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July 12, 2006

Youth Initiatives Splash Into Summer


School's out and summer's heating up for scores of North Fork kids who've got a battalion of caring educators, town officials and concerned individuals banding together to create a host of initiatives geared toward offering young people healthy, safe, and fun recreational activities.

Communities that Care, an organization spearheaded by Susan Toman of the Guidance Center in Southold, is working to organize a series of events this summer to provide safe outlets for young people.

"I support this mission, which is to provide recreational activities for today's youth that are alcohol and drug free," said Assemblyman Marc Alessi.

When he first took office, Alessi was involved in a number of youth roundtables geared toward finding positive recreational activities for today's youth, and he hopes to continue his efforts and work with CTC and other organizations to "brainstorm" and plan future events.

"You can see what results out of boredom," said Alessi. "If you have positive activities for kids to partake in, it really goes a long way."

The goal, said Toman, is "to usher our adolescent children to adulthood and give them a safe place to socialize."

Toman and others concerned about Southold youth have been working with Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell on the formation of a youth bureau.

To that end, a group including school administrators, service organizations, students and parents as well as town hall personnel met recently to discuss a variety of needs that is consistent with the diversity of the young population.

Russell said the group is planning an event in August to jumpstart the new school season and incorporate students as the town looks to expand youth services.

Another meeting is expected in the next few weeks "to continue the dialogue," said Russell. "We are in this for the long haul."

Ultimately, though, Russell does not expect the town to take on the business of entertaining youth.

Instead, the goal of the town youth bureau is to identify needs "and sometimes, wants" of area youth and act as a conduit for resources and funding.

The group discussed the role a youth bureau could take in expanding not only recreational activities but also the "educational, health and well-being of our youth," as well as offering a broad range of options for children ranging from the youngest to those in their late teens.

The supervisor was grateful to his team: "They have all committed to stay with it as we push ahead," he said.

Members of the Southold group include director of human services Karen Mclaughlin, Kenneth Reeves of the recreation department, Phillip Beltz, special projects coordinator, and Jim McMahon of youth services and community development.

Also present to lend support at the meeting last week were Liza Coppola of Community Action of Southold Town, Mattituck High School vice principal Dave Smith, Elaine White of Southold schools, Carol Brewer of the Family Service League, students Marrissa Jacobs and Max Comando, parent Barbara Sheryl, and Toman.

In Riverhead, the town's recreation department is also working to engage kids. They introduced a youth night on Mondays through August 28 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the George Young Community Center in Jamesport.

The youth nights are open to all Riverhead school students, grades 7 -12, with a program including movies, video games, ping pong, air hockey, music, kickball, basketball, volleyball, horseshoes and other sports. A Riverhead school ID is required for entry.

Riverhead Town's recreation department is also introducing a senior and youth night, to be held on July 27, a movie night, and August 10, a bingo night.

The events will be held at the Human Resources/Senior Center at 60 Shade Tree Lane in Riverhead from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and are open to Riverhead school students, grade 7-12, and Riverhead seniors.

According to Theresa Drozd, a K-12 violence prevention coordinator in the Riverhead schools, the program is designed to bridge the gap between seniors and youth.

Drozd said if the events prove successful, the goal is to make them year-round and provide transportation.

Across the board, the goal is to bring kids together at events they can enjoy. "We want to hear from the kids," said Coppola.

For additional information on youth nights and youth/senior nights, call the Riverhead Recreation Office at 727-5744.

For more information on CTC's summer event schedule, call Toman at 664-9886.

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