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Neighbor to Neighbor: Lincoln, Wilkins knew true value of education

Last month, the U.S. Postal Service in Jamaica celebrated the recently issued Roy Wilkins stamp.

It was quite an event. It is always appropriate to honor worthy accomplishments, and Roy Wilkins certainly had a long list of those to his name.

Gino S. Gentilini, postmaster of the Jamaica District, seized the opportunity to honor Wilkins and his work during Black History Month at Roy Wilkins Park, which is also known as the Southern Queens Park Association, Inc. Much to the pleasure of the hundreds in attendance, a large contingent of students from the Roy Wilkins School was there, not only to observe, but to perform and to receive several honors themselves.

The large gymnasium was encircled with photos and brief historical data about many other important figures in black history, and the colorful decorations made by park staff with the guidance of SQPA's executive director, Solomon Goodrich, added a festive touch.

Thomas K. Daniels, customer relations coordinator for the Jamaica Post Office and chairman of the Postal Advisory Committee that helped organize the event, was master of ceremonies and event coordinator. Also present, of course, were many prominent representatives of the NAACP, the organization that was so near and dear to the heart of Roy Wilkins, and through which he made so much progress in civil rights.

I could not help but wonder how many of those young students at the ceremonies, and others, would achieve greatness. Roy Wilkins studied and worked hard. He knew his cause was good and he had the spirit to keep the course steady. He believed in working through the courts and legislatures, and was affectionately called by many, “Mr. Civil Rights.”

Now, although many schools are crowded, there are still marvelous opportunities for students of all ages to follow the example of Roy Wilkins and learn all they can.

Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday was celebrated Feb. 12, also knew the value of study, and he had to do much of it by candlelight. It was not easy, to be sure, but he persisted because he knew how important education was. It still is.

We open the newspapers, or our own mail, and we read about the various organizations offering a vast variety of studies - some free, some inexpensive, some costly. One of the greatest and most convenient sources of free education is the public library. It is a source of comfort, adventure, entertainment — virtually any subject in the world at our fingertips through books and computers.

At the Laurelton Library when books and library magazines will be on sale for $2 per library bag. Talk about bargains! Mark your calendar: the Laurelton Library, 134-26 225th St., Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

State Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), always a proponent for improving education, recently chaired one of his District 29 Task Force meetings, held the last Saturday of each month, from 10 a.m. to noon at the St. Albans Family Life Center, 172-17 Linden Blvd. Guest speaker was Dr. Geraldine Chapey, a member of the New York State Board of Regents.

Chapey discussed the Regents initiatives that have raised school standards in the city and state, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit seeking a better share of funding for New York City schools, and other educational issues.

Chapey said that in 1995, when the business community needed workers, only half of the students had graduated from high school. Improvements have been made since, but there is still a gap to be closed. She said there is a need for the realignment of the state aid formula to simplify and redirect money to needy schools, for universal pre-K, after-school, Saturday and summer programs and family education (so that parents will be on the same wavelengths as the children and can have more involvement).

Gov. George Pataki has initiated a program called Teachers for Tomorrow, and the state legislature is seeking ways to improve productivity of low-performing schools.

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