Senior officials of the Obama Administration recently announced that The Elmezzi Foundation was one of twenty recipients nationwide to receive the Promise Neighborhood Grant. The Elmezzi Foundation has created the Zone 126 Promise Neighborhood, which seeks to change the odds for the 1,600 children living in a low-income housing neighborhood in Astoria, Queens. On Friday, January 13, 2012, Congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney visited The Astoria Houses, to congratulate recipients of the $500,000 neighborhood planning grant, and to address a crowd of concerned local residents.

Zone 126’s Promise Neighborhood grant promises to do a world of good for the children of western Queens.” said Representative Maloney. “This federal grant will get the ball rolling on a ‘cradle to career’ educational support program for young people in Astoria Houses and the surrounding community. I thank The Elmezzi Foundation, which has funded so many worthwhile initiatives in western Queens, and Zone 126 for their dedication to our community. I can’t think of a more wonderful New Year’s gift for our kids.

Partnerships between the School and the Local Community

AHRC New York City‘s school, Astoria Blue Feather Head Start is one of the Elmezzi Foundation partners. The school is located across the street from The Astoria Houses, and many of the children who live in the development attend the school.  Susan Kondoff, the school’s Social Services Coordinator, is a chairperson representing early childhood education for the Zone 126 initiative, and was recognized for her contributions during the event. Susan is active in several local partnerships, including the Queens Community Partners Network, (part of the East River Development Alliance,) the Queens Libraries Literacy Zone project, and the Astoria Cancer Action Council.

Through attending these meetings, I met other people working in local non-profits and organizations, allowing me to share the needs of our school,” says Susan.  “As a part of our annual community assessment, we work with the families of our students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our catchment area.  All of these relationships brought me to Project 126,”

After meeting Chris Cutter, Interim Executive Director of Zone 126, Susan introduced him to the school, and oriented him to the goals of their Head Start program. In turn, Chris provided Susan with opportunities to meet with other local community organizations and partners of Project 126, facilitating the school’s program goals.

About the Head Start Program

The Astoria Blue Feather Head Start program actively involves parents in community partnerships, providing opportunities for:

> Parent education
> Job training
> Employment
> Preventative health services
> Emergency assistance
> Crisis intervention

Head Start promotes excellence in program management as the primary support for quality services provided to young children and their families.  Head Start requires that each family develop family goals, and that the Family Assistant works with the family to achieve those goals. As the Social Services Coordinator, Susan develops individual family plans, and works with the school’s Head Start Policy Council to create goals for participating families. The community outreach conducted by the staff at Astoria Blue Feather Head Start, under the leadership of Principal, Denise Polanco-Nieves, is helping families to reach their goals, and to avail themselves of local resources that can help them to improve the quality of their lives. AHRC New York City thanks the school’s staff for their work to meet these and other challenges faced by the students and their families.