On the Monday before Thanksgiving and under the supervision of teachers, parents and the 102nd Precinct, students took part in a Turkey Trot on the sidewalks in front of the school.
The kids dressed up in turkey hats and gobbled their way up and down 85th Street to the delight of parents and neighbors. The fundraiser was the idea of teacher Stacie Stuart, who brought the idea to Principal Marilyn Custodio.
“I wasn’t sure how the community would react,” Custodio said. “But the kids did an outstanding job.”
On hand for the celebration was State Senator Joseph Addabbo and representatives from the offices of Assemblyman Mike Miller and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.
“Congratulations and thank you for all the hard work you did,” Addabbo told the kids.
Stuart reached out to the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, so besides myself and my wife, WCHS board directors Loycent Gordon and Allan Smith were on hand to present a few small gifts to the students who raised the most money for their school.
Congratulations to Francisco Adorno, Jayana Pacheco, Jacob Irizarry, Rayn De Leon and Marilyn Custodio for their outstanding work, leading the way for new and improved technology for the students at PS 97.
PS 97 recently celebrated its 100th Anniversary, having opened in September of 1916 on Yarmouth (now 85th) Street. The interior of the school is in beautiful condition, probably looking not too much different than it did on the day it first opened 101 years ago.
After the event, we went to the principal’s office (not the first time, for some of us) and spoke with the young fundraisers. Smith told them how much he enjoyed his visit to the school he graduated from several decades ago, passing along the names of teachers and principals from long ago.
I attended kindergarten at PS 97, a fact that I shared with the kids, who guessed my age to be somewhere between five and 76. They ended up settling on an estimate of about 40 years old. I love these kids.
I only went to PS 97 for the one year, moving over to PS 60 for first grade as it was closer to my house. So while PS 60 was my school growing up in Woodhaven, I always had a soft spot for PS 97.
And as I told the kids after the celebration, there’s a bond between people who went to the same school. As they grow older they will learn to appreciate that more and more, becoming fast friends with people once they learn of their common bond.
And the bond they will have with each other after this project is one that will last a very long time. The Turkey Trot fundraiser was a great example of how much people can accomplish when they work together as one team.
The lesson they take away from this is that if you surround yourself with good people pulling in the same direction, you can do the impossible. Together you can accomplish so much more than just a bunch of individuals working alone.
It is a valuable lesson, one that will do them well to remember throughout their life. And it wouldn’t hurt if some of the adults in this community learned that same lesson as well.
Congratulations to Stuart and Custodio and all of the students, parents and teachers at PS 97, aka The Forest Park School, whose motto is "We Grow Beautiful Minds and Cultivate Hearts."
They certainly do, and I am extremely proud of my former school this week.