Youth Commission approves grants to local organizations

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Dec. 6, 2012
(L-r) Kaitlin Maloney, co-vice chair, and Jasmine Newman, chair, of the Manchester Youth Commission. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
(L-r) Kaitlin Maloney, co-vice chair, and Jasmine Newman, chair, of the Manchester Youth Commission. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

Organizations that benefit Manchester youth had the opportunity throughout fall to apply for a mini grant through the Manchester Youth Commission, requesting up to $1,000 for their programs. On Wednesday, Dec. 4, representatives from the six organizations selected to receive funds were able to address the Youth Commission during a public hearing and advocate for their program before the commission voted on funding amounts.

The Manchester Youth Commission is composed of high school students in the Manchester area. They had up to $5,000 total to give away to organizations. Recommendations made by the Mini Grant Program Committee advised the commission members on how much of the requested grant amount each organization should be awarded.

Susan Stepanski gave a presentation about the Multicultural Club at Illing Middle School, which had requested $600 for its program. The program gives students an opportunity to learn about other cultures. For example, to learn more about Hispanic cultures, they hosted a Peruvian teacher who demonstrated how to make Peruvian potatoes with salsa, which the class enjoyed. “We talk about the culture of the country and try to do some activities around that,” said Stepanski. The program also runs a food drive that benefits MACC.

Amy Gunther talked on behalf of St. James School. The school had requested $1,000 for a Latin Dance Program, though the Mini Grant Program Committee recommended $800. “Our proposal is to bring a Latin Dance Troop cultural experience to St. James School and incorporate it into our Spanish curriculum,” said Gunther. “St. James is a privately-funded school. Our tuition is only about $4,000 for the average student, plus we do give many financial aid discounts. When you think about the cost of running a school... it just doesn't leave a whole lot of funding at the end of the day to do this sort of thing.”

Kate Nicholas, president of Manchester Ring of Champions Society, a program that provides boxing lessons – and mentoring – to at-risk youth, spoke on behalf of R.O.C.S.'s request of $960. The funds would provide $120 scholarships to eight youths who are unable to pay the $10 monthly fee. “Our kids come from challenging backgrounds,” said Nicholas. “If kids can't afford the $10 a month, we give them an opportunity to earn the membership.” That includes community service or helping out around the gym. “We look to organizations from the public to help supplement that money.”

David Brysgel spoke on behalf of the Bentley Academy Workplace Readiness Program at Manchester High School, which sought $1,000. The program once taught students the skills they need to become employable, and then placed students in work experience positions with local employers. However, the program was phased out, and Brysgel is hoping to bring it back. “If you fund us, we're going to run an after-school program where we're going to teach the students the employability skills that they need so they can present themselves well to an employer,” said Brysgel.

Richard Blade, a student advocate at Manchester High School, also spoke on behalf of the Workplace Readiness Program. “The young people that Dave was talking about - I was one of them,” he said. “These kids need a second chance. Their self-esteem, their self-confidence, is so low. They just need somebody to build them up.”

A representative from C.A.S.T. Children's Theatre spoke on behalf of that program. “I have four kids and they have all gone through C.A.S.T., and they all claim that to be able to get up on stage and sing or read lines has given them such a power to be able to get in front of a class or any event where they have to speak in front of people,” she said. She said royalty fees alone could reach $10,000. C.A.S.T. requested $1,000; the committee instead advised the commission to fund $450.

The Manchester Park and Recreation FLASH after school program also requested $1,000, and the committee recommended $750.

After the public comments hearing, the commission members discussed each presentation and voted on award amounts. “I think she deserves full funding,” a member said about Stepanski and the Illing Multicultural Club.

Members were more divided over the St. James Latin Dance Club. Secretary Terrance Brown didn't see the need for it. “They already have a functioning Spanish program,” he said.

Patrick, a senior at Manchester High School, disagreed. “I think it's important to let them branch out and see something they've never seen before,” he said. When it came to a vote, 16 voted for full funding, while four opposed.

All programs were approved for the recommended funding amount, except C.A.S.T. While it was recommended that $450 of the requested $1,000 be funded, the group decided to fund them $650 after reviewing the line items in their grant application.

The total amount awarded by the Manchester Youth Commission was $4,760.

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