Westchester Parent Questions Astorino's Education Challenge Program

Ryan Barnes, who just graduated eighth grade from Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle, has had perfect attendance for three straight years, according to his mother, Diana.

Ryan Barnes and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson. Photo credit: Contributed
Ryan Barnes and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson. Photo credit: Contributed
A New Rochelle parent is questioning Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's education challenge program after her son was left out of the group of winners despite the child's perfect attendance record for the past three years.

Diana Barnes, whose son Ryan just graduated from eighth grade from Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle, said in an email to Astorino's office and the media that she, students and other parents at the school were not notified of the program before the deadline lapsed.

Called the ACE program, Astorino Challenge in Education, awarded Westchester students in grades six through 12 - who had A averages and/or perfect attendance - season passes to Playland. A total of 347 students signed up for the program in its second year, more than double the number from last year.

"My son & 3 others have Perfect Attendance for 3yrs in a row; they received an award for such, along with being on the Honor Roll for 3yrs in a row," wrote Barnes, adding that she is surprised parents at the school were not notified.

Barnes and her son currently reside in a homeless shelter, she said, so missing out on the prize is particularly hard because she is unable to reward Ryan with things. She helped Ryan start a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his high school expenses; he wants to become a scientist and will start at Mt. St. Michael Academy in the fall on an academic scholarship, according to his mother.

Below is Diana Barnes' email to Astorino's office:

Hello I’m a parent to a child that both attended & graduated from Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle, Class of 2014.


I’m writing to inform you that neither I nor other parents were informed of the "ACE" project - Astorino Challenge in Education. My son & 3 others have Perfect Attendance for 3yrs in a row; they received an award for such, along with being on the Honor Roll for 3yrs in a row.


I don’t know what the procedure is for notification to the students but there was none given to our students or school for that matter, my son’s guidance counselor Mrs. Rhett is on top of her business, so again I find it surprising we were not informed of this.


I do understand the deadline has passed to register and to receive the season passes, but it’s a shame that so many other deserving and hardworking students did not get recognized in this manner for their achievements & accomplishments.  As parents we play an important role in our students/kids ability to meet these requirements.


I’m reassured by the fact that my son set this goal for himself and achieved it, regardless of the “prize”.


My request is to make awareness of the Challenge better for all students, not just the ones showcased on the news.


FYI:  My son & I reside in a homeless shelter & as a parent in this situation it’s very difficult to reward my son with anything, let alone this type of reward.  Our family has been interviewed for our housing agency’s annual report , we are the subject to bring light to the fact that in spite of our situation my son is the exception to the studies and statistics of what a homeless child can accomplish, our agency is CHI /Community Housing Innovations, in White Plains.


The following are the awards my son received this year at both graduation and awards day, Ryan Barnes.


  • ·         Perfect Attendance for 3yrs
  • ·         Mathematics / Math 8
  • ·         Foreign Language / French 1B
  • ·         Three (3) year Honor Roll
  • ·         National Junior Honor Society Exceptional Service Award
  • ·         School/Team Service Awards / Team Two
  • ·         President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence
  • ·         William “Brud” Flowers Award
  • ·         New York State Attorney General Triple C Award


He is currently doing community service at Hope Community Services here in New Rochelle as part of his requirement for Mt. St. Michael Academy where he will attend HS in the fall; he received a full academic scholarship.  He also is a member of the Strive Leadership Academy via the New Rochelle Youth Bureau, where he had the opportunity to meet & interview the Mayor, Noam Bramson, he also took a picture with him after graduation.

I don’t know about you, but this kid deserved a Season Pass to Playland, along with his fellow students who achieved the same level of success he has.


We are currently running a fundraiser to assist us with school expenses, so as you can see we are not above doing the hard work to get where we need to be.  www.gofundme.com/RyanTheScientist


Thanks & Much Appreciated.

Diana Barnes, Proud Parent to Ryan Barnes

Ross Revira July 05, 2014 at 07:59 AM
Maybe you should blame the school or maybe yourself.
sayitsnotsojack July 05, 2014 at 12:03 PM
How telling about your reporting having a picture of give it all away and tax them Bramson Why not give Astroino credit for attempting to encourage kids to do well, and help this kid and others whose parents did not follow the rules set forth get a special pass. Instead you are bashing Rob for trying. Talk about yellow journalism.
TC July 05, 2014 at 11:24 PM
Much luck and success is wished for Ryan. I admire your strength and courage. I hope that ryan and the other students are awarded the pass. I pray for Ryan's continued success
lisakyer July 07, 2014 at 09:14 PM
My daughter actually received the Playland pass on that wonderful day and her school had nothing to do with her receiving the award. I read about the program in the paper and followed up. The program is fairly new (this is the second summer) and the staff working the program have a genuine interest in seeing the program succeed. They are warm and welcoming to the children and County Executive Rob Astorino genuinely makes the children feel special. I sincerely hope the program continues for years to come, drawing in many more deserving children each year.


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