Ten teenage girls hosted an event Thursday for seniors at the Roosevelt Island Senior Center. Jaden, Anyah, Tia, Saryah, Madison, Kayla, Nia, Kyla, Kaia, and Chastity organized a healthy meal, then performed on the piano, and presented a dance show for Island seniors. It was part of the “Make It Count” leadership program started by Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council member, Adib Mansour.
Mansour has been coaching youth soccer for over a decade, so when he joined RIRA it was only natural that he would form the Youth Initiative. His concentration on girls comes from experience. He says, “There [was] a girl who was one of the best defense players I’ve ever encountered… and when she turned 12 she came for a tryout game but seemed insecure. I tried to encourage her during the game… but she quit the next day.”
Mansour says the ratio of boys versus girls in tween and teens skews heavily toward boys, leaving girls outside the parameters of youth sports. “This is when I decided to start a Youth Initiative, and particularly for young females.”
Mansour started an all-girl soccer team as part of the Beacon program and recruited a female coach – a lawyer who also taught the young women about the legal system and took them to Queens Criminal Court for a tour. It was a big success. When Mansour joined the RIRA Common Council he refocused the group into the Youth Initiative.
“The program is geared toward young teens to help them have confidence in themselves, make a difference in their community, think about future job opportunities, and become the leaders of tomorrow,” says Mansour.
Supported by RIRA’s Social, Cultural and Educational Committee, chaired by Lynne Shinozaki, last week’s event was a culmination of a three-month project that started with an early summer visit to Amalgamated Bank, where the girls learned about banking basics, how to manage a budget, and about the difference between credit and debit. They also learned about healthy foods from Oscar at the Piccolo Trattoria restaurant.
As the girls learned about the different aspects of event planning, as well as the various merchants and organizations on the Island, Mansour mentored them but let them take the reins as they progressed toward the event. “[The girls] negotiated the price of the healthy food, wrote a proposal, paid, received and signed invoices, coordinated with Ms. Shuang on the piano recital, and worked tirelessly on their original dances,” he boasts.
The girls even planned for an evening event, in particular, after learning about the lack of after-hours programming in the Roosevelt Island community, revealed by a RIRA survey.
In her opening speech, Anyah Lamb described their project excitedly. The girls were happy about the opportunity to give back to the community in general and to seniors in particular. “We learned about all the aspects of Roosevelt Island. We are [still] learning how to be involved in our community and how to become effective leaders.” With the ongoing help of the Youth Initiative it appears these things will become part of teen life on our Island.