UFT members were among the thousands of educators, parents and students who turned out on Oct. 13 for a day of celebration of public schools organized by United Way of New York City.
“I’m here because public schools are the only way forward for an equitable education for all,” said Raphael Tomkin, a special education teacher and chapter leader at PS 333 in Manhattan.
A Teachers Recognition Breakfast hosted by United Way and the UFT was followed by United Way’s March United for Public Schools, a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to demonstrate the importance of public education.
After the march, participants gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall for the children’s “Future Festival,” which included student musicians and dancers, Big Apple Circus performers, a bubble garden, face-painting, a reading tent and more.
“Each day at school, I look forward to a young student going from ‘I can’t. Help me,’ to ‘Look at me! I did it,’” said Teresa Bello, a pre-K special education teacher at PS 185 in Manhattan who was among the public school educators honored at the breakfast organized by UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford.
Recognizing teachers “adds legitimacy to what we do,” said DéNeil Pollock-Campbell, a teacher and the chapter leader at PS 299 in Brooklyn. “This job is not easy.”
Also honored were Kiana Curry of PS 369 in the Bronx, Maxine Grant of PS 40 in Brooklyn, substitute James Ellowitz, Lorena Izzo of the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Queens and Esti Ross, the community school director at Gotham Professional Arts Academy in Brooklyn.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the “beauty of our wonderful school system” is how teachers and parents come together every day to embrace challenges. He thanked the community partners at the event, saying, “We are never going to get this to work unless we all partner together.”
Schools, he said, are “the center of every community.”
Samantha DeBlasi visited the children’s festival with her daughter, Sofia, a 4th-grader at PS 222 in Brooklyn, who participated in a fitness-promoting activity and a demonstration about making healthy food choices. Sofia also learned about how organizations such as the Girl Scouts empower girls and young women. “These are all great messages,” DeBlasi said.
“We came out today because we’d like her to get more involved and to show support for causes such as public education,” DeBlasi added. “Public schools have a diverse student body,” and “are an example of what New York is made of.”