to-School Fair: Hunts Point Habla, where residents can weigh in on issues that concern them, and a Career Readiness Program for teens at HPAC.

Hunts Point Habla, or Hunts Point Speaks, was launched by the organization Makers Point and will allow residents to share their ideas and suggest improvements for the community. Made up of a team of local young leaders who will attend community events and interview residents on the street, the project’s goal is to encourage residents to share their ideas. They can also go online at http://neighborland.com/huntspoint, or find Hunts Point Habla on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @huntspointhabla.

“This will allow us to present to the politicians what we need, said Maryann Hedaa, HPAC’s founder and co-founder of Makers Point. “Hunts Point has been an invisible neighborhood – a dumping ground.”

At the fair, held in Hunts Point Riverside Park late last month, dozens of parents and children watched as Bronx Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. presented HPAC with a $10,000 check for its Career Readiness Programs.

The money will be used to fund career exploration, according to Ryan Monell, director of policy and communications for the councilmember. For example, students in grades four up to high school will take field trips to explore different work places and professions in the arts, business, science and communications.

“This allows students in Hunts Point and Longwood to experience things that they wouldn’t see and to link up with professionals,” said Monell.

The Back-to-School Fair also included other organizations such as Reading Partners, Jumpstart, CUNY Fatherhood Academy, The Laundromat Project, the Bronx Children’s Museum River on the Go Bus, Rocking the Boat, Literacy Inc., and Urban Health Plan’s Market Mercado. The children were provided with free backpacks, school supplies and food. As the parents and children made their way around the park, they listened to BombaYo, an Afro-Puerto Rican inspired band and children danced along.

“Music and health are parallel,” said Jose Ortiz, aka Doctor Drum, the co-founder of BombaYo. He believes that today’s music does not empower youth nor does it provide a positive message.

“There is a lot of stress in Hunts Point, which affects the health of residents. They’re not getting enough exercise,” said Nicole Lefkowitz, a worker for Urban Health Plan. In order to combat this, Lefkowitz believes that residents should be taught how to exercise at home. At the fair, children and parents were shown exercises that could be practiced at home, like jumping jacks, lunges, squats and arm circles. At the organization’s exercise booth, residents were also shown replicas of globs of fat and masses of muscle.

At the front of the Fair, Urban Health Plan’s Market Mercado sold low cost fresh fruit to the residents, while also providing them with cookbooks showing healthy alternatives.

HPAC Back To School Fair 2016

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