Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and Kids Helping Kids by Kids Way, Inc. co-Founder Philip M. Eslick, a resident of Old Bethpage, recently announced the winners of the "Kids of Distinction" program, created last year to recognize exceptional youngsters in the Town of Oyster Bay.
The winners were selected by the organization Kids Helping Kids by Kids Way, Inc., which established a committee to judge applications.
"We have so many exceptional young people living in the Town that I'm certain it wasn't easy selecting just a handful of recipients," Venditto said. "I thank the committee for their hard work and dedication in designating these fine seven individuals."
The committee was comprised of a variety of individuals from various fields. Committee members included Robert F. Eslick, executive director, Kids Helping Kids; Dr. Martin Brooks, superintendent, Plainview-Old Bethpage School District; Mitchell S. Klipper, COO, Barnes & Noble; Steve Battino, Zeidman, Lackowitz, Prisand & Co., LLP; Paul Eberenz, Woodbury Country Deli; and Reed Mauser, a recent graduate of Yale University who said the Kids Helping Kids organization had a great impact on his life.
"This program is very much geared towards recognizing activities done on a youngster's own initiative," Philip Eslick said. "We are recognizing kids who participate in activities for the benefit of their community or neighborhood, outside of school-related activities."
Winners were recognized during a special ceremony at the meeting of the Oyster Bay Town Board on May 23, at which time they were presented with a plaque and $500 scholarship from Kids Helping Kids. Kids Helping Kids Executive Director Robert F. Eslick would like to thank Mr. John Chmela, chief operating officer of Millenium Auto Group, for the company's support and sponsorship of the $3,500 Kids of Distinction scholarships.
The seven youngsters selected as "Kids of Distinction" for 2006 are Jordan Brustein, a sophomore at Jericho High School, Emmy Liss, a junior at Friends Academy and a Brookville resident, Ryan Gong, a senior at Syosset High School, Alanna Ticali, a sixth-grade student at Plainedge Middle School, Marc A. Magro, a seventh grade student at Hicksville Middle School, Kyle Essex, an eighth grade student at North Shore Middle School and Ashley Pereless, a junior at Hicksville High School.
When Jordan was just 13 years old, he broke both his wrists while playing soccer and football. He found himself temporarily handicapped, needing the assistance of others to help him write and carry his books. During that time, Jordan realized how fortunate he was that his was only a temporary situation and decided to help those who live with permanent handicaps.
Jordan began volunteering at AHRC and the Special Olympics, helping youngsters with permanent handicaps feel good about themselves. At AHRC, Jordan volunteers at the Basketball Recreation Program, teaching children skills and love of the game. He also helps organize an annual Thanksgiving food drive for the organization.
Jordan is also a juvenile mentoring program volunteer, where he tutors young children with special needs, helping them to improve their academic performance and school attendance. In addition, Jordan has collected toiletry items for people in need and donated them to the Federation of Employment and Guidance Services. Jordan has said he plans to continue to help others throughout his life.
Emmy is the founder of Teens Take Charge, a non-profit organization whose goal is to foster more community service opportunities for high school students in Nassau County. Emmy started this group because she felt that many teens wanted to engage in community service projects but did not know how to get started. To help facilitate this group, Emmy wrote to over 150 local non-profit entities to determine their volunteer needs and is working to provide an online resource for teens who want to help others (www.teenstakecharge.org).
Emmy also founded an art therapy club for SCO (St. Christopher Ottilie) Family of Services residents in Sea Cliff. Led by Emmy and other student volunteers, the SCO students receive instruction and guidance in weekly arts and crafts projects.
Emmy's other community service contributions include organizing a candy drive during Halloween for the past two years to donate candy to children unable to trick or treat on Halloween. Regardless of the cause, Emmy always looks for a way to help others.
When Ryan was required to read several novels as part of his English class assignments three years ago, he noticed that many students threw away the books after they finished reading them. He decided to start collecting them and donate them to those who may not be fortunate enough to have such books. Ryan soon found the Family and Children's Association and has been volunteering for them ever since. He helps people of all ages, participating in activities such as reading to children to helping a senior citizen move into a new home.
Additionally, Ryan learned to crochet and enlisted others who could to make scarves and hats for the homeless to keep them warm in the winter. He also built a basketball hoop and baby seat for the Family Court children, made posters and initiated various craft projects to amuse the children there.
Ryan says that volunteering has given him the opportunity to share talents and skills and to interact with people he wouldn't have met under 'usual' circumstances. He knows that he is helping to make a difference in people's lives but, perhaps most importantly, he's having fun doing it.
Winners were recognized during a special ceremony at the meeting of the Oyster Bay Town Board on May 23, at which time they were presented with a plaque and $500 scholarship from Kids Helping Kids.
"There are many young individuals who have contributed to the great quality of life we enjoy here in the Town of Oyster Bay. We felt it was important to recognize our young residents who involve themselves in voluntary community, charity or civic activities on their own individual initiative," Supervisor Venditto said. "This provides a perfect opportunity for them to be recognized for their outstanding achievements. They will surely stand as role models for their peers."