Sarah Kaye recalls many fond memories from her time as a kid with Frances Scarantino, president and founder of S.T.A.R.S.
“The program gave me so much,” said Kaye. “It kept me off the streets.”
Kaye, 27, is now one of the most active volunteers at the Striving to Achieve & Reach Success (S.T.A.R.S.) youth center, coaching cheerleading and instructing hip-hop classes. She began there as a nine year old, and started helping out with volunteer work at age 14.
Scarantino began her quest of creating a youth center in 1994, when she started to contact community boards and local civic associations. Her goal was to start an organization to keep young kids involved in positive activity and away from the streets
“I saw young people not having anything to do in the neighborhood,” she said. “I thought we should have a youth center in our area.”
It was at this time that Scarantino joined forces with a young Joseph Addabbo Jr., who at this point “was a nobody.” Addabbo, who now represents the 15th State Senate District, approached Scarantino with the same goal in mind: to keep kids in the area active and out of trouble.
“I took him up on his offer and he became my VP,” said Scarantino.
The two worked very closely — and very hard — contacting different local organizations, in order to build up an association of their own. They even held activities for kids at local parks before they were able to create a youth center.
Scaratino’s wish for a youth center for Howard Beach at last came true in 1996, when S.T.A.R.S. became incorporated after she purchased property in Coleman Square. The center still calls Coleman its home today.
Since then, she has relied on a group of volunteers to help her run hundreds of activities for kids of all different ages.
“It was like I was repaying them for everything they gave me as a kid,” said Kaye, who said she hopes to achieve the same success Scarantino hoped for nearly 20 years ago.
Kaye also believes that many kids will follow her path and give back to the organization that made her childhood so special.
“To give back to the organization you were in once, it’s just awesome,” she said. “Their younger siblings come in and then in the future, their kids can come in.”
She sees a circle-effect taking place at S.T.A.R.S., with new generations flooding into the program.
“Just to get kids involved in something positive, that’s the ultimate goal for me.”
S.T.A.R.S. will be holding an event showcase at St. Barnabas church in Howard Beach on June 30. The cheerleading class, hip-hop class, and singing class will put on a few performances to show their families what they’ve learned. A “Night Out Against Crime” event will also be held on August 7. S.T.A.R.S. will be providing free activities for the kids.
Visit www.starsyouthcenter.com for more information.