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White Plains Education Center Gets $3.5M Grant

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- When Latara Richardson, 30, a department manager at Crate and Barrel, heard the White Plains Housing Authority had been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the federal government to build an education center at the Winbrook Public Housing complex, she said the housing authority should prioritize funding more activities for younger residents.

"They want to know why the youth is always going down and turning negative. It's because there's nothing positive," said Richardson, who has an eight-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. "Why put all this money into it? I feel like they have a lot of stuff out there for education. And how many people have jobs? How many people are successful because of it?"

The Winbrook community center already offers adult education, according to Richardson, who said the neighborhood needs more low cost or free programs for younger folks since the community center focuses more on seniors. She advocates for after school activities, camps, and fixing up the playground.

"There are screws loose on the playground and that merry-go-round has been on top of the building waiting to be fixed for three or four years," said Richardson, who has lived at Winbrook her whole life. "You stick kids out here with everything else going on, how do you expect them to do? Kids don't have a choice, adults do."

White Plains announced last Thursday that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the White Plains Housing Authority a $3.5 million grant that will be paired with $1.5 million from the city to build a 13,500-square-foot education center on the Winbrook grounds.

Design development will begin in 2012 with the goal of have the center debut adult education programs, job skill training, youth at risk programs, and entrepreneurship courses by 2015. Any city resident will be eligible to enroll in the offered programs.

The education center will team up with the White Plains Youth Bureau, The Westchester-Putnam Youth Investment Board, White Plains schools, the Business Council of Westchester, and the Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Education Services to staff meeting rooms, classrooms, a computer lab, a culinary training space, a greenhouse, a gallery, and administrative offices.

Mack Carter, executive director of the housing authority, said the grant, which was awarded to five of 58 public housing authorities that applied, would be instrumental in initiating long term plans to improve Winbrook.

"This funding is going to help the downtown White Plains community support job training and educational programming for both low income families and the White Plains community at large," Carter said in a statement. "We're going to build a community center and this will help support the building of that."

Larry Johnson, 18, a Whinbrook resident, said he could see himself taking a class at the education center.

"It's good if it gives kids something to do," said Johnson, who is taking semester off and working at a nursing home.

Still, he said fixing up the playgrounds and building a gym were also big priorities.

"They don't even have hoops in the two baskets," he said.

What are your thoughts on the education center? Could you see yourself taking classes there?  Join the conversation below.

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