Frances Scarantino always wanted to work with children but her career in government under City Council members and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration made it tough.
She volunteered in her spare time to help kids but as her love for children grew she decided to switch gears and work with kids fulltime.
In 1996 she started a nonprofit called S.T.A.R.S. Youth Center – Striving to Achieve and Reach Success — in Howard Beach, which offered recreational, educational and self-development programs. That grew into a daycare, Reach for the Stars, which she started 10 years ago.
The daycare, at 156-18 96th St., offers a before/after school program, weekend enrichment, a summer program for kids 2 to 4 years old and an educational first step program for 3 and 4 year olds. The daycare reaches 150 kids from Howard Beach, nearby Ozone Park and Broad Channel, and as far as Forest Hills.
Reach for the Stars was recently honored by local Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder as May’s small business of the month.
What makes Howard Beach special to you?
It’s a clean, friendly neighborhood. I love seeing the people that I grew up with having children and raising their families here. I love walking down my block and knowing everyone on my block.
What’s one of your favorite memories from the nabe?
The opening day of S.T.A.R.S. Youth Center is definitely a defining moment in my life as a resident of Howard Beach. In 2010 the center was the subject of a show called ‘Construction Intervention’ where they remodeled it. Both times the community was there to show support for me and the youth center; incredible days.
What makes you stay?
It’s really the people and everything you need is nearby. The people care about the area and bout each other. My nonprofit is here, my brother, his family my parents. My daycare was under eight feet of water by Sandy – if after all of that I’m going to stick in this neighborhood then I’m not leaving.