Youth Advisory Council bids farewell to seniors, looks to next year
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Jun. 7, 2013
Glastonbury's Youth Advisory Council wrapped up another year of service by reflecting on its accomplishments over the last school year and bidding farewell to its outgoing seniors at a picnic at J.B. Williams Park on June 6.
The YAC is comprised of teens from grades eight to 12 and typically runs several activities per school year, including a town hall forum on an issue concerning teens, an Empowering Families event for teens entering high school and their families, and attending conferences including the Peers Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) conference, which invites similar groups from across the state to share ideas.
YAC advisors Kristina Vetrano of the Glastonbury Police Department and Emily Dickinson of Glastonbury Youth and Family Services said the group grows and builds each year, and that comes from the strength and knowledge of the group's student leaders. “These kids can work under fire,” Vetrano said, adding that when the guest speaker at the group's forum on substance abuse cancelled at the last minute, it was the students who quickly created a plan B and almost-miraculously found a substitute speaker.
At a recent presentation at Glastonbury High School, the group was informed that the film they were to show was not available, and they again created a new presentation to take its place (although ultimately the video did indeed work). “They came up with a plan in about 30 minutes flat. I was astounded and relieved,” Vetrano said. “They shined that morning, as always.”
The group's three graduating seniors – Paige Cantwell, Alex Bzdyra and Emil Atz - were honored with a leadership plaque signed by other members and advisors. Vetrano also spoke about each one.
“Paige is phenomenal in organizing and planning,” Vetrano said. “She's keeps me on my game.”
“Emil is a rock,” Vetrano said. “He always has a smile on his face. Emil's a go-to guy who says, 'Tell me what you need,' and he comes up with a plan. He's a very strong leader. The kids love him, the teachers love him.”
“He is another amazing kid,” Vetrano said of Bzdyra. “I'm so proud to have had him in the group. He's a more quiet leader, but the kids love him and will follow him. He will do great things.”
“You're the joy of our job,” Dickinson told the seniors. “Thank you for all that you've taught me.”
The group also installed its officers for the 2013-14 year. President is Stephanie Consoli; vice-president is David Friedlander; secretary is Megan Sanderson; and press liasion is Liam Andrian.
Consoli, a rising senior, said she has worked with Atz, Bzdyra and Cantwell since she was a freshman, and the three helped her feel at home in the group. “Coming in as a freshman, it was so intimidating, but I have gotten so close with them,” she said. “The
three of them are great people. They're really going to go far in life. They are so easy to get along with, they know right from wrong and they have good heads on their shoulders. They have brought this group so far, and they are truly going to be missed.”
Andrian said he had come to know the seniors well. “All of them are really good role models and leaders,” he said.
Consoli said the YAC will continue to do the same activities, including the town forums, PAWS conference and Empowering Families events, and hopes to expand with more presentations and finding ways to bring them to larger audiences. They also plan to keep boosting membership.
“It's a great program with great people,” Consoli said. “It's like a family and it's truly rewarding. For middle school students going into high school, having them know that they have a familiar face and role models to look up to is a rewarding experience.”
“It feels good to help out other kids to help them transition into high school,” Andrian said.