Cheektowaga youth travel to Albany for conference

Executive Director of Youth & Recreation Jillian Gorman-King, Autumn Tatko, a YES volunteer and Madison Whalen, a YES volunteer meet with Assemblymember Monica Wallace. (Contributed)
Executive Director of Youth & Recreation Jillian Gorman-King, Autumn Tatko, a YES volunteer and Madison Whalen, a YES volunteer meet with Assemblymember Monica Wallace. (Contributed)

CHEEKTOWAGA – Two local students joined Cheektowaga’s Youth and Recreational Executive Director Jillian Gorman-King to lobby Albany representatives on the importance of funding for youth programming in their community.

The trip to Albany last week was for the 19th annual Youth Leadership Conference.

This conference allowed Ms. Gorman-King, and Youth Engaged in Service volunteers Autumn Tatko and Madison Whalen to meet representatives from their local district and express to them the importance of funding for youth programming in their community and the providers of those services.

Ms. Gorman-King says the first day in Albany started with everyone hearing a dynamic keynote speaker Ken E. Nwadike, Jr., who is an American documentary filmmaker, motivational speaker, and peace activist popularly known as the Free Hugs Guy.  Ken is the founder of the Free Hugs Project, which gained popularity as he made major news headlines for his peacekeeping efforts and de-escalation of violence during protests, riots, and political rallies.

After the presentation, all the 150+ youth, from all over New York State, were assigned to two of eight different workshops (ex. Capitol Tour, Internet Safety, Team Building, etc.).

“Even though these Cheektowaga students had been up since 6 am, rode on a bus for five hours and attended different workshops, they were still energized enough to participate in the coffee house/game show and interact with other youth later that night,” Ms. Gorman-King said.

Cheektowaga has been attending the Youth Leadership Conference for over a decade but this year’s trip could not have come at a more appropriate time Ms. Gorman-King says.

The youth had the opportunity to meet with Senator Tim Kennedy, who is currently the most senior Democratic Senator in Albany.

“He has always been very supportive of the Cheektowaga community during his tenure, especially youth and families.  The Cheektowaga students also met with Assemblymember Monica Wallace, who is in her second term, but already plays a significant role in securing funds and improving the lives of Cheektowaga’s youth and families,” added Ms. Gorman-King.

Both of the representatives were very informative about state government and very receptive to the youth’s requests not to cut funding for the Youth Bureau System throughout New York State.

Some other highlights of the trip included witnessing the Senate in session, walking around the Senate and Assembly room floors and meeting different representatives while traveling the halls of the New York State’s Capital.

“All the students thoroughly enjoyed the trip and made many new friends.  This trip can be summed up in one phrase uttered as the group was walking out of the Capital building, ‘Someday youth from Cheektowaga will be visiting me here,'” she said.

The trip for the two local students was sponsored by the Cheektowaga Youth Foundation.

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