Friday, July 27, 2018

Assemblywoman Jenne: Massena program aimed at aiding young women at risk hitting the mark

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, says a mentoring program aimed at helping young women break out of poverty is providing valuable services for a population often overlooked by state and federal programs.

She said she was extremely impressed by what she saw and heard when she attended the Lifted Out of Poverty (LOOP) program's open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at its space at 47 Perkins Road.

The assemblywoman has worked with April Charleson, the program's director, in the past on a project aimed at helping educators better understand students that come from poverty or have experienced trauma in their lives.

LOOP is a program for young women in grades 9 to 12 committed to ending the cycle of poverty for girls by creating positive and productive new cycles. The program is currently limited to students in the Massena Central School District.

"If we give young women the strategies they need to succeed, they will become invincible. I can't wait to see this program continue to grow," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

She noted she was in elementary school with four siblings when her mother went back to college to better her family's life. She said her father, a diesel mechanic, worked as many hours as possible to pay the bills.

"I was fortunate to have a childhood where sometimes things were good, but ometimes they were tough, and I had to help take care of my siblings and things at home," she noted.

She said the LOOP program is providing needed services to an age group that will benefit greatly from the program and the mentorship of adults and fellow students in the program.

"Often times our young people, especially our young women, are called upon to mature before their time to fill gaps. When girls are 11 or 12, they are expected to become surrogate parents in many families for their younger siblings, cousins, the neighbor's kids," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

"April's program not only supports these young women today. It's thoughtful and personal. She has designed a program that can serve girls as they transition through each stage of their lives," she pointed out.

LOOP's mission is deeply rooted in the belief that by establishing a safe, trusting environment that allows girls access to a wide variety of mentored experiences, a commitment to school, community, family and self will ensue, according to Ms. Charleson, a middle school teacher at J. W. Leary Junior High School in Massena.

Ms. Charleson said the program's roots can be traced to her own childhood when she grew up wondering if there would be food on the table or fuel to keep her home warm on cold winter days.

"I grew up very poor. I wondered why some people had to live the way we did and wanted to do something about it. I was 12. I thought we could change the world, but I was too busy surviving every day. It was other people that lifted me up. Now I want to give back for all the people that helped me," she noted.

She never forgot her childhood dream, however, and the program was kicked off in 2016. LOOP officially received its non-profit status in January. The program currently has five mentees and an additional five students will be welcomed into LOOP at an August retreat at Catamount Lodge.

The students in the program are at-risk young women between the ages of 14 and 18 who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. Students are referred to the program by school staff and teachers.

The four components of the program are education, community, enrichment (cultural, adventure and bonding) and personal wellness.

"The program's goal is designed to nurture, support and encourage our young women to be the best versions of themselves. It is our goal to be consistent, thoughtful, caring and positive role models in their lives," Ms. Charleson said.

"We have a strength-based approach in that we work with the girls to recognize their own unique, individual skills and attributes and to see that all humans have areas where we need to improve. We celebrate successes, and we see mistakes as opportunities for personal growth. We also believe in a growth mindset-– that through effort and consistency, we continue to evolve as human beings," she added.

Other speakers at the open house included Massena Mayor Tim Currier, Massena Central School Superintendent Pat Brady, Massena High School guidance counselor and The People's Project leader Erin Covell, New York State Board of Regents member Bev Ouderkirk and local businesswoman Nance Arquiett.

"It's amazing how powerful one girl with a big heart and an idea can be," Ms. Arquiett said, praising Ms. Charleson for her work.



Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne (l) and April Charleson, founder of Lifted Out Of Poverty, discuss the program following an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at its space at 47 Perkins Road.


Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne visits with sophomores Haili C. (r) and Andi C. (l), students in the LOOP program in Massena.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne visits with sophomores Haili C. (r) and Andi C. (l), students in the LOOP program in Massena.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne speaks at the open house for the Lifted Out of Poverty program. Board President Mike Murtagh (l) and Massena Mayor Tim Currier (r) are shown in the background.

Speakers at the Lifted Out of Poverty open house included, front row (l-r): Erin Covell, The People's Project; Assemblywoman Addie A.E, Jenne; and April Charleson, founder, LOOP. Back row: Nance Arquiett, local businesswoman; Massena Mayor Tim Currier; and Massena Central School Superintendent Pat Brady. Missing from photo: Bev Ouderkirk, New York State Board of Regents.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne (center) discusses the Lifted Out Of Poverty program with Marlene Pickering (l) and Regent Bev Ouderkirk (r) of the New York State Board of Regents.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne (l) chats with LOOP Board members Megan LaPrade and Gail Murtagh at the program's recent open house in Massena.

Haili C. and Andi C., mentees in the LOOP program, were given the honor of cutting the ribbon at the program's recent open house. They were joined by program board members, supporters, community leaders and representatives from the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E, Jenne poses for a photo with April Charleson (l), founder of LOOP), and program mentees Haili C. and Andi C., second from r and far r).