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Kids protest youth program cuts in Nassau

Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders representing Nassau Fight

Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders representing Nassau Fight for Youth Families, a new coalition of religious institutions and community groups, and several children, deliver petitions and arts-and-crafts projects to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and legislators in Mineola. (Aug. 1, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau youth advocates are ramping up efforts to lobby county lawmakers to reverse $7.3 million in recent annual cuts to dozens of youth social service programs.

Wednesday, a group of children and religious leaders delivered petitions with 3,500 signatures to the Nassau County Executive Building in Mineola, along with artwork from children depicting their favorite part of the cut programs.

Thursday, advocates are planning a mock-funeral in Hempstead to mourn the loss of funding, which took effect last month and affected drug rehabilitation, mental counseling and after-school tutoring. A rally is scheduled in front of the Executive Building on Monday.

"They need to realize this impasse is having a real-world impact on innocent children," said the Rev. Mark Robinson, pastor of the Community Bible Church in Inwood.

He and three other religious leaders representing Nassau Fight for Youth and Families, a recently formed coalition of religious and social service groups, joined four children from the Glen Cove Youth Board's summer program to deliver the petitions.

They wanted to speak with County Executive Edward Mangano, Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), but were met by aides who said the officials were not in their offices.

"They should be here to listen to us," said Claudia Penate, 15, who credits the Glen Cove after-school program with helping boost her grades. "We're going to be tomorrow's leaders, the future is literally in our hands."

Republicans and Democrats -- caught in a battle over Republican-backed borrowing plans and Democratic demands for "fairer" redistricting lines -- have failed to compromise on restoring the funds.

Mangano included the youth program cuts as part of a $45 million deficit reduction plan. But he has left open the possibility of restoring the funds, saying it would "require a bipartisan effort."The Glen Cove Youth Board annually serves some 1,800 children through after-school tutoring and summer programs aimed at helping low income working families. The group lost about $90,000 in annual funding.

"We've been recycling for three weeks to save money to save the program," said Soraya Bahrami, 8.

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