BP Marshall helps dedicate namesake preschool in Bayside

| mchan@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall cut the ribbon on her new namesake preschool at St. Mary’s.

She went from borough president back to a teacher again.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall temporarily switched hats during the dedication ceremony of her namesake preschool in Bayside.

The former educator of eight years cut the ribbon on the brand new Queens Borough President Helen Marshall Early Education Center at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children on Tuesday – and then found herself back in the classroom.

“I love working with children,” Marshall said before clapping and singing with a circle of tots. “I’m extremely humbled. St. Mary’s is truly a unique institution.”

The early education center opened this September at 29-01 216th Street and serves 54 special needs children, officials said.

St. Mary’s had a preschool program in the past, but with no official space, students were scattered throughout the hospital, according to spokesperson Leslie Johnson.

Now with 4,000 square feet, there are six classrooms and an outdoor playground for the toddlers to roam.

“Education is a key component of everything we do at St. Mary’s,” said Dr. Eddie Simpser, St. Mary’s interim president and CEO. “Here, we treat some of New York’s sickest children. But we also provide for the holistic care of children — their family needs, health needs, social needs and educational needs.”

The preschoolers learn their basic ABCs and 123s in the center, Simpser said, but they also receive physical, speech and occupational therapy on site for about eight hours a week.
Officials say St. Mary’s is the only post-acute care facility for children with life-limiting conditions in the city.

“There is no person who has walked through these doors whose hearts haven’t been touched,” Marshall said. “The childhood education center is the fulfillment of a dream I share with all of you.”

The $750,000 center was funded by Marshall and the City Council, hospital officials said. It is part of the $114 million expansion project that led to the creation of St. Mary’s new patient pavilion.

“This is a tremendous support for parents,” said St. Mary’s Early Education Director Jean Steins. “This is a gift.”