2006-10-05 / Front Page

Teen seminar a tremendous success

By Sam Bari

The Senior Center last week provided the setting for a teen seminar and forum hosted by town Teen Co-ordinator Melissa Minto and chaired by facilitator Sandra Del Sesto, a consultant from the Initiative for Human Development in Pawtucket.

The purpose of the gathering was to set goals, initiate programs, and exchange ideas for the future of the teen program in Jamestown. A major topic of discussion involved the best way to establish a permanent teen center.

Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force Co-ordinator Laura Hosley arranged for Del Sesto to chair the meeting, having worked with her on several occasions throughout Hosley's 13-year career. Del Sesta's consultant fees were paid out of a $150,000 state grant. All town officials, educators, and teen-related volunteers who had been invited attended the meeting.

During the three-hour Sept. 27 meeting, Del Sesto emphasized the importance of designing a viable teen program on Conanicut Island. Through a series of questions soliciting input from the attendees, she succeeded in getting the group to agree on the most important goals and challenges. One of the goals was to establish a teen center that would offer Jamestown youth ages 12 to 18 with school and afterschool activities that were fully supported by the community.

Then the group discussed their accomplishments to date, like the securing of the state grant and public support from civic organizations, as well as community recognition that a permanent center would be a valuable resource for teens.

After establishing the goals, Del Sesto leveled the playing field by dividing the 16 attendees into four groups, each to work on a specific task. The exercise made everyone equal, the town administrator and school superintendent were no more or less important than the 16-year-old teen representative.

One group discussed methods of funding, another talked about infrastructure, and the other two brainstormed programs and community support. They were encouraged to table long-term goals as well as immediate needs. "Hopes and dreams inspire ideas," Del Sesto said. The groups worked intensely and enthusiastically on their assigned tasks.

"A lot was accomplished," said Minto. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but Sandra did a good job of getting us to focus on important issues and prioritize. Now we have direction and organization," she added.

"Community support is an absolute necessity. We're going to work hard on that," Minto said. "We're going to meet again in two to three weeks and re-establish our tasks. We've set a time limit of 15 months to accomplish our goals, one of which is to gather support to renovate the Community Center to accommodate the teen program," Minto added.

"Sandra put the group on course," Hosley said. "We needed her guidance. This is an important project, and until now, things haven't always gone smoothly. We needed direction, and that's what she gave us."

Besides the teen co-ordinator and the substance abuse prevention co-ordinator, the meeting was attended by teen substance abuse prevention representative Jessica Bucklin, Lawn Avenue School Councilor Stephanie Nocon, Town Councilor Barbara Szepatowski, Police Chief Thomas Tighe, Police Sgt. Angela Deneault, Keith Anderson of the recreation department, educator Kate Petrie, librarian Rowena Burke, School Superintendent Bob Power, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, Recreation Director Matte Bolles, School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser, and educators Beth Pinto and Kathy Almanzor.

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