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Superintendents Join To Restore Youth Service Programs

Long Island school district leaders call on Nassau County to restore $8 million in funding

Local school district superintendents on Tuesday, Oct. 2 called on Nassau County to restore youth and family programs that were cut or eliminated from the county budget on July 5. Representatives from Elmont, Great Neck, Long Beach, Massapequa, Mineola, Uniondale and Westbury protested the decision to slash nearly $8 million in program funding that went to counseling, tutoring, crisis intervention, after school programs, among other areas.

These programs were the victim of the ongoing tug-of-war between party lines in the county concerning borrowing and redistricting. Organizations across Nassau County, like the Gateway Youth Outreach in Elmont and Mineola Youth and Family Services in Mineola were blindsided when the cut came down three months ago.

The New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano and the entire county legislature on Sept. 28, in support of restoring the programs. NYSAN Executive Director Nora Niedzielski said the programs, “allow parents to work without worrying about their children’s health, development and safety and [the programs] reduce juvenile crime,” the letter read.

Local school and community leaders agreed. Coalition of Nassau County Youth Agencies President Peter Levy feels the programs were the victim of political struggles in the county.

“We cannot be used as pawns in political games,” he said. “School superintendents are well aware of the negative impact on their school communities due to the loss of vital services provided to their students and we appreciate their partnership in this campaign.”

According to GYO Director Pat Boyle, about 800 Elmont youths once attended the Gateway Youth Outreach Center, but county cuts made the center scale back to 100 students in 2012. The center opened in 1983 as EYO, but later changed to GYO in 1998.

“We’re left with a tremendous amount of latchkey kids,” said Al Harper, superintendent of the Elmont School District (ESD), which enrolls about 3,700 students. “Who knows where these children are?”

The ESD faced the possibility of a complete failed budget last June, after it failed at the polls on May 15. The district needed 60 percent of voter approval to pass the budget, which it attained on June 19.

“Elmont is a vibrant, working class community,” Harper said. “Parents sometimes put in long hours at work in order to pay bills and survive in this economy. Gateway Youth Outreach provides afterschool care for our children. Parents were left without afterschool childcare. This was very unfair to take away at the last minute. We need this type of support for our children.”

Activists, youth organizations and local community fixtures have been pleading for a restoration of funds since the summer, but this marks the first time school heads have banded together to force the issue. The educators were lobbying for a specific area or program, but had one common goal.

“I came here to support Mineola Youth and Family Services,” Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler said. “To speak pragmatically, we understand that we all have to produce budgets. In our budgets we try to make sure we understand all the consequences of our reductions. In this case, 38 youth and family service programs in one pen stroke affects a lot of kids in a lot of communities. It is great to have another place for kids to go to when we can’t provide the service. There’s no dollar amount that will speak to the value of that as a society.”

Executive Director of Mineola Youth and Family Services Cristina Balbo is still working with local youth, without pay, on her own time, for the good of the children. She said, “Our agency is basically closed. However, I still volunteer my time with no pay, along with two or three volunteers from the agency to keep the clients safe.”

Balbo is hoping the funding gets restored. She recently met with Nassau County Legislator Rich Nicolello and State Senator Jack Martins to discuss the program cuts.

“Does anyone have an understanding that these agencies are not going to be around?” Balbo stated.

“To wipe out all of them, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Nagler stated.

News

What Thanksgiving Means In Mineola

Thanksgiving is a holiday, a festival, celebration and food fest. Tradition says the first Thanksgiving feast was celebrated by pilgrims and Native Americans back in 1621 to give thanks for their harvest after a harsh winter. Over a century later, George Washington, the nation’s first president, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.

 

Fast forward to 21st century—the modern day Thanksgiving has come a long way since then. What has not changed however is the shared elaborate meal consumed with family and  friends in the same spirit of celebration and giving thanks for the blessings.

Winthrop University Hospital employee Jeffrey Brenner, a hyperbaric technician with the Life Support Technologies group in Mineola, recently received the American Heart Association’s prestigious Louis J. Acampora Heart Saver Award at a dinner at the Crest Hollow Country Club. The award is named for a Long Island teenager who succumbed to a sporting injury that is understood to have been preventable if a cardiac medical device had been immediately on-scene and applied. 

 

“I hope that I have made a real difference in my town and the world around me to help prevent death and improve the quality of people’s lives” said Brenner.


Sports

After consecutive seasons of finishing runner-up in the men’s golf Player of the Year for the Skyline Conference, Christian Bleck of St. Joseph’s took home first place in a rather unlikely turn of events. 

 

After a herniated disc caused the Chaminade High School alum to miss every event after the first week of the season until the conference tournament, Bleck returned—without even having the luxury of practicing a full 18 holes—and competed with the best players the conference has to offer. 

Cross-Country Crowned Champs

The Mineola Mustang boys cross-country team won the division 4A championship recently at Bethpage State Park.  This is the first championship for the program since 1974, ending a 40-year championship drought. 

 

Mineola defeated Seaford, who also entered the undefeated in division competition, 38-20.  Overcoming rain and high winds throughout the race, many Mustangs ran personal records for the 5K in route to the victory.


Calendar

Mineola School Meeting - November 20

Fools Rush In - November 21

Mustangs Face Roosevelt - November 22 


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