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Forest Hills Community House recevies $29K MetLife grant

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Two non-profit Queens organizations recently received grants from the MetLife Foundation for after-school programs that will help students and teachers explore the cultural richness of their community.

The organizations, the Forest Hills Community House and the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, based in Long Island City, were chosen from among three dozen competitors nationwide to receive the "Discovering Community" grants.

The After-School Corp., which was in charge of distributing the $500,000 worth of MetLife Foundation grant money, awarded $40,000 to the Forest Hills Community House, and $29,000 to the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation.

Outside of Queens, seven other Discovering Community grants were awarded to organizations in Utica, N.Y.; Pawtucket, R.I.; Baltimore; and Pinellas County, Fla.

"It's a very exciting opportunity we have here through the MetLife Corp.," said Theresa Greenberg, the assistant executive director for the Forest Hills Community House. "Students will be doing a community assessment of Forest Hills with a special focus on multicultural issues. ... There will be a lot of writing, analysis and critical thinking skills used."

The Discovering Community grant will be used by the Forest Hills Community House to run an after-school program at JHS 190 in Forest Hills, Greenberg said. The program, which will start in early February, will involve about 60 students who will survey people in the community about what local issues need to be addressed.

Once students have identified one issue that is of particular importance to the community, they will plan a community event to address the matter.

Last summer, the Forest Hills Community House ran a similar program with Hillcrest High School in Briarwood, and students hosted a multicultural fair after identifying stereotyping as a major concern of the community.

The after-school program at JHS 190, called the "Youth Committee Planning Collaborative," will be held twice a week for 1-1/2 hours and will last for 33 weeks.

Bruce Kaufmann, director of development at the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, said his organization planned to use the Discovering Community grant for an after-school program at IS 190 in Hollis, called "Our World: Building Community Through Dialogue, Writing and Working Together."

The program, which will run for two semesters, will involve 75 students who will act as guides to their community, leading other students and teachers in the exploration of museums, cultural newspapers, restaurants and other cultural places.

"Queens is a highly ethnically diverse borough, and what we're trying to do is have the students introduce their teacher to all the different groups and community resources that are available around the school," Kaufmann said. "The purpose of the grant is to better inform teachers about the community from which their students come so that they will better understand their needs, strengths and weaknesses."

The program will be held two days a week, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will culminate at the end of the semester with an event where different groups will display material they have put together, such as neighborhood maps, essays on individual families, drawings and visual materials.

      Aside from IS 190, the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation also works with more than 150 other schools in the city, including about 40 in Queens, to develop after school programs.

The Forest Hills Community House runs many other community programs aside from after school programs, including senior citizen centers, English as a Second Language classes and computer training centers.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 229-0300, ext. 155.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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