The Brooklyn Castle, Campaign for Children & Afterschool Connection
Pobo Efokoro and Pat Pinchinat Interviewed by Marlena Starace
How did it all start in regards to these screenings happening and collaboration between partners?
Pobo– Well first and foremost Pat found me. He’s the Director at Queens Community House Beacon Program and ironically I happened to go to school 15mins away from Russell Sage in Forest Hills and that’s how he found me. He invited me to a Campaign for Children town hall meeting in January about the budgets cuts. New York City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz was also there. Parents and participants spoke at the meeting. Pat decided to collaborate with Katie Dellamaggiore- the director of Brooklyn Castle as another way to highlight the importance of Afterschool. I think this may be more of a question for Pat. Pobo laughs…
Pat– Pat laughs… right, right. Thank you Pobo. I’d just like to welcome and congratulate you again for receiving a proclamation from NYC Speaker, Christine Quinn after you spoke at the City Council hearing in March. Getting back to your question, it all started when I had heard about Pobo and Brooklyn Castle from last year’s Afterschool Ambassador, Deepmalya Ghosh with Afterschool Alliance. Pobo had spoken at last year’s Afterschool for All challenge in Washington D.C. This year I was selected to be the Afterschool Ambassador with Afterschool Alliance and I was online looking into advocacy tools and I stumbled across an online petition that Pobo created. It was a petition to the United States Congress, petitioning them to save afterschool programs and provide more funding. In that petition, it said that Pobo went to Forest Hills High School. So I am saying to myself, how is it that I don’t know this young man because we work with youth and we pretty much know everybody that’s doing youth leadership, youth development, and advocacy in this district. So moving forward, I made a mental note of it that I needed to get in contact with him and make each other aware of each other’s existence in regards of the work we do. So that’s when I spoke to my Leadership Development Specialist Marlena who is also the Youth Council facilitator at our Beacon. She helped out with the process of reaching out to Pobo. So we reached out to Pobo and he came out to our Campaign for Children Town Hall rally in Queens. It was great, he spoke so beautifully about the importance of after schools programs and why they are needed. We made a pledge then to stay in contact and continue to work with each other on other endeavors. So in February I went down to the Afterschool for All Challenge sponsored by Afterschool Alliance in Washington D.C. and I had an opportunity to meet John Galvin who is the Assistant Principal and the Chess Coordinator at I.S 318. It was a pleasure to meet him. I appreciated his sincere passion for education- for positive growth and development of young people. So now the wheels are turning, I’ve met Pobo he’s great, I’ve met John and he’s great. I had to really meet all these people who are a part of this and connect dots and align people. I started talking to Ursula Helminski from the Afterschool Alliance about the possibility of having a collaborative effort with them for Campaign for Children screenings of Brooklyn Castle in NYC. I think it is fantastic when we all come together and work on a common cause for good that is especially related to the children and families we serve in our programs. Moving forward, I saw the film down in Washington D.C. The Afterschool Alliance and the United Chess Federation were sponsoring a screening of it. Watching this film, I was just blown away. I’ve been working with children in afterschool programs for 18 years and I have never seen a film that really touched on so much of what after school offers and the positive impact it has. It really blew me away and I was thinking to myself I have to find a way to have more of these screenings and have them take place in after school programs throughout NYC because the film has been screened at theaters and also screened at several different film festivals around the country. I thought we really need to do this and get the ball moving. Afterschool Alliance and the Robert Bowne Foundation had some funding available called Advocacy and Action grants. I wrote a proposal to have Brooklyn Castle screenings in collaboration with Campaign for Children, Afterschool Alliance and the Robert Bowne Foundation and it got approved. I was in contact with Katie Dellamaggiore who is another great person and she is the Director of the film and we been communicating consistently since then and finally we got the ball moving and have the screenings take place. Basically it’s been a process of aligning people and connecting dots, everybody understanding the significance of the film and how it relates to after school, school community partnerships, promoting positive outcomes for young people. It’s a blessing that we were able to get it done.
What are some themes that are related to and or connected to afterschool?
Pobo– Some of themes that are in this film that are related to after school are that practice makes perfect and having that time in after school to be able to practice your skill, your craft and make you better in what you do. I was reading this book by Malcolm Gladwell “Outliers” he mentioned in order for someone to be great at something, they need to get to their 10,000 hours of practice. So afterschool programs I guess help you get to your 10,000 hours of what you want to be in life. Afterschool programs being open Monday to Friday and in some cases on the weekends, contribute to making this a reality. Another theme is that these programs are important and serve a great role and purpose for the students who participate in these programs. For a lot of these kids, their parents are working so they don’t have a place to go, and that’s why after school programs are a great place to go. A great place to build social skills, hang out with friends and do things that are constructive and in the meantime keeps them safe, giving their parents piece of mind of knowing where their kids are at all times. It keeps them off the streets. According to Afterschool Alliance the peek time during the weekday for juvenile crime is between 3-6pm. That happens to coincide with the time that students participate in after school so what would that do if we put more after school programs during that time. Could we reduce juvenile crime? Probably! The film Brooklyn Castle plays a huge role because it shows these kids working hard at what they want to do. It has helped me become a better thinker, a better decision maker and opened me to many other opportunities.
Pat– I think watching the film you can see caring teachers, caring staff, adult/youth partnership, youth voice, parent involvement when it comes to advocacy, and family environment. It wasn’t just a chess team, it’s a family and it wasn’t just a school, it’s a family. Everyone in the school community is engaged, there is collaborative partnership, and stakeholders working together…these are things that are happening in after school here in NYC and all over our country. For many of the youth who come to after school, the staff is their family too. Adult/youth partnerships, intergenerational, adults working with young people to promote positive outcomes for them and young people teaching adults also which I thought was really a key point and you can see that in the film and it speaks directly to what after school is about. I just think it was great!
