OWednesday May 31st I could be found at Idlehurst Elementary school. The reason for my visit was that U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) was visiting one of my favorite Somersworth programs, the Somersworth Youth Connection (SYC).
Senator Shaheen has a long history with Somersworth, and long before she represented us in Washington, she was instrumental in helping the Somersworth International Children’s Festival off the ground. The fact that festival is now enjoying it’s 36th year and will take place the weekend of June 16-18th this year is a testament in and of its self to the connections she has with the city. That relationship was built some 37 years ago but on Wednesday they were also the order of the day.
The visit began with a round table discussion that took place between the Senator, Mayor Dana Hilliard, SYC Executive Director, Maureen Jackman, School Superintendent Jenni Moscha and SYC Site Coordinator for the Elementary program, Jessica Cox.
On the table was the proposed national budget that plans to cut funding to programs such as SYC. Although the program recently received a grant that would maintain funding for the program for five years, the proposed budget in Washington put that funding at risk. So while the program is safe for the year 2017 -18 after that it is not guaranteed. Senator Shaheen wanted to come and talk to the people on the ground so to speak, and get the facts about a program that has proven its effectiveness time and time again, here in Somersworth over the ten years it has been running.
SYC Viewed An Extension of the School Day.
Jackman, Moscha and Hilliard were quick to point out that SYC has been successful in part because the Somersworth school district does not view the program as simply an after school program, but rather an extended part of the school day. In the district they refer to it as the blended system. Building the relationships between the various schools and the resources within the district as well as the community at large has been a large part of the programs success.
Jackman told the Senator that many of former students who have chosen to be a part of the SYC group have returned as staff members once they reach high school level. They now mentor their peers and afford them the same opportunities as was given to them. SYC also works with UNH in many capacities and is yet another example of the relationships that the program has been able to establish throughout the years.
There are around 250 elementary and middle school children who benefit from SYC and included in the program nowadays is a huge array of enrichment programs. I know because I’ve been included in many of the activities. Some of you may recall my kayaking adventures last Summer, snowshoeing this winter and my public speaking debut last year. Incidentally SYC was a tough crowd when it come to the public speaking part but asked some of the most interesting questions.
SYC Thanks The Somersworth Police Department.
As the round table discussion came to close the Senator was led to the cafeteria where an attentive group of elementary school kids were seated. The room hushed and a presentation was made to the senator, including cards and letters from the students. There was also another important person visiting the school that day, Officer Rick Campbell.
For those who don’t know Officer Campbell is the resource officer for the Somersworth school district and had come to talk to the SYC students about his job. He talked about how he was there for everyone before he was presented with a gift to be shared with his fellow officers at Somersworth Police Department.
That gift consisted of among other things gummy worms because the SPD help stick Somersworth together, some starbursts in case they needed a sudden burst of energy and some tootsie rolls to thanks the SPD for the roll that they play within the community we call Somersworth. Officer Campbell thanked those present and assured us that the entire basket would make it back to the station.
Senator Takes SYC To Washington
The Senator sat with a group of SYC kids and chatted, asking questions before being presented with a bouquet of flowers. As she posed for pictures she expressed her thanks to all the staff in attendance and it was obvious that she too was thoroughly impressed with what she had seen.
This was further evidenced as she returned to Washington. At the Education budget hearing on Capitol Hill, the Senator spoke passionately about her experience at SYC and read a letter that had been penned by SYC student Raymond Mills.
Rather than write more in this case a video speaks louder than I can so I will leave you with this recording of Senator Shaheen and her speech at the hearing.