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Queens Gazette: Vallone, Simotas Address BELL Summer Learning Grads

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Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., Zone 126 Executive Director Maritza Arroyo Díaz and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas spoke at the closing ceremony of the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) Summer Learning Program.

QUEENS, NY - August 14, 2013

It was a full house at P.S. 17 on August 9; more than 150 parents attended their children's closing ceremony for the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) summer learning program.

Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., who joined Zone 126 to cover the costs of $26,500 to open the school for the summer program, spoke of his excitement at seeing so many children and their parents engaged.

"These parents and students are so devoted to learning that they actually volunteered for summer school," said Vallone. "Both my girls went to public school, so I know how difficult it is to keep kids focused during the summer, and I am proud to have helped offer the opportunity for our Queens kids to excel."
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who was equally excited, spoke of attending P.S. 17 and the importance of education.

"It was an honor to join these talented children and their motivated parents and educators to celebrate the completion of this important program. Maintaining an academic focus throughout the summer will greatly help to keep these students primed for the challenges of a new school year. As a product of Astoria public schools myself, I am so proud of this initiative and its efforts to keep our community's children as prepared as possible for their futures."

Zone 126 partnered with BELL last summer and this summer to ensure that the neediest of children would be able to combat summer learning loss.

"At risk children living in poverty lose an average of two to three months of learning during summer", said Zone 126 Executive Director Maritza Arroyo Díaz. "Combating summer learning loss is a crucial key to closing the achievement gap.  Zone 126 will continue to partner with organizations such as BELL to ensure closing this gap to make our children college and career ready."

BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a Zone 126 partner, is a national nonprofit that provides award-winning, high quality after-school and summer programs to close achievement and opportunity gaps. This is the second summer in which BELL and their philanthropic partners provided a summer program for the neediest children of Astoria.

For more information about Zone 126, visit their Web site www.zone126.org.