Businesses Raise $7K for P.S. 117 Graduation After PTA Funds Are Lost

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on May 6, 2014 4:41pm 

 Nicole Lopez, a parent from the school, Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and City Councilman Rory Lancman in front of P.S. 117 in Briarwood.
Nicole Lopez, a parent from the school, Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and City Councilman Rory Lancman in front of P.S. 117 in Briarwood.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — The fifth-graders at P.S. 117 J. Keld in Briarwood will have their graduation party after all.

Only a few weeks ago, their prospects looked grim, when it was reported that the school’s PTA lost about $30,000, but now a number of businesses and neighborhood groups have come together to raise a portion of the missing funds.

A part of the missing money, which is under DOE investigation, was supposed to cover the costs of graduation, parents said.

“The students were very upset,” said Nicole Lopez, whose son, Justice, 10, is one of 175 graduating students at the school.

“They grew up seeing [previous graduations] and now when they heard they were not going to get it, they were very upset.”

When Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, heard about the problem, he asked members of the organization whether they would like to help.

Several organizations, including Melrose Credit Union, New York Community Bank, TD Bank and the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, offered to pitch in and the group collected about $6,000.

The Briarwood Latchkey Generation, a Facebook group that's composed of current and former Briarwood residents, collected close to $1,300 as well, said Nick Tomizawa of the group.

It’s unclear how the funds were lost. The school referred questions to the Department of Education, which has launched a probe into the missing money. “The investigation is still ongoing,” said David Pena, a spokesman for the DOE, in an email.

The DOE did not confirm the amount that was reported to be missing.

Lopez said she first found out that the funds were missing in January this year, and was told by school officials that the money was “mismanaged.”

Friedman said the money raised by his organization will help pay for a yearbook, caps and gowns, and other accommodations necessary to organize the graduation ceremony in June.

He also said that he had met with the parents and asked them to create a list of items they would need. Last week, he said, he met with principal Paula Cunningham, offering the money to pay for the items identified by the parents. It was not clear if the funds had been accepted.

“Parents were thrilled,” Friedman said. “Their prayers have been answered.”

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