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Young participants at NYCHA's Fatherhood Initiative kick-off event. Photo by Pete Mikoleski
NYCHA’s Fatherhood Initiative Peaks Interest of Young Dads

Providing a healthy atmosphere where fathers and children can develop a strong and lasting relationship through education and recreation is the mission behind NYCHA's Fatherhood Initiative. This inaugural program kicked off on Saturday, July 31st at the Williamsburg Community Center in Brooklyn, where fathers and children came together to see what the program is all about.

"Participants will spend the next year engaging in activities that foster parental bonding and teamwork, and that enhance their overall quality of life," said NYCHA General Manager, Michael Kelly, who is the proud father of three. "They [participants] will be empowered in their dual role of parent and caregiver to empower and inspire their children," he added.

The Fatherhood Initiative also brings together NYCHA and the City University of New York (CUNY) for a series of workshops and courses designed to assist fathers in furthering their education. These courses potentially give fathers a route to enrolling at a CUNY college. NYCHA is also collaborating with the Department of Youth and Community Development, and other agencies to provide additional resources and programming at the centers. Program participants will meet every Wednesday and Saturday during the pilot program to explore their roles as fathers and how they can actively engage with their child(ren).

At the kick-off event, which served to introduce the program and recruit participants, many of the fathers in attendance completed a short survey to provide insight into the status of the relationship between them and their child(ren). "Me and my son have a great relationship, there's love there," said Imran Prentice, a Williamsburg resident. "But sometimes the mother and I aren't good because of money, so I wanted to see what was being offered here."

Many children accompanied their fathers to the event and they were well entertained by the carnival-like games that NYCHA provided and the delicious treats - popcorn and cotton candy. "It was fun. There was games and I got to play basketball," said Evan Williams, the nine year old son of Derrick Alston, a Williamsburg resident. Clearly impressed with everything the initiative offers so far, he added, "I want to do it again!" And he'll have that opportunity because child-focused activities will be provided during the workshops.

New York City Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, who addressed the participants, eloquently drove home the point best when he said, "As a father and grandfather, I take my responsibility as a man very seriously. It's important that your children see you in different settings and see you doing the right things for yourself and for them." The attendees inside the Williamsburg Community Center kept a respectful silence but many nodded enthusiastically in agreement. Their attendance and support of NYCHA's Fatherhood Initiative is an indication that they are ready to embrace their responsibility to their sons and daughters, and they're eager to explore new opportunities along the way.

For more information and to register, please contact Brooklyn Community Operations at 718-453-1296 or visit the Williamsburg Community Center.

By Brent Grier
August 3, 2010