Top High School Students from Long Island Convene for 2010 Long Island Youth Summit
OAKDALE, NY – On March 5, 2010 high school students from all over Long Island assembled for the 2010 Long Island Youth Summit (LIYS) that took place at Dowling College in Oakdale, NY. The purpose of the Summit was to work with the brightest and most active high school students in order to make them aware of the socio-economic and environmental challenges that are affecting or may affect suburban Long Island in the near future.
In order to participate in the Summit, the students were asked to either write a paper/essay or create a short video or an art portfolio that would discuss possible solutions to a suburban issue of their choice. The issues that high school students were asked to research included Environment on Long Island: Preservation of Open Space, Protection of Water and Renewable Energy; Housing and Suburban Culture; Transportation; Long Island Economy and Business Environment; Long Island Governance Structure and Civic Activism; and Race, Class, and education on Long Island. Based on the quality of their submitted work, over one hundred students were selected as the finalists who, together with their high school teachers, participated in the Summit.
The Summit started with a welcome speech by Robert J. Gaffney, Dowling College President and Co-Chair of the LIYS Steering Committee. In his speech, Mr. Gaffney reflected on his work in preserving the open space and advancing the economic development of Long Island during his three term service as the Suffolk County Chief Executive. He then challenged the Summit’s participants to learn more about Long Island and to become a new generation of Long Island leaders. The keynote speech of the Summit was delivered by Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). Ms. Esposito spoke to students about ten top things that they can do in order to help the environment on Long Island and about the importance of following your heart and true interests in life. Ms. Esposito emphasized the importance of citizen and environmental activism for the future of Long Island and the importance of persevering in achieving one’s goals. Brett Clifford, a Social Studies teacher at Kings Park Central High School, addressed the students during the awards ceremony. In his speech, Mr. Clifford emphasized the importance of learning about Long Island’s social, economic and political issues and the critical role that high school teachers could play in spreading such knowledge. He noted that Long Island is losing a very high percentage of its population between 25 and 34 years old and challenged the students to stay on Long Island and reverse this trend. The importance of staying on Long Island and increasing its beauty, diversity, and economic strength was the message of the Summit’s concluding speech given by Diana Coleman, Co-chair of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and a life-long community activist from Roosevelt. “I am proud to call myself a Long Islander”, Ms. Coleman said, “but all of us will have to work hard to make Long Island a better place to live”. Ms. Coleman spoke of a need for a new generation of Long Island leaders and her conviction that new leaders will emerge out of the group of high school students who attended the 2010 Long Island Youth Summit.
During the day of the Summit finalists and their teachers participated in topic workshops with twenty experts in the areas of business and economics, governance, housing and transportation, environment, education, and non-profit and civic activism on proposing the solutions to the issues affecting Long Island. After finishing up with their topic workshops, the participants convened for a joint final session and the awards ceremony where they presented their workshop recommendations.
The workshop Environment 1: Open Space Preservation and Protection of Water was led by Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), Tara Bono, Program Coordinator for CCE, and Dr. John Tanacredi, Professor of Earth and Marine Sciences and the Director of the Center for Estuarine, Environmental and Coastal Oceans Monitoring at Dowling College. In the Land Preservation group the students, teachers and experts identified reasons to protect land on Long Island including protecting the quality and quantity of our drinking water, wildlife protection, preservation of unique habitat as well as health benefits of outdoor recreation and stress reduction. Solutions for land preservation included encouraging the state legislature to fund the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), introducing tougher laws to protect land, encouraging the redevelopment of already developed but yet unproductive areas, creating more federal help to protect land, and providing greater public education on the issues of land preservation. In the Toxic Waste group, students identified the main problem as the presence of chemicals and waste leaking into groundwater and running off into Long Island bays and estuaries. Ideas for the problem remediation included preventing the construction of new buildings or roads that will prevent rainwater from reaching and recharging the aquifer, upgrading sewage treatment systems to filter out more toxic material, and prohibiting the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers on Long Island’s lawns and fields.
The workshop Environment 2: Renewable Energy was led by Elisabeth Fiteni, Program Director at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College. The participants came up with a number of ideas that would promote the use of renewable energy on Long Island. Some of these ideas such as putting solar panels in Nassau and Suffolk counties’ drainage sumps and getting bonus reward points on credit cards for purchasing green products manufactured with lower energy costs are very innovative and has never been discussed before. Other key ideas to increase the production and consumption of renewable energy on Long Island included: providing better rebates and other incentives to use solar energy, creating environmental elective courses and environmental clubs in high schools to educate students about renewable energy, designing and printing environmental public education materials in Spanish, creating service learning opportunities for students through internships in ‘green industry’, introducing rebates for energy efficient bulbs at the cash register rather in a mail-in form, adoption of Energy Home codes by all towns on Long Island, getting more towns to offer the Long Island Green Homes loans to homeowners who improve their home insulation, and creating a Facebook game called ‘Greenville’, where people will be able to make energy efficiency changes to their virtual home and calculate how much money and energy they will be able to save.
