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Bronx community groups and elected officials rallied on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse in April to protest overcrowding in Bronx schools. The rally included students from Dewitt Clinton High School, where overcrowding has become a growing problem over the years.

Every morning hundreds of high school students line up in front of the doors at Dewitt Clinton waiting for their turn to go through the metal detectors before running to a class they may already be late for.

“I hate entering the building because it feels like a prison with the metal detectors,” says Clinton freshman Alicia Rodriguez. “The number of students waiting on line, even if you get there early, causes me to barely make it to class most of the time.”

Overcrowding is a huge issue in NYC High Schools

According to inside schools.org, an independent guide to New York City public schools, Clinton is one of the largest high schools in the city, and over the years the number of students enrolled in the school has increased greatly. Most of the students enrolled come from low-income families in the Norwood community and can’t afford to go to nearby private schools or send their children to schools elsewhere in the city.

In 2002 the school enrollment was 3,772. Soon after, schools like Roosevelt, Taft, and Walton were reorganized into much smaller schools with a limited enrollment. Clinton’s enrollment for the following years grew. According to the October 2007 New York City Department of Education calculations for Capacity, Utilization and Enrollment, Clinton is 1103 students over capacity. In a school that is supposed to serve 3,362, about 4,465 students were enrolled.

Principal Geraldine Ambrosio has learned to deal with the crowding. She has had to give up her office for daily class sessions. Several other classes are held in the basement where hot weather can be cruel. Teachers have to carry their own materials from class to class because they don’t have their own rooms.

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Jerome Shopping district (Click on image for Slideshow).

While her daughter heads into the Payless on Jerome Avenue in the Norwood section of the Bronx, Maribel Collado waits for her outside and looks at the latest earrings that Anna Negron has on display on her small table, where a sign reads “Two for Five.” Holding up a pair of silver hoops Collado rejoices, “I think I’ve found my fifth pair, Anna.”

Collado has lived on Gun Hill Road in the Bronx for 10 years now. The busy shopping street under the elevated tracks of the four train is where the stay-at-home mom does most of her shopping. It is where a year ago she met Anna Negron, an immigrant and one of the many street vendors claiming the streets of Jerome between Mosholu Parkway and Gun Hill.

Five years ago, vendors were an unusual sight on these streets. Only two or three hotdog carts were fixtures. Over the years Jerome became a popular shopping area in a predominantly low-income community. Soon enough the number of vendors grew. Today, many things like accessories, religious memorabilia, books, Perfumes, Comics and clothing can be purchased from vendors. They have made themselves an important feature of the community.

The Jerome-Gun Hill shopping district consists of more than 200 stores, which sell apparel, food, electronics, furniture and many home goods and supplies. Over the last several years the reason the shopping district has attracted residents has slowly changed along with the variety of vendors now selling outside the stores.

While many wish to start their own business, in today’s economy it’s not easy. Street vending seems to be the easiest form of selling your own goods without paying rent. Yet it is also a job that can be really hard, especially in harsh weather, which is why most of these vendors are immigrants with little access to well paying jobs.

“When a friend first suggested doing this two years ago, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea you know,” said Negron. “She convinced me that since my kids are older now I could go out and make some money to help with rent.”

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Community Board 7 in the Bronx

When the Budget, Personnel and Ethics committee of Community Board 7 met to vote on how the city should spend millions of dollars in the Norwood and Bedford Park neighborhoods of the Bronx, only six people were there.

While the meeting, held at the headquarters located at 204th street and Bedford Park, only consisted of six attendees, the main topic of conversation before the meeting was not the turnout, but the troubles with the heating system.

“Just one of the many constant issues we’ve got to deal with here” said treasurer Barbara Stronczer laughing.

According to Stronczer, the boards meetings lack community involvement.

The Board, which serves the communities of Bedford Park, Fordham, Jerome, Kingsbridge Heights, Norwood, University Avenue, and Mosholu, lacks the publicity that according to it’s members would make it easier to get others involved.

“People don’t know that we are here to help them and it’s a problem,” says District Manager Fernando P. Tirado. “It’s the reason why I try to get our existence out there through various vehicles.”

The board’s last huge media covered contribution to the communities it serves was the demolishing of plans to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory, which mayor Michael Bloomberg was displeased with because of the jobs that it was believed would be brought to the surrounding Bronx communities.

News about the armory was on local news channels, newspapers and Internet sites and therefore many community members were aware of the plans.

As Tirado stated, community boards are among the smallest of all city agencies and so their functions are as a monitoring and advisory group and not an official decision making body, which then makes visibility in the community difficult.

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Guadeloupe (left) at work at P.S. 94

It’s 6:15 and Yanire Guadeloupe is standing in the empty Public School 94 cafeteria, watching as the last child is picked up–late. She’s talking with the school’s principal and a parent trying to get her kids into the after school program Guadeloupe runs at P.S. 94, the Kings College Bronx elementary school. The program is full, but Guadeloupe suggests putting them on the program’s waiting list and brings a smile to the parents’ face.

The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, funded by the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development, serves the people of the Mosholu community. It runs summer camp programs, day care, sports and karate classes, senior events, teenage employment programs as well as after school programs in schools like P. S. 94. Guadeloupe has been director of the P.S. 94 program for the last two years. In her time as director, the program has been running smoothly and has become popular.

“She listens, you know,” explains 29 year-old Michelle Alejo, who has been working with Guadeloupe as her assistant director. “She has patience. Something that’s great to have as a boss and especially when you handle a lot of children.”

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