My experience with the Crown Heights Service Center started when I graduated from Medgar Evers College-CUNY in 1973. I was a Teacher Education major and couldn’t wait to get into the classroom! My student teacher mentor at PS 138 on Park Place and Nostrand Ave was Ms. Mosetta Moon. She heard the Crown Heights Service Center was looking for an after-school tutor as well as a high school equivalency instructor. I jumped at the opportunity to tutor the young people from the neighborhood at the main office of the Crown Heights Multiservice Center as it was called in the early 1970’s. They were located on the southeast corner of Nostrand Ave and St John’s Place in Crown Heights.
I was involved in the reading and math programs at the center and we followed the school curriculum set forth by District 17 very closely. The children benefitted in many ways at the center because it kept them off the streets and gave them incentives to strengthen their self-esteem and academic progress. My real challenge was when I was asked to teach the high school equivalency class upstairs on the second floor of that same location on Nostrand Ave. Since I was already an adjunct professor at my alma meter, teaching adults and former classmate, this came easy. The class was packed and only a few students dropped out. Most of the adults who completed the course received their HS Equivalency diploma and were very thankful to me for getting them through. The class was a very diverse group of ethnicities and genders.
After a brief hiatus from the Crown Heights Center, I was contacted again in the early 1980’s to teach in the after-school program being run by the Founder and Executive Director Mrs. Gwendolyn Harmon. This program was geared to manage ” at risk” inner city youth who might otherwise fall by the wayside and get involved with ” gateway drugs”. Mr. Jesse Hamilton, Sr was the Director of that program and Mr. Ward was the overseer. There were two other teachers and two student teachers involved in the program. This after school program was filled to capacity. As teachers we stressed the importance of educational priorities first, and then relaxation and comradery.
After homework assignments were completed, for those children who were considered at risk, we talked about the dangers of smoking, drinking and using other substances considered to be ” gateway drugs”. Every student received a nutritious meal late in the afternoon and then we all engaged in games and activities that promoted competition and good sportsmanship. This program ran year-round and, in the summer, we took the participants to many places of interest in the city.
As the years have rolled on, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with many of my former students who are now adults in their own right and they’ve expressed how grateful they are that we were there for them during their formative years. Words cannot express how I feel about what the Crown Heights Service Center has done for me and for the kids growing up in the 1970’s and later in the 1980’s. Through the years and until her unexpected passing the Founder and Executive Director Mrs. Gwendolyn Harmon really kept to her mandate to service the youth of Crown Heights and to provide ancillary services to those in Crown Heights who needed assistance in many ways.
As I look towards the future It is with a great sense of pride that I am once again able to help shift the winds of change under the Leadership of Mrs. Gwendolyn Harmons’ Daughter and Granddaughter as they carry the torch of service aimed at today’s youth.