STATEN ISLAND, NY – A weekly event in Stapleton brings the neighborhood together by providing crucial resources to residents and empowering local youth to get involved in their community.
This summer, the Staten Island Justice Center, in conjunction with various other community organizations, is hosting Hill Street Thursdays, offering free games and activities, educational workshops, and valuable resources to residents of Stapleton.
The event, part of the city’s ongoing Open Streets program, takes place every Thursday on Hill Street between Tompkins Avenue and Warren Avenue, from noon to 4 p.m. The Open Streets program was implemented in all five boroughs last year amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) to encourage outdoor activities and community development.
Andre Ware, Head of the Youth Engagement and Mentorship Program at the Staten Island Justice Center, is the lead organizer of Hill Street Thursdays. He said the event is a win-win situation for the neighborhood, bringing crucial resources to an underserved area, while providing young people with a meaningful way to participate in their community.
âStapleton is an extremely underfunded community, so we want to be able to provide these resources to these people,â Ware said. “And for young people, it’s an opportunity for them to get out and get some fresh air, but also to take responsibility and build a community.”
A number of young people in attendance last week were members of the Youth Summer Employment Program (SYEP), who are given various tasks to help facilitate events.
âThey are given tasks every day, such as setting up barriers, welcoming program partners, driving icebreakers. So it is very important to give them purpose and responsibilities, especially with the coronavirus and some of them not having the opportunity to be in school all year round – this is a way to continue this educational process, âWare said.
Rasheeda Edmonds, an employee of United Activities Unlimited (UAU), the provider of the SYEP youth program in attendance, explained how important events like these are in helping children develop socially and build strong relationships. within their community.
âThe participants we have here are actually from the Stapleton area, and I think what they’re doing here is great for developing their social skills – a lot of them are used to working virtually, or have never worked. before, âEdmonds said.
âThey learn these social skills, they are here to make real connections and they really give back to their community,â she added.
Ariel Flores, a registration facilitator for Metro Plus Health Plan, one of the various resource-based organizations in attendance at the event, said programs like this allow her to educate community members on the availability of resources that they may not know are available.
âIt is important to educate as many people as possible about the opportunities they have for getting health insurance,â said Flores. âA lot of people who qualify don’t realize they qualify. This has been a recurring problem in New York for some time, especially here on Staten Island.
Hill Street Thursdays will end on August 19 with a Stapleton Community Neighborhood Party, where dozens of organizations will be on hand to provide resources, music, food and fun for the whole family.