Island Kids provides support to the families of Roosevelt Island by offering affordable, quality enrichment opportunities for children, and support groups for their parents. Located at 536 Main Street, Island Kids has had a presence on Roosevelt Island for over 30 years and was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1993.
Island Kids was initially run by a group of volunteer parents who wanted to create programming for their children. I joined the staff of Island Kids in January 2015, eager to put my background in youth development and four years of after-school program and curriculum development experience to use. As the current Program Director of Island Kids, my responsibilities include the management of the after-school and summer camp programs, hosting and planning events, and sustaining the presence that Island Kids has on Roosevelt Island. Collectively, the Board of Island Kids has over 35 years of experience in childhood education, nonprofits, accounting, and campaigning.
Island Kids has always adapted its program to the needs of Island residents, which has led to its longevity. Three years ago, Island Kids created an after-school program for kindergarteners because there was no after-school option for five-year-olds on the Island. Now Island Kids is preparing to open a free universal pre-K program that will offer 15 pre-K seats to four-year-olds on Roosevelt Island. This is a much-desired service for parents,. PS217 opened up an additional pre-K class but the wait list is still very long. Island Kids received close to one hundred signatures on a petition requesting the new program. The Island Kids pre-K program will be a part of Council Member Ben Kallos’ initiative to add more universal pre-K seats on Roosevelt Island, and funding to run the program will be issued by the Department of Education once Island Kids is approved as a universal pre-K site.
The Island Kids Baby Group, Island Kids’ longest-running class, allows parents to build relationships in a supportive environment while adjusting to their new role as a parent. It is offered every Wednesday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Along with its Baby Group, Island Kids boasts a tumbling class, a year-long after school program, and a summer camp program. Island Kids’ after-school program offers a safe space for kindergarteners to participate in age-appropriate activities. The Island Kids after-school program has reached full enrollment of 12 participants, which displays the need for an after-school program that serves kindergarteners. We plan on adding six more seats once we are approved by the Department of Health.
Additionally, Island Kids’ summer camp program is the only summer camp on Roosevelt Island that serves four- and five-year-olds. We offer an adult yoga class every Wednesday evening for $20 per class. We are also in the process of finalizing a birthday party package for families interested in hosting birthday parties for their children in the kid-friendly space. This option will definitely be budget-friendly and a welcome addition to Island Kids services.
Island Kids prides itself on offering much-needed services to all Island residents despite cuts in funding. Island Kids has been offering partial and full scholarships for almost 10 years, and this aspect of programming has maintained the ethnic and economic diversity of families that participate. We are able to keep weekly summer camp costs consistent because of funding that we receive from donors to cover the costs of scholarships. This past summer, Island Kids offered $20,000 in scholarships to several families who would otherwise not be able to pay the $300-325 weekly fee required to participate in summer camp. We normally receive grants from the Public Purpose Funds, and 100% of Public Purpose funding we have received for summer camp is utilized for scholarships. This year we received $10,000 from a private funder– a cut of $5,000 from last year– and utilized $10,000 out of the Island Kids operating budget just to meet the demand for scholarships. We did not receive Public Purpose Funds this past summer, and cuts in funding will steadily increase the cost of summer camp for families across the board.