Hunts Point Alliance for Children’s 11th annual back to school fair has become a tradition in the neighborhood, drawing long-time residents and newcomers alike to spend the day participating in educational and health activities that aim to support and service the children and families of the peninsula. This year more than 400 people attended the fair, going home with backpacks for the kids and healthy recipes for the adults.
There was also the return of a native daughter, which reminded organizers why their programs are so important. This year’s main event organizer was Jennifer Jimenez, an HPAC Scholar who just graduated from college and was a part of HPAC’s programs since she was a sixth grader at St. Ignatius. She worked this summer putting the event together and studying for the law school entrance exams.
“So this year is very special for her to come back from college and do work to give back to her community,” said Jill Roche, executive director of HPAC.
Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. presented a check for $10,000 of discretionary funding he had allocated to HPAC for college and career programming.
Hidalíz Angulo Ramos, who works as a teacher associate developing lesson plans and establishing individualized student goals at HPAC’s early childhood center, emphasized the importance of events like this to “build that relationship with the parents, let them know we are there for them.” The fair is also used as an outreach event, especially to new families in the neighborhood, as some parents don’t know all the programs available in Hunts Point for their children and families.
Ramos hugged and greeted many of the children and parents coming to an activity table where she helped a child create a bookmark with petals and flowers. “Here we are using things in nature that we might not think we can use, but we can,” she told her little student. Similar educational and creative activities were dispersed around the park for children to engage in and collect their score card. This year children were given a score card and received stamps at each activity table. At the end, they redeemed their cards for a backpack with back to school materials. Other tables had information about organizations and programs in the neighborhood.
Claudia Vaughan, a mother of two, said she would try the recipes she picked up and the exercises she learned once home. “You come and learn things, to show the kids we can do things together,” she said. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Vaughan has lived in Hunts Point for six years since she moved from her home in East Flatbush. All her family is still there, and even though she misses Brooklyn sometimes, she said she found better rents and bigger apartments here in Hunts Point.
“I think it’s gotten really good over here,” Vaughan added. “I think it’s getting better in Hunts Point.”
Another popular tent was the “Mercado” station, a green market that is run by Urban Health Plan, a non-profit clinic that provides health care services.
“We like to participate because there is a always a connection to the community,” said Yineska Guerrero as she distributed bunches of cilantro, apples and cucumbers in bright yellow reusable bags.
This specific initiative is run as part of Healthy Hunts Point, under a grant of the NY Community Trust, to provide physical education activities and access to fresh food. The Mercado gave away free bags half filled with produce to the attendees who participated in activity stations. Healthy Hunts Point does these give-away events at least three times per year, and the HPAC fair is the last one for this year.
Germania Enriquez has only been living in Hunts Point for one year since arriving from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to live with her daughter but feels that the Hunts Point community is very charitable and humanitarian. The event, she said, brought “unity in the family and integrated parents, teachers and students.” And, she added, “I wish I could send some of the giveaway backpacks to my other grandchildren in Santo Domingo.”