Litmobile Let Loose

Ribbon Cutting Frees BK Story Voyager

Ribbon Cutting 003 WEB
Students of PS 34 cut the ceremonial ribbon for the BK Story Voyager. (back row l to right) some of the BK Story Voyager leadership and support team: Carmen Asselta (Principal of PS 34), Superintendent Alicja Winnicki, Representative for DOE Chancellor Farina, Council Member Stephen Levin, Joseph Robles (President St. Nicks Alliance), Martha Suarez (St. Nicks Alliance Youth Committee Chair), and Monique Moore (teacher at Brooklyn Arbor); (2nd to back row l to r) far left David Dobosz (St Nicks Alliance Board), center Michael Rochford (St. Nicks Alliance Executive Director), far right Debra Sue Lorenzen (St. Nicks Alliance Director of Youth and Education)

One of the oldest schools in NYC hosted the official launch of a new form of education inspiration. A large shiny purple bus filled with books and multimedia tools named the BK Story Voyager was parked out in front of PS 34 at the end of the February 24th school day. It was a rainy day and you’d have thought parents and their kids would want nothing more than to rush right home and pull up to a bowl of soup. However, the BK Story Voyager’s open doors and caught glimpses of its filled bookshelves beckoned them to come on inside and take a look. And they did in droves.

Meanwhile inside PS 34, those that had a hand in turning a wonderful idea into a wonderful reality told the story of the BK Story Voyager to the group of invited guests.

PS 34’s Principal, Carmen Asselta, started by remarking on how important reading is to developing a well-rounded mind. She cited the Abraham Lincoln quote, “My best friend is a person who’ll give me a book I have not read.”

Executive Director Michael Rochford gave an overview of the journey the BK Story Voyager took from idea, to Participatory Budgeting, to design, to the bus parked out front. He gave a shout out to the project’s success in Participatory Budgeting and securing the remainder of funding from the Von Damm family.

President of St. Nicks Alliance, Joseph Robles added, “From an idea to I’m looking out a window and I’m seeing a bus out there.  Henry Von Damm was a friend and he was a very special person and I’m glad to see his legacy lives on, and he’d be very proud his name is on that bus.”

“So I’m a mom! I’m not an educator, I just watch my children intently. I also call North Brooklyn my home.  What I do for my family at home I do for my community,” began Martha Suarez (St. Nicks Alliance Youth Committee Chair). She continued on to tell of how the BK Story Voyager idea came from a question that led to a goal, “How do we fulfill an unmet need in literacy. We all have opportunities to read, but our goal was to ignite a passion —  something that would entice not just children but all members of our community to become lifelong learners and appreciate that this is something that is brought to you by St. Nicks Alliance who has always been there for you.”

Council Member Stephen Levin gave credit to the people of District 33, “The public funding that was brought in to help the BK Story Voyager was through the Participatory Budgeting program, which means that the ideas of what to fund are thought up by the public. The ideas are developed by the public, and they are voted on by the public — my office is at best a conduit.  All the credit belongs to the public first for coming up with this idea or believing in it and then seeing it through to fruition, and getting out the vote to see that it wins.  It’s also really exciting as a project, children that grow up in poverty experience an awful word gap, by the time they reach the age of 3 they have missed out on 30M words compared to children who grow up in affluent homes. We need to do something to counteract that and to cut down on the gap.” He stated that the BK Story Voyager will meet some of that need, and that, “it’s going to be such a tremendous asset to North Brooklyn Families.”

Superintendent Alicja Winnicki discussed the significance of having the ribbon cutting at PS 34, “When my daughter attended [here] there was a school library that is no longer because the school grew in numbers, and the library was converted into a classroom. It is very symbolic that you are launching this beautiful initiative here at PS 34.”  In addition, on behalf of CEC District 14, she donated two books and presented them to BK Story Voyager Librarian, Shelly Paus.

Then a line of children formed holding the ribbon.  Scissors were handed to a girl in the center, and she was given the cutting honors. To make the day even sweeter cupcakes and treats were provided by Brooklyn Cupcake.

For more information on the BK Story Voyager visit the website:



Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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