|Avoiding the Tender Trap|
BY BRUCE APAR
Times are tough for a lot of folks, still. There may be signs of progress in generic American commerce for a privileged handful, but common wisdom holds that until Main Street – the lifeblood of neighborhood economies – starts feeling the love, news of a sustained rebound is just that: news to those who continue pinching pennies.
Nowhere is the unease more easy to detect than in the plight of young people wending their way between adolescence and adulthood. My friend Michael Grace -- first-term supervisor of the Town of Yorktown in northern Westchester, with a positively Clintonesque command of policy details and issues as befits a Phi Beta Kappa -- harbors an abiding concern for what he identifies as the 15-25 age group. For one, he has children of his own in that range, so his insights are not merely theoretical but practical.
He regularly notes the scant opportunities these days for that cohort of job seekers, and how that void can turn into a trap of trouble for kids who champ at the bait of temptation in place of productive pursuits.
I can relate to the job scarcity inside my own home. Our daughter Elissa is nearing the end of her undergraduate studies in elementary education to become what she excitedly has talked about since grade school: a teacher. Far from hiring educators, though, school districts are making necessary if painful reductions in budgets and faculty sizes. She might as well master that Master’s degree sooner than later in such circumstances.
As fiscally conservative Supervisor Grace is quick to acknowledge, it’s not that municipalities should become caregivers for the adolescent-adult population in their boundaries. That’s not to say there can’t be nurturing activities enabled and promoted by local governments and citizen groups.
Yorktown, as in many places, is blessed with an abundance of residents who would rather expend energy volunteering and creating opportunities for youth than complaining about what’s not there.
Both Yorktown Teen Center (YTC) and Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK) sponsor evening programs that encourage teens to put their artistry on display through public performance for their peers. This past month, YTC hosted what has become its annual NextGen Festival of the Arts showcasing the next generation’s creations in art, photography, music, writing and short-subject motion pictures.
When I attended its NextGen Film Festival recently at Northern Westchester /Putnam BOCES -- on behalf of our Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation, a proud benefactor of Yorktown Teen Center – it was a pleasure to connect with the creative energy of budding filmmakers that filled the screen.
As one example, sixth grader Casey Huppert-Fishman (of Yorktown’s Mildred E. Strang Middle School) demonstrated through his stop-action “Star Wars Lego” an unmistakable knack for visual wit in a series of black-out vignettes using tiny plastic facsimiles of characters like Darth Vader and R2D2, complete with laser swords.
Just goes to show that given the opportunity and the environment to flourish, young people are perfectly capable of nourishing themselves. Present economy excluded, with kids in our midst like Casey, the future is looking brighter already.