The Long Island Economy workshop was moderated by Dr. Stuart Rosenberg, Associate Professor of Management and Leadership at Dowling College. Dr. Rosenberg was joined by Susan Hayes, Director for Strategic Acquisition Channels for the NorthEast Region of Verizon, and Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island (VLI). The goal of the workshop was to develop recommendations that would allow large businesses to stay on Long Island and small businesses to survive and prosper in a local economic environment. Participants of the workshop focused their attention on the effects of the ‘brain drain’ created by many of Long Island's young people relocating to other parts of the country as well as the economic effects of the retirement of the ‘baby boom’ generation. In order to strengthen the Long Island economy students recommended that local public and private sector leaders work together to make Long Island a desirable place to live and to work. Long Islanders will need to allow for the construction of sufficient number of affordable, workforce, and ‘next generation’ housing in order to accommodate the housing needs of its younger workers; need to ensure that our communities are desirable through gentrification of downtowns in older communities and creating attractive downtowns in new communities, reducing crime, and emphasizing Long Island as a destination for tourism due to its natural beauty. Workshop participants also emphasized the need to promote Long Island’s institutions of higher education in order to help keep the best and brightest students at Long Island colleges and universities, the need to encourage Long Island’s colleges and universities to work with local businesses to develop a sufficient supply of internship opportunities with the objective of turning as many internships as possible into full-time job opportunities.
The Housing and Suburban Culture workshop participants focused on discussing solutions for the shortage of alternative housing choices on Long Island and the effects of such shortage on the economic growth and demographic diversity. Brandon Palanker, Director of New Business Development for Renaissance Downtowns, moderated this workshop. Alexander Latham, President of the ADL III Architecture, and Ron Roel, President of the Roel Resources, joined Mr. Palanker as experts. Key recommendations from the Housing workshop included changing zoning regulations to allow for more condominium, apartments and other forms of alternative housing to be constructed; an increase in the number of high quality rental properties to be constructed on Long Island; creating more concentrated housing clusters in existing downtowns and creating new downtowns near public transit centers; creating alternative housing of high quality in its design and construction so that such projects would architecturally enhance the communities in which these will be constructed.
Participants of the Transportation workshop focused on dealing with the issues of traffic congestion and public transportation cuts on Long Island. Ryan Lynch, Senior Transportation Planner for the Tri-state Transportation Campaign (TSTC), Ellyn Shannon, Transportation Planner for the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC), and Lowell Wolf, Transportation Planner for Nassau County, served as experts for the workshop. Among the proposed transportation solutions were: spending more money on the public transportation infrastructure rather than cutting the budget for it; creating limited stop-rapid bus service on North-South routes to complement East-West Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) service; establishing dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes and/or installing road traffic sensors which would provide green lights for approaching rapid transit buses; installing passenger bus stop platforms and large-size bus shelters at designated BRT stops; creating inter-modal transit through better coordination between the railroad and bus rapid transit system schedules; creating walkable, pedestrian-friendly streets; creating more bicycle paths and more pedestrian walkways so that people will be able to bike and walk safely; expanding LIRR services eastward to allow commuters from Eastern Suffolk to have easier access to public transportation.
High school students in the Race, Class, and Education workshop tackled the difficult issues of economic inequality and racial and economic segregation. Currently, Long Island is ranked as the third most racially segregated area in the United States. The combination of racial and economic inequality lead to great disparities in the quality of public education and prevent many Long Islanders from reaching their full economic and social potential through receiving a high quality education. Diana Coleman, Co-chair of the Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC)’ Louis Medina, Director of the Suffolk County Youth Bureau, and Dr. Nathalia Rogers, Associate Professor of Sociology at Dowling College served as experts for the workshop. Solutions proposed by the students included creation of magnet schools (i.e. schools specializing in one discipline such as visual design that will accept students from different neighborhoods), consolidation of school districts to increase diversity in schools, having high school students present at high school assembly on the issues of race, having racial sensitivity training for school teachers and school councilors, raising standards of education in Low English Proficiency (LEP) and high-poverty schools and only reward teachers with higher salaries if the students in these schools performed up to these higher standards, encourage federal and state government to give more scholarships to minority students so that they will have more opportunities to attend community colleges, and making it acceptable to have open and honest conversations about race and class inequalities.
