Festival draws hundreds to Poughkeepsie High School

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Some of the crowd at the PCSD Family Engagement Festival.

POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie City School District  (PCSD) “Family Engagement Festival” was held on Saturday at the high school.  Several community organizations were embraced by a large turnout.

The free outdoor event at the Poughkeepsie High School Football Stadium Complex had more than 40 vendors including Dutchess Outreach, Hudson River Housing, and SNUG on hand to provide information, snacks, and services to the community in a festive atmosphere, organized by Natasha Cherry, Interim Director of Community Schools for the PCSD.

Tara Whalen, Associate Director of Dutchess Outreach called the event a success. “We are here to make the community aware of the services we offer, including our food pantry. The pandemic placed a large financial burden on the members of the community that can least afford it. For many, that made it difficult to get nutritional food. Dutchess Outreach has been helping by getting food to the community. It’s one of the many services we provide.”

Tara Whalen, Associate Director of Dutchess Outreach.

Cherry also serves as the City of Poughkeepsie’s sixth-ward councilperson and was thrilled with the turnout that also drew elected officials including State Senator Sue Serino, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, Mayor Rob Rolison, and her council colleagues Chris Petsas and Evan Menist. “As part of the Community Schools Initiative, we are using this family engagement festival to kick off our summer programming and this event will help us gain momentum,” said Cherry.

After taking the stage to welcome the crowd, Cherry, with the assistance of a deejay, led the crowd in dance as “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge played over the speakers. A portion of it was captured on video by Councilman Menist, who applauded Cherry’s community spirit. “The most important thing is to let everyone know that we are family here in the City of Poughkeepsie School District and we are going to continue to emphasize that,” Cherry told Mid Hudson News after leaving the stage.

The goal of the event, according to district spokesperson Irwin Goldberg, was to make families aware of all the programs, services, and supports available through the district and its partners to help students. Goldberg added, “It is also a way to celebrate parents and families for all they do to help their children succeed.” The event included safe, fun activities, free food, refreshments, and giveaways. Former County Legislator Mario Johnson, a PCSD employee was tasked with handing out cotton candy at the event, which turned out to be a very popular destination for attendees of all ages.

PHS Cheerleaders

Short introductions to more than 20 programs were interspersed with live music and performances. There was a performance by Poughkeepsie High School (PHS) cheerleaders, a weapons demo from the PHS Air Force JROTC, a Zumba group activity, a demo by Kwon’s Martial Arts, a hip hop dance performance by Poughkeepsie Performing Arts Academy, and several other activities for the attendees to enjoy.