Written by Jill Nossa Wednesday, 06 August 2014 00:00
Two local Boys and Girls Clubs were part of a national campaign launched last week to bring awareness to the needs of the youth in the community.
Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club and Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club in Locust Valley marched down Forest Avenue on Thursday, July 31, meeting at the parking lot of Stop & Shop where a pep rally was held to launch the Great Futures Campaign. Melissa Rhodes, executive director of Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club and Ramon Reyes, executive director of Grenville Bake Boys & Girls Club, also both products of the Boys & Girls Clubs in their hometown communities, are veritable examples of the success of the programs and services provided and are passionate about Boys & Girls Clubs and the governance, guidance and support they impart is instrumental in the accomplishments and achievements of club members.
“Both Ray and I have a strong connection to the Boys & Girls Club as we are club kids ourselves. I actually grew up at the Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club; for me the club quickly became a home away from, a place that helped shape the person I am today,” said Rhodes.
“Our country’s state of poor academic performances, obesity, drug use and youth related violence are cause for alarm. In Nassau County alone we have more than 200,000 kids in the public school system and many of them do not have a place to go during the after school hours. These kids do not have access to Boys & Girls Clubs to go to after school, where they receive life enriching programs focused on education, character and leadership development and health and fitness. We are positively impacting our neighborhood’s children and by doing so, we are positively impacting our respective communities,” said Reyes.
Senator Carl Marcellino addressed the kids directly, saying, “We’re here to celebrate and demonstrate that you have a place to go after school where it’s safe, where you can go and learn and play.
The people that run these organizations care about you and your families...keep up the good work so you become good, strong, healthy productive citizens.”
Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said, “I was a member of the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club, and my daughters went to the Locust Valley one.” She acknowledged that kids in New York City were also holding a pep rally at the same time, signifying the impact of a bigger movement. “What you guys are doing is telling the whole world how important you are, and it’s true, you are dear to us. What you are doing now...is showing how important the club is and people forget sometimes, so this is our reminder.”
Mayor Reginald Spinello, borrowing a hat from a club member and demonstrating how he can “bust a move,” said, “A child that is watched is safe. How many of you feel safe at the Boys and Girls Club? A child that is watched is happy... And a child that is watched feels loved. I visit the Boys & Girls Clubs and I see what they do for all of you. They do it because they care about you, and the community cares about you. And it’s very important that you have someplace to go between 3 and 6 p.m....there are a lot of things that can happen between 3 and 6 p.m. when people are not supervised. But you are in the right place, with the right people.”
He presented a proclamation, and read, “The children of our community are the foundation on which our future success is built, yet many of our kids are at risk of heading down the wrong path, impacting the future of our country...The out of school environment, after school and summer, plays a critical role in transforming kids’ lives and America’s future, yet 15 million kids nationwide leave school with no place to go and 43 million kids lack access to summer learning programs. The Great Futures Campaign seeks to ensure every child has access to a safe place after school and during the summer, and to empower to today’s youth to achieve great futures as successful, healthy and engaged individuals.”
Vannya Cisneros, 18, Youth of the Year at the Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club, spoke to the younger club members.
“I started coming to club in fifth grade and have loved it every minute. I can see how the club has influenced and shaped my life,” she said. “I see how there’s something new to learn at the club every day. Keep doing what you’re doing at the club, and have fun...I really do think great futures start at the Boys & Girls Club.”
The other Youth of the Year, Elizabeth Garcia, 18, started at the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club in third grade. She will be pursuing a degree in biology and English to Spanish translation and interpretation at Hunter College this fall.
“The club was a place where I went to get away from the troubles at home, and now where I can guide kids through my service at the club and let them be comfortable being themselves. It is because of the club that I was able to quickly advance in school,” she said. “Even though English is my second language, I became more comfortable and open with people. If it were not for the club, I would most likely be lonely and extremely shy. Because of the club, I have been exposed to so many amazing opportunities. Because of the club, I realized the importance of giving back to others. The club has helped me shape my path to great future.”