2016-10-12 / Features

Local Express

Amanda Aponte

Amanda Aponte is the Manager of After-School Services at Queens Library. A native of Rosedale, Aponte was a regular at her local Queens Community Library until she moved, at age 7, to Valley Stream with her parents, Lisa and Albert, who taught her the importance of giving back. During her high school years and as a student at New York University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology, she volunteered for organizations that helped children in underserved communities. After graduating from college, she returned “home” to Queens Library, where she continues to serve children and teens, creating programs similar to those she enjoyed while she was growing up and instilling a love of learning in them.

QG: What was the impetus of the STACKS program/ how did you come to create it?

AA: I started at Queens Library five years ago, as a youth counselor under the 21st Century Grant. That grant has a lot of rules and regulations – things that have to be met in order to reapply. Once the grant ran out, I wasn’t held to their standards, and I felt at that time that there was something missing without that standard of programming. I felt my students who I had been working so hard with were missing out with that structure lacking. After being promoted to the Central Library, part of my responsibility was to oversee the Boost program, which was great because of the creativity it allows with the students and the community. However, when I was working under the parameters of the grant, there were standards that had to be met from site to site across Queens, for the basic needs of students, and I wanted to incorporate some of those high standards into the new program.

QG: Why did you choose Queens for the program? Was there a particular reason or did it just work out that way?

AA: I grew up in Rosedale – I actually learned to read at the Rosedale community library. I have a long relationship with the libraries. I moved to Long Island, went to school, and after I graduated I found out about the youth counselor position and it felt great to come back and see the growth and change of it, to see the progress.

QG: What did the Queens Library do that sparked your desire to create the program?

AA: STACKS is actually the third iteration of afterschool programming at Queens Library. The first program was sort of the introduction of afterschool programming an Queens; was really just a safe space where kids could go to wait for their parents to come home. Boost, which I worked with, was a little more structured, kids were offered homework help and some enrichment programs, but wasn’t really consistent across sites, which is sort of where I came in.

As an after school employee, I saw the inconsistencies from site to site, and when I was asked to come on and work on developing the next phase, I wanted to know what we could do to make Boost a better program. Now we have better structure and enrollment, we’re focusing on what’s needed at one site versus another. Every day, STACKS provides homework help and enrichment programs for the kids, with consistent monthly conference calls and standardized materials for staff, so that kids, regardless of their area are getting the same programs and assistance from site to site.

QG: What are your goals, long and short term for the program?

AA: Short term, I really want to make sure we can get as many families in the program as possible – we are limited in funding, but this year I do want to make sure we have a good, robust program. I want to give staff professional and creative development opportunities as well; I know how it is to be on both sides of a program, to be on the front lines and to supervise.

Long term, I’d really like to expand STACKS to more communities, to get more students enrolled and more staff on board. We’re focused on fundraising right now to try to make that a reality.

QG: What are some of your favorite places to go in queens?

AA: I’m big on going out to eat – every community in Queens has great, diverse food choices. I love being able to go out in Queens – when I’m out of work – and visiting my favorite places. In Astoria, Taverna Kyclades is definitely a favorite of mine.

The Investors Foundation, established in 2005, has just provided the STACKS program with an $11,000 grant. Enriching the lives of New Jersey and New York citizens by supporting initiatives in the arts, education, youth development, affordable housing and health and human services, the Foundation has pledged to date more than $16 million in support of the communities the bank serves.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

Return to top

Copyright 1999-2018 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.