Brooklyn, NY (March 20, 2007): More than 200 Brooklyn youth engaged in meaningful dialogue about health care, crime, after-school programs, jobs, higher education and other topics important to them and their peers at a recent Youth Conference sponsored by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn).
The forum was co-sponsored and hosted by the CAMBA Beacon IS 271 School on Herkimer Street, which is located in Montgomery’s Brooklyn Senate District.
"They told it like they see it," Senator Montgomery said, encouraged that the young people didn’t hold back anything when it came to expressing their concerns and asking questions of elected officials and other State and City policy makers. "The middle school and high school students were respectful and professional in every way."
Some young people testified about the lack of recreational opportunities in their communities They underscored the need for more recreational centers where they can learn how to swim, play basketball and engage in other sports. As a means to this end, they called for more funding for after-school programs that offer recreation as well as education programs.
"When I asked the young adults if they wanted to attend college, nearly every hand raised. They are excited about learning and about graduating and going to college," Montgomery said, applauding their enthusiastic response.
Based on remarks presented by the youth, Senator Montgomery said that there is a tremendous need for academic tutoring, mentoring and pre-SAT and SAT preparation to help students obtain their high school diplomas as well as provide them with the academic foundation needed to attend and succeed in college. Senator Montgomery is the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Children and Families and also serves on the Senate Education Committee.
The young people delivered their prepared testimony to Senator Montgomery as well as Council Member Darlene Mealy; Council Member Albert Vann; Assemblywoman Annette Robinson; Assemblyman Darryl Towns; Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr.; Congressman Ed Towns; Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes; Michael S. Smit of Stuyford Eagle; Dolores Swirin of the Girls Scouts, and representatives of the NYS Office of Children and Families, NYS College Board; Division of Youth and Community Development; NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; Beacon Programs; Brooklyn North Police Precinct; and Community School District 23.
"Our young people are desperate for employment and internship opportunities," the Senator said, noting that they spoke to the need for more funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program. They also called for an entrepreneurial/apprenticeship program that would provide exposure to different career paths.
In addressing this request, Senator Montgomery told the students that she has proposed the Brooklyn Works for Youth (BWY), a youth and career development program. It would provide paid internships and career-minded employment to Kings County youth between the ages of 14-19, with mentoring and jobs offered by not-for-profit groups, business organizations, community boards, local businesses (i.e.: merchant associations, LDCs), and cultural institutions. The creation of the Brooklyn Works for Youth program contingent on funding in the 2007-08 State Budget.
Other important issues raised by the young people included police department "stop and frisk" policies and the need for more school-based health clinics to provide students with access to medical and mental health services. In their overall discussion of school-based services, students asked for more sex education classes in order to learn more about sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses. They also talked about the lack of nutritional meals, the shortage of computers and chemistry lab supplies, and the downsizing of art and music classes.