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Nonprofit receives grant to build kids' job skills

The nonprofit Youth Enrichment Services has received a $10,000 grant from AT&T for programs designed to build professional skills in children in Islip Town.

The grant will help fund a "workforce development" program to teach "at risk" students how to write resumes and prepare for job interviews and provide other professional training.

"Many of our children come from families who don't work, whether they're on disability or on public assistance," said Carolyn Baéz, 36, director of programs for YES, at the grant ceremony Thursday in the West Islip Community Center. "So these children have never seen the example of what it is to work and it is because of the family challenges."

Baéz said the goal of the nonprofit is to promote the value of education and employment among children.

Islip Town Councilman Steven Flotteron said groups such as YES help youth cope with poverty. "This grant is a great opportunity because there is need in the Town of Islip," Flotteron said. "Long Island isn't just middle class and we need these opportunities."

YES has more than 7,000 members who are between the ages of 5 and 21.

The Suffolk County Department of Labor pays about 50 YES youth counselors as young as 14 to help nearly 15 children who are about 12 years old to pursue professional goals. At the center Thursday, nearly 30 youth counselors helped students select potential job interests through an online program.

Adriana Sealey, 19, of Brentwood is a YES youth counselor overseeing almost 20 children in the summer program who are 5 and 6 years old. She said her high school experience working for YES helped her receive $4,000 in scholarships. That has helped pay for her education at Caldwell University in New Jersey, where she studies communications and will be a sophomore.

"Without the program, I feel that I wouldn't be as involved in the community as I am," Sealey said. "It's helped me open many doors to a lot of things."

Juan Munoz was one of the YES program coordinators at the community center where the organization holds some of its summer programs for nearly 100 children. He said it is vital to train teenagers to be positive role models for younger children to keep them out of trouble and off the streets.

"The gang problem is serious," said Munoz, 43. "We have to keep the children engaged and have programs like this accessible to them where they're able to learn something, develop their skills and give them something to strive for. If we don't do that, we're not building for success. These kids are going to be set up for failure."

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