Pobo– John Galvin is like a father to me. To just add on to what Pat said about family. Pat is starting to become like a father to me too. Pobo laughs…
Pat– laughs and says maybe I’m like your uncle, yeah that’s it! John and I are like brothers working on the same mission- advocating for these much needed programs.
Pobo- John Galvin has been that father figure I needed because my father passed away when I was younger. I didn’t have a father figure around and John always watched over me those 3 years, he still watches over me. The whole Brooklyn Castle cast is like family.
Is there a message that you want people to take away from the film?
Pobo– A message I would like people to take away from the film is how important after school programs are not only to kids, not only the school, not only the community but also to society as well. To kids after school programs provide a great place to go and hang out, to relax with friends, but to do something constructive. To a school it makes the school better because the kids are staying in school longer and because they are staying in school longer, studies show that after school programs help promote positive behavior in kids and also helps raises their grades so it’s important for school to have these programs. For the community, there are no kids around doing crazy things. So you have kids in after school programs doing constructive things and for society as a whole, but also help kids find out what they want to do in life and when they find out what they want to do in life, they are going to work hard to achieve that. That’s going to be great to society as a whole and great for the economy because everybody is going to have different jobs and everybody is going to be employed and doing certain things. Kids who are now adults will have successful jobs and help each other out. That’s what I want people to take away from Brooklyn Castle on those 4 levels. There’s a level for kids, a level for the school, a level for the community and a level for society as a whole.
Pat– I think Pobo said it best. I would just like to mention, I would like to see more investment to make an impact. You need funding for these activities to take place. We always say that the youth are our future. We need to help prepare them for success and we do that by making investments in them, making investments in their endeavors, the activities they are involved in, that’s how you promote positive outcomes for children on their way to adulthood. As a society we need to be more serious about these types of things. There should be no reason why every year after school and childcare programs are facing budget cuts. It really does not make any sense and ultimately we should be thinking about base-lining the funds for afterschool and early child care and really providing opportunities that assist our youth in taking a step ahead, a step forward in regards to their success. Let’s be intentional about it. Let’s invest in children and we will see a return on that investment that will translate to everything in society. You will have more productive and more positive young adults in society. They’ll make more of an impact in their endeavors in what they do. Once again I agree with Pobo!
Pat-In the words of Afterschool Alliance- Afterschool for All!
Pobo– Afterschool for All!
Pat– Log onto http://www.Campaignforchildrennyc.com as well as http://www.afterschoolalliance.org to find out how you can get involved.
Why was it important to have these Brooklyn Castle Screenings take place at after school programs?
Pobo– It’s important to have the Brooklyn Castle screenings occur in after school programs because I think first and foremost the kids who are a part of these programs can see the success of their counterparts, who were also a part of after school programs and I would think that would make them work just as hard to achieve the same success. In addition to that, I think you know after school staff can see the importance of these programs and also I think it gives them the energy to fight more and more to keep these programs. For the parents as well to see the film and tell their kids that they can be just like this kid. I think that’s really important as well. In my opinion, Brooklyn Castle is designed to hit these types of audiences and it would be great to continue to have as more Brooklyn Castle screenings in these after school programs to spread the word. Huge Shout out to everyone with Campaign for Children for being involved as well as helping to make it happen!
Pat– Just like Pobo said, for young people to see their peers in such a great light being successful-it’s inspiring, it’s motivating. It was intentional to have these screenings take place in after school programs because many after school programs I don’t think have seen this film, especially here in NYC. That was really important and we wanted to make sure that happened and also raise awareness about after school as a whole because again there are so many different great activities taking place in various after school programs throughout NYC, but haven’t had the opportunity to be highlighted. For them to see and connect with everything that has be transpiring regarding the success, the winning and the positive outcomes of what youth get when they participate in after school programs. I just thought it was a key point for youth to see it, staff to see, parents to see it, for our elected officials to see it, our school communities to see it. It’s one of those films that shows the true value of after school and makes you go back and want to do more in terms of establishing success in your program. I think there is a strong connection with the film and what Campaign for Children here in NYC is dealing with, in regards to advocating for 47,000 children and families who are at risk of losing their early childcare and afterschool programs. You can see some of the budget battle take place in the film and how the community, youth, the school, the after school program, everybody just united and connected with each other. That is really what has been happening and where Campaign for Children is Citywide here in NYC. The correlation is really there.
We would really like to thank the NYC Council for restoring the funds for child care and after school programs last year and our hope is that it will happen again this year. We cannot let these valuable and much needed childcare and afterschool programs close.
How would you describe the collaboration between partners?
Pobo– The collaboration amongst partners has been phenomenal. Pat has been staying in contact with Katie and me, working together on screenings of the film but on top of that also reaching out to advocates, neighborhoods and politicians of the neighborhood. At our last screening at St. Nicks Alliance, we had Councilwoman Diana Reyna stop by. I think the collaboration between the partners to make these screenings a success is phenomenal and it has been a success because many people have shown up and have seen the success of I.S.318, but not only of I.S.318 but of other programs as well. The partnership is fantastic.
Pat– The partnership has been phenomenal. I would like to send a huge thank you and shout the whole Brooklyn Castle team, everyone with Afterschool Alliance Team, of course the Afterschool Ambassador team nationwide, The Robert Bowne Foundation, Campaign for Children, and all my colleagues throughout NYC. It’s been great to work with the Campaign for Children partners that hosted the screenings. Thank you to my agency Queens Community House for all of their support, as well as St. Nick’s Alliance and Hudson Guild for hosting screenings. It’s been a pleasure to work with everybody on this.