Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a pep talk to more than 100 after-school program directors, teachers and staff members Monday in Queens, telling them they are performing the "sacred work" of guiding middle-school students.
He visited the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation training camp in Richmond Hill before the Sept. 8 launch of his citywide after-school initiative, "School's Out New York City."
Coupled with the introduction of the administration's universal prekindergarten on Sept. 4, the after-school programs are the result of a "long fight" to secure funding from Albany, he said.
"This is the largest expansion of after-school programs at the middle-school level in the history of New York City," de Blasio said. "My job is to get you the support, but then you go in. You're the boots on the ground."
About $145 million will be spent on after-school programs for middle-schoolers this year, with the amount jumping to $190 million next year.
De Blasio said the initiative will nearly double the number of after-school student openings to 78,000 by the end of the upcoming school year from 44,000 last year.
Many of the programs will be hosted and managed by community-based organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens, which hosted the training camp Monday where de Blasio spoke.
Students at the training camp told the participants their parents were grateful to have free programs and safe places to send them after school.
The mayor afterward told reporters he will assure the quality of the programs, despite the massive scale of the launch, with constant inspections of the sites and their work. He has named the after-school initiative "School's Out New York City," or SONYC.