Accentuating and Growing the Positive
By Robin Jovanovich
The Community Meeting Room of the Rye library was filled with hope, passion, and the spirit of collaboration at a morning-long meeting of Rye’s youth-serving organizations January 9. Sponsored by RyeACT, the Rye YMCA, and the Rye Youth Council and led by a professional facilitator, leaders and representatives of nearly every non-profit were asked to introduce themselves by saying not what they did, but why they did it. And their answers were inspirational.
“Working with youth makes me get up in the morning,” said RyeACT Coalition Coordinator Nancy Pasquale.
Rye Arts Center Executive Director Meg Rodriguez finds joy in creativity.
AJ Johnson, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Rye Nature Center, enjoys fostering a relationship between children and nature. Executive Director Christine Siller has another goal: “I do what I do because I want to save the planet. I work to inspire all ages to care.”
Rye Youth Council Educator Jessica Lodato wants to help young people live their best lives and understand gratitude and empathy. Executive Director Lisa Dominici derives immense gratification from helping youth develop strong social, emotional, and mental health skills.
Dinah Howland, leader of the Rye Y’s Healthier Sound Shore Coalition, wants to create and ensure a web of support. Rye Y Executive Director Gregg Howells aims to make a positive impact.
When Jean-Paul Marshall, Associate Pastor for Christian Education at Rye Presbyterian Church, was in high school, “church wasn’t a great place to be. I was called to my work to create a safe space for youth.”
Rye City School Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne said he does what he does because he was a disengaged student at the start and “I want all the little Eric’s to have a different experience.”
Fostering a loving, safe, and inspired community outside home is what motivates Dale Oberlander, Director of The Early Childhood Center at Community Synagogue.
Kid’s S.P.A.C.E. Director Lauren Collins says she is glad to give parents peace of mind about their children’s childcare before and after school.
Margaret Sculti, Co-Director of Rye Presbyterian Nursery School, loves working with young children and values their thoughts. “Watching them problem-solve is wonderful.”
Clinical social worker and therapist Kim O’Connor, who chairs the Rye ACT Health and Wellness Action Team, says: “It takes a village to raise happy and healthy families.”
Consultant Jamie Jensen, who has 25 years in the field of education and youth development, says, “My children have both thrived and struggled.
Rye Boy Scouts Troop leader and now Algonquin District Commissioner Bill Langham says he enjoys watching youth grow and become responsible adults.
Rye Girls Softball President Sarah Ball loves what she does because “Softball is a sport you can play until you’re old.”
City Councilmember Danielle Tagger-Epstein says, “I was elected to be responsible, and I take that seriously and want to leave the City a better place.”
After hearing from all of the participants, facilitator Jay Otto, a principal scientist for the Center for Health and Safety Culture at Montana State University, asked each table to write down what they’d heard.
“Inspiration. A level of passion. An interest in helping adults of tomorrow. A community of people who want to fix what’s of concern.”
Otto quipped, “Hopefully, you’re left with the certainty that you’re in the right room.”
The conversation moved to how Rye’s youth-serving organizations can collaborate and have even greater impact. After checking off some helpful hints on a sheet, the group concluded that setting shared values and norms was a good starting point. There can also be a great benefit from sharing different points of view.
“Collaboration is an overused term,” said Otto, “and not easy.”
This meeting was an important first step in that process.