County Executive Robert P. Astorino recently awarded $10,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle to support two programs – “Smart Girls” and “Passport to Manhood” – that are focused on developing youngsters into confident, compassionate and successful members of the community.
“It is firmly my belief that safer communities begin close to home,” Astorino said. “I am always looking to partner with innovative programs that are generated by the local community, and in this case, we found two programs that are doing a fantastic job of building young men and women into strong adults.”
Combined, Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood serve over 400 students. The programs are conducted by the Boys & Girls Club in coordination with the New Rochelle public schools.
The partnership is an extension of Astorino’s Safer Communities and #DadBeThere initiatives, which work to strengthen individuals, families and communities.
Astorino was joined for the announcement at the Remington Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle by Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte; Bishop Ray Mott, senior pastor of the Family Christian Center of New Rochelle; senior leaders of his fatherhood and faith-based efforts; members of the community; and students and leaders from the Boys & Girls Club.
Lutonya Russell-Humes, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle, said there is synergy between the county’s fatherhood initiative and these programs. For instance, she would like to build upon events such as “Dads Take Your Child to School Day” in order to involve more fathers not only in the lives of young men, but in the lives of young girls, too.
“The most critical relationship for a young girl is with her father,” Russell-Humes said. “We often think about fathers and sons, but as a woman, one of the most important relationships I’ve had is with my father. Dads are really important. We have lots of involvement from moms, but the thing we’ve been talking about is how to incorporate dads. This $10,000 will allow us to create some targeted activities for dads and the children we serve. We are pleased to work with the county and further help kids reach their full potential.”
Smart Girls is geared towards young women and girls between the ages of 8 and 18. The focus is on building healthy attitudes and lifestyles. Special emphasis is placed on the themes of self-esteem, peer pressure, bullying, body image, and positive decision making. In addition, the girls focus on entrepreneurship, career building, community service and mentorship.
Passport to Manhood, meanwhile, mirrors the Smart Girls program but instead covers the journey of becoming a young man. The approach is to give young boys an opportunity to see themselves as adults, looking at both the challenges and successes they may face along the way. The program covers a wide range of topics, such as peer interaction, self-esteem, self-portrayal, and mentorship.
Astorino’s #DadBeThere fatherhood initiative focuses on supporting the full spectrum of fathers – from those who are active in the home to those who are not – in order to strengthen families and communities. A subset of the county executive’s Safer Communities initiative, fathering programs range from career counseling, job placement assistance and child-support arrears repayment programs to simply creating more opportunities for dads and families to spend time together.