Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 10 June 2011 00:00
The Coalition of Nassau County Youth Service Agencies held its annual legislative breakfast on Friday, June 3 at the Nassau County Bar Association in Mineola to reiterate the importance of its member organizations despite proposed funding cuts in this year’s County budget.
Consisting of over 35 non-profit organizations throughout Nassau County, the Coalition has worked over the years to educate policy makers, elected officials and community members about the various needs of youths and their families. Member organizations include the Hicksville and Glen Cove Boys & Girls Clubs, the Advisory Council for the Youth of Mineola, the Long Island Crisis Center and many more.
Peter Levy, president of the Coalition, explained that while Nassau County features one of the finest networks of youth service agencies in the country, the future of such programs lies in the hands of their elected officials.
“Do whatever it takes to secure the permanent source of funding to keep – and more importantly expand – the programs that tens of thousands of our kids and their families need and to make Nassau County the great place that it is,” said Peter Levy. Legislators present or represented at the breakfast were Denise Ford, Charles Lavine, Tom McKevitt, Michael Montesano, Edward Ra, Michelle Schimel, Wayne Wink and more – a “record turnout” of elected officials according to Levy.
Keith Little, chairperson of the Nassau County Youth Board, said the state of youth programs and services in the County is “at a crossroads.” But while the future may be in limbo, tangible results from these services were seen, heard and felt throughout the two-hour event.
I Count On You and Dream Big, two original songs written and recorded by the Glen Cove After 3 Project, were synched to a slideshow during a video presentation as attendees first arrived. Later on, three individuals shared their experiences with the program they once attended, which resulted in as many standing ovations.
Angel, one of the speakers who provided a testimonial on behalf of the Hicksville Boys & Girls Club, shared his experiences as a young adult.
“Not having my parents around was very difficult. I took the wrong path and looked up to my friends. They did bad things and I thought that was the right thing,” said Angel, who spoke from memory and without notes.
He went on to explain how he joined a gang at 12 years old, leading him down a path of theft, violence and drugs and ultimately, a four-month hospital stay as a result of leaving his old gang.
“The direction I was going would lead me to jail,” Angel said.
After regaining his health and moving to Long Island, Angel’s high school guidance counselor recommended the Hicksville Boys & Girls Club to keep him busy after school.
Before attending daily counseling sessions, he said school and family were no longer important – and thoughts of suicide were prevalent.
“They helped me realize that life can go on. You need to speak out and reach out to others,” said Angel, who soon began tutoring and counseling others based on his experiences.
Ultimately, the Boys & Girls Club helped Angel establish a better relationship with his father. The two later joined a “Journey to Justice” program, which puts on skits to highlight adolescent programs – an experience “that changed my life,” Angel said.
“Youth council made me choose the right path,” he added.
Currently, Angel is getting his Master’s degree at Adelphi University, much to the delight of the audience, in social work. He’s also interning at Family and Children’s to help children with drugs and abuse, among other issues.
“I get to pass the message on, because that used to be me,” Angel said.
Thomas, a representative from S.T.R.O.N.G., said he “didn’t know how to respond or who to talk to” after his son, Kareem, was murdered in Uniondale as a result of gang violence.
Admitting he wanted to retaliate, Thomas said he could’ve “rang on the murderer’s doorbell” because he walked around in the community for nine months after the incident as no local residents wanted to “snitch,” as Thomas explained.
After seeking counseling, Thomas eventually chose to start a non-profit in his son’s name rather than seeking retribution for what he called a “senseless murder.”
For more information, call the Nassau County Youth Board at 227-7134.