In keeping with the school’s Quaker mission of service and social justice, Oakwood Friends School once again hosted its annual summer youth advocacy program, Voices of Tomorrow Empowered (VOTE), for area and NYC teens. VOTE is a free summer program for economically disadvantaged, minority youth between the ages of 13 and 18 from the Hudson Valley and New York City. The program increases understanding of civic engagement, teaches the tools of advocacy through the arts, and fosters an early interest in and commitment to civic participation. Activities, coordinated by a former Capitol Hill staffer and led by program alumni, include mock legislative procedures, visits to the offices of elected officials, and the use of theater, art and music as tools for social change.
This year the program received a $1000 grant from the Poughkeepsie Chapter of the Awesome Foundation which was used on a project to revitalize Pulaski Park in the City of Poughkeepsie. Youth in the program continued their annual project of building and installing colorful planter benches at the park, as well as installing picnic tables with hand-painted murals they designed.
An exciting aspect of this year’s project was the relocation of a mural created with local artist Nestor Madelengoitia six years ago. The mural was located at the base of a building on Academy Street that was damaged by a storm and slated for demolition this summer. With help from Mayor Rob Rolison, Building Inspector Gary Beck, city resident and former Oakwood parent Doug Nobiletti, and Council Member Sarah Salem (Ward 2), the group was able to salvage the mural before demolition. Council Member Chris Petsas (Ward 1), also with the Awesome Foundation, and City Administrator Marc Nelson then assisted the group in finding the new location at Pulaski Park. The group is thrilled to have saved the mural and reinstalled it for their fellow residents to enjoy!
This program is funded by grants and generous donations from: The Dyson Foundation, M & T Bank, the Rotary E-Club of District 7210, The Awesome Foundation, Austin and Co. Inc., Craig Thomas Pest Control, Loeb and Troper BKD, Tonche Transit Inc., The Gutierrez Law Firm, as well individuals.
Click here to read a recent Poughkeepsie Journal article about the program, grant and mural installation.