Participants of the workshop on Long Island Governance and Civic Activism focused on the issues of power fragmentation and the impact that civic activism may have on retaining young people on Long Island. Dr. Susanne Bleiberg Seperson, Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Center for Intergenerational Policy and Practice at Dowling College, Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Kristen Walsh, Long Island Regional Director of the NYS Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Office, and Carol Meschkow, President of the Concerned Citizens of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Community, served as the workshop experts. On the issue of power fragmentation, students noted that Long Island currently has 905 different power jurisdictions that include towns, villages, school districts, fire districts, water districts, etc. Students recommended a reduction in the number of existing jurisdiction authorities through merging some of these and creating a less fragmented power structure that would allow for a proper representation of local interests without the extreme fragmentation effect. Other recommendations included the creation of a Suffolk County Youth Executive Board, similar in its purpose and structure to the already existing Nassau County Youth Executive Board, that will allow for youth representation on various county committees; the promotion of civic activism for Long Island through civic education classes in high schools and through direct social media such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter; educating young people on local issues such as creation of more alternative housing choices and creation of attractive downtowns so that young people could become civic advocates for such issues; and connecting young civic activists with non-profit organizations that are advocating for solutions to Long Island issues.
During the awards ceremony the following students were recognized for submitting winning projects to the 2010 Long Island Youth Summit:
LIYS BEST PROJECT OVERALL
Danielle Stroessner for her essay on Race, Class and Education on Long Island
Kings Park Central High School, teacher Mr. Brett Clifford
LIYS BEST PROJECT in the category of ENVIRONMENT
Andrew Federico for his essay on the topic of Renewable Energy
Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, teacher Ms. Christina Visbal
LIYS BEST PROJECT in the category of HOUSING
David Moisan for his essay on the topic of Housing
Kings Park Central High School, teacher Mr. Brett Clifford
LIYS BEST PROJECT in the category of LI ECONOMY
Brian Bholan and Keith Posillico for their essay on the topic of Long Island’s Rates of Growth and Economic Employment
West Islip High School, teacher Ms. Patricia Morgigno
LIYS BEST PROJECT in the category of TRANSPORTATION
Dan Carbone, Stacey Papacostas and Nicolette Gorbecki for their art project/essay on Transportation on Long Island
Kings Park Central High School, teacher Mr. Brett Clifford
LIYS BEST PROJECT in the category of LI GOVERNANCE & CIVIC ACTIVISM
William Hurd and Lori Interlicchio for their essay on Long Island Governance and Civic Activism
West Islip High School, teacher Ms. Patricia Morgigno
LIYS BEST ART PROJECT in the category of Art Portfolio
Abir Ahmed, Devon McGhee, Zoha Naseer and Maria Sigalas for their Open Space Photography art portfolio
Longwood High School, teacher Mr. Ivan Suarez
LIYS BEST VIDEO PROJECT in the category of original Movie/Video
Alison Boyle, Giana D'Avanzo and Kayla Walsh for their Renewable Energy movie project
Merrick‐Bellmore W. C. Mepham High School, teacher Dr. Patrick Mannion
The Summit was designed not only to engage large groups of young people in civic education about Long Island, but also to provide students with experiences that may set them on the path of future leadership. Long Island loses the highest percentage of its population between the ages of 25 and 34 as compared not only to the rest of the country but also to all other suburbs in the New York City metropolitan area. If we continue to lose our young population at the same pace, Long Island will soon become an ‘aging’ society with a rapidly shrinking school student population and deteriorating economic environment. The Youth Summit Steering Committee felt that engaging high school students will help to create a generation of new, talented leaders of the future that will stay on Long Island and help Long Island to prosper economically and socially. The preparation for the next, 2011 Long Island Summit, has already begun and everyone who is willing to help the Steering Committee to work on the next Summit is welcome to contact Dr. Nathalia Rogers at email@example.com or (631) 244-3116.
About Dowling College
Dowling College is an independent, coeducational college that serves more than 6,500 students at its historic Rudolph Campus on the banks of the Connetquot River in Oakdale, NY, and the 105-acre Brookhaven Campus in eastern Long Island and a business center located near the Nassau-Suffolk border in Melville. Dowling offers Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees in several disciplines through its four schools: Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Education.