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Springfield Gardens HS holds health summit

Students at Springfield Gardens High School raised concerns about getting respect from school security guards and a decent public education at a health outreach summit last week.

More than 300 students heard from a panel of health, safety, education and entertainment experts at a School Outreach Summit sponsored by Affinity Health Plan last Thursday at the high school at 143-10 Springfield Blvd. in Laurelton.

The summit, Affinity's first in Queens, was designed to address issues the teens want to discuss, including the relationship between students and security guards and teachers, the quality of education, gang violence and healthy choices.

Panelists included WB 11's entertainment reporter Toni Senecal; Lisette Nieves of the city's Department of Youth and Community Development; Sgt. Everard McIntyre, executive officer for the Police Department's School Safety unit; Dr. Susan Beane, medical director for Affinity Health Plan; rap artist Remedy; Charles Yarborough, math teacher at Springfield Gardens; and student Jennell Billups.

The question-and-answer discussion was moderated by Power 105.1 radio personality Déjà Vu.

"We're here to talk about things that are important to you," she said.

While Déjà Vu raised questions on gangs and violence in music and movies, students had questions of their own in mind. Sye Spence, a senior from South Jamaica, said students often feel the security guards provoke them into turning angry.

"They do things to disrespect us," Spence said. "They talk to us like we're not students, like we're people in the street and we're not coming here for an education."

McIntyre said he encourages his school security guards to use compassion and respect when dealing with students.

"It's a two-way street," he said. "If you start giving the respect, you start getting it."

The school has had problems with gang activity, including drug dealing and prostitution. While most of the activity takes place outside of the school, students have reported being robbed at knife-point inside the school.

On the day of the health summit, guards had to forcibly remove one student from the school and break up a fight between other students in the hallway before the program began.

A student at the forum asked why it seems Springfield Gardens and other city schools do not prepare their students as well as other schools.

"I want to know why us inner city kids get less of an education than other people," she said. "I moved up here from the South, and things we're learning here we already learned down South at a lesser grade."

But while the curriculum may place lessons in a different order, students at Springfield Gardens High School learn the same things as other students, Yarborough said.

"We are receiving the same education," he said. "It's just a matter of when we're learning it. There may be some regional differences, but by college, we're all on the same level."

Although school may be annoying, it is important to stick with it to succeed in life, Déjà Vu said.

"These teachers, they're doing it for your benefit," she said. "You grit your teeth and you get that grade."

Billups, a junior at Springfield Gardens and the student panelist, reminded her fellow students that hard work does pay off.

"It's not what you want to do, it's what you have to do," she said. "If you want to be more than 9 to 5 at Mickey Dee's, you have to focus."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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