New RIRA Committee Focuses on Needs of Island Youth

February 19, 2017

At the beginning of its current term, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association Common Council elected to expand its previous Youth Initiative into a new ad hoc committee. The resulting Children, Youth, and Education Committee focuses on the needs of Island children and youth. As our population continues to grow, we are excited to become a voice for our younger and smaller constituents and their families. The Committee is co-chaired by Anne Heskel and Adib Mansour.


As many of you know, Roosevelt Island has many wonderful activities and programs designed for children from 6 weeks old onward. We are lucky to have dance classes and a musical theater program directed by proficient instructors; swim, soccer, baseball, and tennis teams with world-class coaches; infant and toddler groups that offer entertainment for children and support for new parents; as well as cultural, social, and religious organizations led by dedicated parents. We are also lucky to have a successful public school on the Island, as well as other thriving educational entities. For new families, however, discovering these programs and institutions is not always easy, as there is no child-specific information center available to parents. 


One goal of the Children, Youth, and Education Committee is to increase awareness of currently available programs on Roosevelt Island, and to be a source of information for these organizations. 


To do this, we are creating a website that will detail the different programs and provide the appropriate contact information for organizations. This will be accessible through the RIRA website and is expected to be completed in March. 


We also plan to sponsor a forum for parents and program directors to meet and discuss afterschool and summer programs available to our school-age children. Island Kids and the Roosevelt Island Youth Program/Beacon Program play such an important role in the lives of so many children and parents on the Island. It is important to remember that high quality, neighborhood after-school care and summer camps allow many of us to go to work happy with the knowledge that our children are in good hands. 


In addition to supporting and showcasing our existing programs, the Children, Youth, and Education Committee will act as a sounding board – listening to the ideas of our community and helping to advance new projects. While our focus is on our younger population, we remember that we are all part of the greater community of Roosevelt Island. We are very excited and pleased to be working on several projects that connect Island youth and seniors. 


Some of the projects in progress include leadership, mentoring, and community engagement. We are currently working with a group of young women (from elementary to high school students) to celebrate Black History month as part of a joint venture with the Carter Burden Center and the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association. 


Lola De Luka, a 9-year-old student, is collecting donations from the generous vendors on our Island (including Gristedes, Bread & Butter Deli, Wholesome Factory, and off-Island bakery Pain D’Avignon, which is owned by an Islander) to create “goodie bags” that will be donated to seniors. Anyah Lamb and Tia Young will present an African dance and will read a personal essay and a poem by Maya Angelou. 


Other projects include: 


Yes, We Can: Youth from all over the Island will collect canned food and distribute it to the needy. 


Set the Scene: This collaborative program with the Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance teaches backstage theater skills to Island children in fourth through seventh grades. Art, construction, time management, and teamwork skills are taught in a fun hands-on learning experience. Ning Chang, a ninth grader at the United Nations International School, spearheaded this educational and leadership program. Donations are welcome.


Cyber Safety Seminar: We will be working with child-development professionals, City youth organizations, PS/IS 217, as well as the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department, to educate our youth on cyber safety protocols and on preventing cyber bullying.


Youth Tribunal: Joyce Short, Island icon and member of the Children, Youth, and Education Committee, wants to identify “quality of life” issues that could be addressed by a youth tribunal. Having youth hearings run by other Island youth would be a good mechanism for establishing “fair treatment” by their peers. Example offenses include underage drinking, trespass, tagging, defacing property or other low-level misconduct. The members of the “tribunal” could be elected and would be trained by community members. This is another project that would be coordinated with Public Safety and the NYPD.


Our main goal is to enlighten our youth to become the leaders of a bright future.


Adib Mansour and Anne Heskel, Co-Chairs of the RIRA Child, Youth and Education Committee


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