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Rockland wins $100,000 grant, kicks off its piece of national youth collaborative initiative

Resource type: News

The Journal News |

By Randi Weiner

WEST NYACK – Rockland is one of four counties in New York to get money for a national program designed to help prepare kids for adulthood by improving the quality of youth programs already in place and getting those hundreds of separate park, school, church, synagogue, social service and governmental programs to share their expertise better.

The formal kickoff for Ready by 21 Quality Counts drew more than 80 people yesterday to the Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services conference center, all people who work with children, teens and 20-somethings in Rockland.

The focus of the movement is to prepare children to be ready for college, work and life by the time they’re 21. According to statistics provided by speaker Karen Finn of the national Forum for Youth Investment, only about 40 percent of youth are actually ready to step into their place in the future.

It’s a number that those in the audience felt represented Rockland and why many said they attended the kick-off.

“I came to learn more about it,” said Stephanie Madison, vice president of programs for the Mental Health Association of Rockland. “We’re interested in enhancing program integrity and be part of the (national focus) to get children ready by 21. This was very helpful.”

The national program kicked off in November in Washington, D.C., a two-year project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and
Atlantic Philanthropies. The funders offered seed money to five states and seven cities to evaluate programs, suggest ways to better work together, and offer free training to strengthen and enhance what’s already available.
Rockland, Orange, Broome and Onondaga counties were granted money for start-up costs, chosen because they already had infrastructures in place that were in line with the national program, Finn said. Rockland received $50,000 for each of two years to set up the program, get evaluators trained, evaluate programs and create and offer in-service training.

Phyllis Morena is the county’s Ready by 21 Quality Counts coordinator, aided by Linda McMullan, who coordinates services for the Children, Youth and Families Office of the county’s Health and Human Services Policy office.

The state Office of Children and Family Services, which is coordinating the money statewide, suggested Rockland apply for the money, McMullan said. The county found out in late January it had been selected from the pool of applicants. Leader training will be held next week.

The evaluations, which would be confidential to the organization but analyzed countywide by Ready by 21 staff, would see how well the programs serve youngsters and adhere to program goals. While no money for individual programs is available through Ready by 21, the specific evaluations could be used by program grantwriters to prove what audience the program serves and how well it does it, Morena said.

Evaluated programs would get free, specific training programs to help staff; training also would be made available for any interested organization free of charge. Morena said she was available to speak with administrators so they understood what Ready by 21’s goals were and how it could benefit their programs.

“Speaking as executive director of the Rockland County School Boards Association, it’s within the interest of schools and school board to make sure our children are ready by 21,” said Bryan Burrell, who also is president of the Nyack Board of Education. “We want to be able to partner with the county and different agencies to ensure that our kids are ready by 21