The Eastern Chapter of the Connecticut Youth Services Association held its 2013 Friends of Youth Services Awards on May 20 at Glastonbury’s Riverfront Community Center. “Parternership is the key to youth service bureau success,” said Alan Slobodien, director of Vernon’s Youth Service Bureau and the master of ceremonies for the event. The honorees for the evening illustrated this maxim, as they represented both long-time employees in the youth services field as well as a variety of partners, including police officers, restaurant managers, high school seniors, town employees and other community advocates and actors.
As honorees and presenters enjoyed dinner before the awards ceremony, Enfield Police Officer George Marusak and youth services employee Christie Amsden talked about their involvement with Enfield kids. Marusak was being honored for his involvement as the School Resource Officer for JFK Middle School. “Enfield Youth Services and Officer George have been working collaboratively for more than 10 years and he has been transformed by us,” said Amsden. Amsden said that Marusak began as a very straight-laced, punctual police officer. But after a few sessions with Peers Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), “His after-school persona turned into a light-hearted and fun-loving youth worker,” said Amsden.
PAWS meets monthly and is open to all middle school children. “We play wiffle ball, dodge ball, kick ball, stuff like that,” said Marusak. “We go on some field trips.” PAWS has a highly-anticipated trip to play Whirlyball scheduled in the near future. “It’s kind of a cross between bumper cars, lacrosse and basketball,” said Marusak.
“What I love about it is you need absolutely no athletic ability whatsoever,” added Amsden.
PAWS averages between 30 and 50 kids per session, according to Amsden, who collaborates on the program with Officer Marusak. “The popularity of this program is reflective of how the kids feel about him,” said Amsden.
The first presenter for the awards portion of the program was AHM Youth Services, which recently added Columbia to its list of towns serviced (Andover, Hebron, Marlborough). AHM’s honorees included Carla Pomprowicz, who has served as the Hebron Town Clerk since 1999. Pomprowicz has also been a member of the board of AHM since 2008, serving on multiple program and fundraising committees including the Lanterns Mentoring Program, the Teen Center, the annual Fall Foliage Concert and Auction and the telethon.
Two RHAM High School seniors, Sean Petersen and Megan Whitesell, were also honored. Petersen has served on the AHM board since 2010 and has volunteered for the telethon, the Maple Festival, the Fall Concert and the golf tournament, among other contributions. Whitesell has also served on the board, as well as volunteering in a number of different ways. One of her notable accomplishments was signing up nearly 100 teen volunteer callers for the annual AHM Telethon.
Another group honoring teen volunteers was the town of Coventry. Like most kids, said Coventry Youth Services Coordinator Crystal Morawitz, the three honored teens came to volunteer because it was required of them; Coventry High School requires 10 hours of community service as a prerequisite for graduation. “But they just kept coming back, and coming back, and coming back,” said Morawitz. “I am amazed by these kids,” she continued. “They do this because it is in them. They do it because they enjoy it.” Ryan McLean, Patricia Piotrowska and Rachel Rolli, all seniors, “went way above and beyond the required hours,” said Morawitz. “[They dedicated] triple that amount of time to our holiday food, gift and bell-ringing programs.”
Other honorees at the 2013 CYSA Friends of Youth Services Awards: East Hartford—Emil S. Kopcha, principal of the Sunset Ridge School Academy of Arts and World Languages; Patty Uccello, youth outreach worker for East Hartford Youth Services; Holly Wells, counseling coordinator for 30 years for East Hartford Youth Services. Enfield—Dorothy Allen, social worker; D’Onya Smith, a senior at Enfield High School who has volunteered in a number of different ways. Glastonbury—John Briody, Evan Lyle, Dena McWilliams and Nancy Sweeney for the Naubuc School Backpack Program; Laura Maud, Corey Morrison and David Smith for the Glastonbury High School Gay Straight Alliance; Mary Kay Brophy for the Hartwell Soccer Club Fee Waiver and Soccer Locker programs. Manchester—Heidi Macchi, outreach social worker and community coordinator for Manchester Public Schools. Mansfield—Sharry Goldman, 30-year supporter of Mansfield youth, including founding the Mansfield Safe Homes Program in 1981. South Windsor—Sgt. Tom Field, Community Outreach Officer for the South Windsor Police Department; Cindi Yakoubian, Community Resource Coordinator for South Windsor Public Schools; Jean Wrenn, School Based Mentoring Program Consultant for South Windsor Public Schools. Vernon—Angellino’s Restaurant manager Marisa Stender, for partnering with the Vernon Youth Services Bureau for the annual holiday party; Dawn Powell, community volunteer for the summer nutrition program.