Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 18 June 2010 00:00
On June 4, Peter Levy, president of the Coalition of Nassau County Youth Service Agengies, presented an early-bird crowd of around 150 people with a rhetorical question regarding the perpetual challenges children face in Nassau County.
Levy asked, “In 1996, did we think we’d be facing the same issues in 2010? Yes, I think some of us did.”
The breakfast meeting, held at the Nassau County Bar Association in Mineola, featured groups from across the county, including the Hicksville Boys & Girls Club, which collectively strive to “better serve those youth and families living within the county who may be struggling with a wide range of issues.”
“The business we’re in is the youth development business – one of the best investments you can make,” said Tom Bruno of the Hicksville Boys & Girls Club.
Bruno stated that the Coalition’s “Pennies for Prevention” program provides essential services such as after-school activities programs, employment training, mentoring, counseling, violence prevention and conflict resolution.
The Coalition states that money invested in youth programs is money saved in county tax dollars, and that family and youth development services in Nassau County are “financially prudent” given the cost of custodial care in other systems, which can exceed $70,000 per year, per child compared to around $115 in Nassau County.
Executive director of the Coalition, Maggie Martinez Malito, corroborated by saying, “It’s a tough time for young people to succeed, but we probably have one of the strongest systems of networks and our programs will continue to bring us through these times.”
The Coalition, according to Keith Little, chairperson of the board, is “fighting to maintain our identity as a group separate from social services.”
“We are concerned and frustrated with the lack of adequate funding and resources,” Little added.
In order to continue their work, Little stated that the Coalition must focus on youth development while concentrating on diversifying funding, improving partnerships with legislators and the county executive and informing county administrators on the youth board.
“Thousands of kids are receiving aid every day, but the only ones who can truly tell what we do are the ones we’ve helped,” Levy said.
Young adults who have been positively affected by the Coalition provided the audience with stories of success ranging from after-school help to job placement and mentoring. A poem was written by one of the young speakers and tears filled the eyes of a mother whose child had been cared for by the Coalition.
“We’re prepared and poised to educate the community about our programs,” said Bruno.