New virtual tech training in Queens

Workforce development company Per Scholas has been offering free IT, cybersecurity, and software engineering training at its locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx for over a decade. However, a new technology is allowing the organization to expand throughout New York in a creative way.
Per Scholas’ Satellite Classroom program utilizes cloud-based technology to equip pre-existing facilities with the tools necessary to teach technological skills.
Rather than having to completely equip a new location with millions of dollars worth of equipment, Per Scholas is partnering with local organizations and using the satellite program to quickly expand its reach throughout the city.
Commonpoint Queens has partnered with Per Scholas to transform a portion of its Elmhurst site into a new classroom.
Speaking at an event in Per Scholas’ Brooklyn location at 630 Flushing Avenue, Commonpoint Queens CEO Danielle Ellman explained how the new technology will help people pursue new careers while minimizing travel time.
“At Commonpoint, we’ve been addressing unemployment and underemployment for over ten years with training and workforce development programs,” Ellman said. “By removing the barrier of transportation, we can make it much easier for people to learn these skills.”
Commonpoint Queens was chosen for a number of reasons, chief among them being the massive effect the coronavirus pandemic had in Elmhurst.
“Elmhurst was the epicenter of the pandemic, and there was an unemployment percentage of 22 percent at one point,” Ellman said. “Much of the job loss in our borough were jobs that had no chance of returning, like restaurants or businesses closing down.
“That made us want to focus on career development,” she added. “We don’t want people to feel like their dreams need to be deferred. Instead, we want people to feel like they have options.”
In addition to Elmhurst, Per Scholas is currently in the process of opening satellite classrooms in Staten Island and Manhattan. The company will also continue to operate its own locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx, which together have graduated and employed over 500 students since their creation.
“I never thought tech would be an option for me,” said alumni Matt Bogata. “I had been working in hospitality since I was 15, first at restaurants and then at bars. I was furloughed from my job at the beginning of the pandemic, but that’s when I found this program. Fast forward five months and now I am working as a tech specialist at a law firm.”
Per Scholas is supported by a number of major corporate sponsors, including Amazon and Barclays. During the event, representatives from both companies spoke about the need for an equitable return to the workplace following the pandemic.
“Barclays is a bank, but in our 331-year history we have learned that when societies succeed, banks succeed,” said Richarrd Haworth, Barclays CEO for the Americas. “Investing in the ability of people to reach their potential is the best thing we can do to foster growth for everyone in the communities we serve.”
Borough President Eric Adams delivered the event’s keynote address, discussing the role technology has played in his own personal development.
“Often when we think about technology, we think it’s something that’s out of reach,” Adams said. “I studied computer science and then became part of the original small team of programmers that worked on the early versions of Compstat for the city.
“There was a 356 percent increase in startups in Brooklyn over the past five years,” he added. “When kids from Brownsville and other neighborhoods enlist in this program, they will be able to mix their new knowledge with their life experience. ”
Adams called on the corporate sponsors in the room to maintain their commitment to serving young people in the city.
“We have to send a message to tech companies that we cannot let the best talent sit on the bench,” Adams said. “A company shouldn’t be able to grow while the opportunities for young people are decreasing.”

Queens Comes Back: QDEC hosts block party

Over 40 vendors and 1,000 people gathered in an outdoor backlot of Kaufman Astoria Studios for the Queens Comes Back event this past weekend. The event was hosted by the Queens Economic Development Corporation.
QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein said it was gratifying to see people come together and support local businesses, especially after the last 18 months.
“When I look at this crowd, it represents the borough,” he said. “The vendors, the people here, there’s no majority and no minority.”
Bornstein said he wanted to give back, both to local businesses and to the public, resulting in the event not charging vendors a fee and no charge to the public to enter.
From plant-based and vegan cakes by Pudding Pan Desserts to Romanian sweets from Twister Cake Bakery, sweet tooths were left satisfied as lines formed outside each vendor booth throughout the day. Spanish cuisine from Sala Astoria was served and washed down with cocktails by QNSY Sparkling Cocktails.
“As an entrepreneur, it was an exciting and energizing networking opportunity,” said Tara Merdjanoff, co-founder of QNSY Sparkling Cocktails.
Performances were held throughout the day featuring Gotham Dance Theater, Chieh Hsiung, Manhatitlan Mexican Folkloric Dance Group and Greek American Folklore Society.
The original Queens Taste event is usually held annually on the first Monday of May, said Rob MacKay, director of public relations for QEDC. In past years, places like the New York’s Hall of Science and Citi Field hosted the indoor event.
MacKay said this year’s outdoor event exceeded his expectations.
“We’ve been through a lot as an agency that helps small businesses and they’ve been through a lot, but I feel like a lot of people have stabilized and found out ways to work around stuff,” said MacKay. “It’s a morale booster to show we’re going to make it.”

Getting out the vote in Little Guyana

They came dancing with a mission.
Members of the Caribbean Equality Project and the Asian American Federation, in partnership with the South Queens Women’s March, hosted the inaugural Little Guyana Votes Festival in Richmond Hill last weekend.
Held on 120th Street between Little Punjab Avenue (101st Avenue) and Little Guyana Avenue (Liberty Avenue), the event also featured cultural music performances by Taranng Dance Group, PPE distribution, Hurricane Ida relief resources and COVID vaccines.
The Indo-Caribbean community is the second-largest foreign-born group in Queens, and fifth-largest in the city.
Christina Motilall, a member of South Queens Women’s March since last year, says she connects with the platform’s mission of providing resources to an underserved community.
“My family goes through the issues that South Queens Women’s March is trying to tackle,” said Motilall, whose parents are from Guyana. “I feel like I connect with it culturally, and I want to make a difference too. This is what representation looks like,” said Motilall.
The festival culminated in over 30 new registered voters, 250 free culturally responsive grocery bags distributed and over 40 completed excluded workers fund applications, according to Mohamad Q. Amin, founder and executive director of the Caribbean Equality Project.
“This is our home, this is our country, and immigrants have always been essential,” said Amin. “We must protect immigrant rights, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights and grant undocumented people and asylum seekers a pathway to citizenship, freedom, and liberation.”
The event was joined by community leaders, including council member Adrienne Adams, who emphasized her priority on the diverse constituents of the district.
“I recognize that all of us have been marginalized and forgotten about, not thought about and not cared about,” she said. “So when I became elected, I knew things had to change.”
The event coincided with National Voter Registration Day, held annually on the fourth Tuesday in September. According to U.S. Census data from 2020, roughly one in four eligible Americans are not registered to vote.
To familiarize locals with the voting process, residents cast ballots for categories like which local eatery has the best doubles, a common street food snack from Trinidad and Tobago, and shared their preference for one of two well-known Richmond Hill grocery stores, Singh Farm and Patel Brothers.

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