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Peekskill Youth Bureau Program Keeps Kids Involved All Summer Long

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Each summer while kids spend the hot days indoors watching TV or playing video games, dozens of Peekskill kids spend their vacation working with the city youth bureau.

The L.I.F.T. program, or Leadership Initiative For Teens, is a county-funded program that caters to the tween crowd ages 11-13 according to youth bureau director Valerie Swan.

“They think they’re too old to go to camp, which they’re not, and they’re too young to get a job,” Swan said. “Parents like to know their kids are doing something structured and that keeps them involved from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and gives them lunch.”

Instead of getting a job, Swan said participants take part in community service projects and educational opportunities and are paid a salary of $5 day.

“We teach them to save the money and put it aside for something important,” Swan said.

The program can accommodate about 75 kids but it is popular and there is a waiting list to get involved. Parents also have to attend a mandatory orientation and those who don’t attend have their child removed from the list. There are still a few spots that might open up so children are still encourages to apply.

The biggest hurdle for keeping the program going has been funding, Swan said. The program will get about $45,000 a year from the county through 2014, which was recently acquired by District 1 County Legislator John Testa (D-Peekskill). However, the program has to put up about $23,000 a year in order to get that funding. The program received as much as $60,000 in years past, Swan said.

“We wanted to take the kids to the airport but we couldn’t afford the transportation,” Swan said. “The city has a van but we have 75 kids so we need two buses.”

The youth bureau is looking for donations of both funds and services – such as transportation – from the community in order to help the program grow. Anyone looking to help can call the bureau at (914) 734-4149.

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