For Eddie Silverio, Director of Youth Programs, this summer will be remembered for the smiles on the faces of young people from Harlem, the South Bronx and Washington Heights splashing in a pool together while learning how to swim.
It may not sound like much, but it’s a big deal for city youth largely cooped up in apartments during the COVID-19 pandemic, able to learn a skill they can exercise for the rest of their lives. It was more than learning an aquatic skill: They could be themselves, Mr. Silviero said, and acknowledge their own vulnerabilities.
“They didn’t have to lie to their friends that they didn’t know how to swim,” he said.
It was just a slice of what young people experienced this summer in programs sponsored by Alianza, a Catholic Charities agency.
The programs – which ranged from swimming, cooking, Saturday night basketball, summer camp trips to Putnam County and a Jets-Giants game at Met Life Stadium – were especially needed after a COVID-restricted school year.
“They were able to engage with other kids,” said Mr. Silverio, noting that much of the school year COVID kept children throughout the city apart.
Alianza summer programs tapped into youth creativity. Arts and crafts and a special Harry Potter costume creation animated the young minds. Free donated ice cream and a carnival offered refreshment and respite.
Their counselors were paid for by a summer youth employment program, and that remains a vital part of the entire enterprise, training for on-the-job skills. High school students also participated in marketing and job training programs.