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Astoria Nonprofit Receives $750K in Federal Funds for Youth Programs

Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens in Astoria received federal funding for its after-school services for the youth of western Queens. (Courtesy of VBGCQ)

Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (VBGCQ) received crucial federal funding that will bolster programming the institution provides to the youth of western Queens, including those from the underserved communities at the Astoria, Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez secured $502,250 to provide mental health and supportive services, and former Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney secured $250,000 for job readiness programming in the club’s Teen Academy.

“Our teens require more support in a world ravaged by the pandemic of COVID,” VBGCQ CEO Costa Constantinides said. “Providing meaningful mental health services, along with job training and college readiness will allow us to guide the leaders of the 21st century here at the Variety Boys & Girls Club. The federal funding provided by Senator Schumer, Congress member Ocasio-Cortez and Congress member Maloney is greatly appreciated and will go a long way.”

Funding for the Teen Academy will allow Variety to hire social workers and other mental health professionals to assist teens with the loss of family members and loss of income to adult family members as a result of the pandemic, providing meaningful support for young people to thrive as they approach adulthood.

“I’m proud to deliver these federal funds to the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens which will provide essential support to youth and families who have lost loved ones and income due to the pandemic,” Schumer said. “This funding will bolster Variety’s Teen Academy resources involving mental health care to help teens cope with tremendous loss and guide them into adulthood. The Teen Academy provides meaningful support to our community’s young people and will expand its outreach to assist more local teens.”

Additionally, funding for job readiness programming is intended to hire a college counselor and staff to provide free SAT/ACT prep. Not all students are ready for college and the Teen Academy aims to give the tools to thrive in the areas they are interested in. The funds will enable Variety to make the necessary improvements to the existing Teen Academy and expand outreach.

“This mental health programming is deeply needed, with young people reporting mental illness at higher rates than any previous generation. My office is committed to supporting Astoria’s Boys & Girls Club, especially in light of the attacks on their city funding earlier this year,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Overall, we are excited to bring home $15.85 million for community organizations and local projects to NY-14, which will improve street safety, expand workforce training in green jobs and create new pre-K programs, among other advances.”

Variety’s Teen Academy supports youth ages 13 to 18 with much-needed after-school services. The director of the program works closely with members, providing small group classes and individual mentoring to help teens explore the different paths they can take. It provides local youth with the guidance and support they need to complete their schoolwork and prepare for their college education and their future career journeys. Programs include the College and Career Readiness Program, which teaches teens valuable skills in financial literacy, self-advocacy and goal-setting.

The services make an impact on the youth from the NYCHA developments as research shows that children from low-income households are eight times less likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree than children born into higher-income families, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Teen Academy works to lessen this opportunity gap so that all children, regardless of income, race or family background, can have equal opportunities to choose the college or career path that is right for them.

“Thank you to these leaders for investing in our young people,” Constantinides said. “Our teen academy is ready to help our teens soar in 2023, thanks to this critical federal funding.”

This story first appeared on QNS

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