Budget cuts aside, the public school system was never designed to be all things to all kids. There are just so many hours in a day, and classes devoted to specific areas of focus such as acting, music or fencing are few and far between. The schools with the most funding are often able to provide extracurriculars in the form of clubs, allowing them to stretch the curriculum and provide added richness to the day-to-day grind. For kids with career aspirations in the arts or concentrated interests in a sport or field of study, most public schools will inevitably fall short. In a place as multifaceted as New York City, parents can readily pick up the slack, no matter what their child’s special skill might be.
Ice Skating – A free after-school program serving Brooklyn’s kids, Brooklyn Ice is dedicated to making figure skating affordable and accessible. Prizing diversity and committed to serving the underserved, Brooklyn Ice requires kids in the program to maintain good grades and show seriousness about the sport. There are also a number of ice skating rinks situated throughout the city, most of which feature learn-to-skate programs or lessons taught by pros at an hourly rate.
Acting – Acting schools in the NYC area abound and typically offer a variety of options ranging from full-time conservatory attendance to evening classes and summer intensives. Some, such as the Atlantic Acting School which is devoted to serious actor training and the New York Film Academy, offering classes from Shakespeare to audition technique, grant a wide range of scholarship opportunities.
LEGO Robotics – The non-profit, volunteer-run Forest Hills Robotics League provides coaching and training support for budding engineers, scientists and mathematicians in Queens on the weekends, in a supportive and educational environment. Parent participation in this program is required. Family programs in robotics are also featured at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park on Saturday mornings. The museum, with its strong, architectural focus, provides fertile educational ground for tomorrow’s urban builders.
Chess – Offering chess camp, after-school programs and private lessons, NewYorkChessKids Chess School of America is devoted to supporting children’s love of the game and acquiring the type of logistical skills necessary to play it brilliantly. Recognized as a skill capable of enhancing intellectual and emotional growth, as well as patience and sportsmanship, chess is also the focus at the Marshall Chess Club, New York City’s only remaining chess club for kids.
Tennis – Offering school and community-based programs, New York Junior Tennis & Learning provides inner-city kids with the opportunity to learn the sport and acquire a value system focused on humanitarianism and academic achievement. It also provides free teacher training and tennis equipment to schools offering tennis as part of their curriculum. Providing great exercise and the ability to set and acquire personal goals, tennis lessons are available in a multitude of locations throughout the five boroughs.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.