Friday, May 16, 2008

Teens team up to keep Hill safe, clean

Hard work is recognized by mayor

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
— There’s a bright banner strung across Howard Avenue, with a couple of serious messages.
“Keep the Hill Clean,” says one side; “Save Our Society,” says the other.
The banner was painted by teenagers who make up the Hill Youth Action Team. It’s their message to their neighbors to keep the Hill clean and safe.
“It shows everybody that we’re trying to change the community for the better,” said Orlando Sanchez, 16, of Ann Street. He said the project brought the group together, too. “We (were) friendly, but now we’re like a family,” he said.
Now that the banner is finished, the group is ready to move on to the next project. But Thursday they paused for a celebration outside Casa Latina on Minor Street, one of their meeting places.
“I didn’t think it was going to come out so good,” said Nicole Smith, 17, of West Street, who did the drawing on the banner.
Now, the group is planning a dance May 23 to aid the Columbus House overflow homeless shelter.
“We’re just hoping that a lot of people come, because it’s a fundraiser and we’re hoping to raise as much money as possible to give to the homeless shelter,” Smith said.
The dance will be held at the New Haven Boys and Girls Club, 253 Columbus Ave., with a strict dress code and police on duty.
The banner, which was hung last week, proved to be a greater challenge for the teens than they expected. “It was kind of hectic at first,” said Lindsey Redd, 16, of Kossuth Street. “There were points where I wanted to give up. It was kind of challenging.
“We had to plan it out, what were going to put on it. That took a long time,” he said. CQ
For their next project, the team plans to work this summer with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to take a census of trees in a 40-block section of the Hill. They’ll plant 25 to 40 as well.
“They’re going to learn how to plant trees, the care of trees, identify them in terms of species, etc.,” said Ana Arroyo of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which has donated more than $50,000 to the group. The survey follows one the teens conducted last year of blighted housing in the neighborhood.
Barbara Jennings, chairwoman of the Hill Neighborhood Forum, the teens’ parent group, said she wasn’t sure “how successful, how interested they would be” when the group started two years ago. But they’ve hung together and the forum is looking for ways to help the youths recruit members and find summer jobs.
“They’re part of our group,” she said. “We’re all behind them.”
As the group members had cake and ice cream Thursday afternoon, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. stopped by to congratulate them and check out the banner. They told him it would hang for two weeks.
DeStefano offered to give their work additional exposure. “When you’re done with it (here), why don’t you bring it down to City Hall and I’ll hang it in City Hall for a while,” he said.
Ed Stannard can be reached at or 789-5743.

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