Felicia Scocozza has dedicated herself to Riverhead’s Community Awareness Program for over 15 years.
As executive director, Ms. Scocozza leads the organization in educating Riverhead’s youth about the plethora of problems related to drug and alcohol use. One of CAP’s major efforts is working with students at Pulaski Street Elementary School.
Each month, community volunteers and peer leaders from the middle and high school visit fourth- and fifth-graders there to educate them not only about the dangers of drug use, but also about the importance of being involved in the Riverhead community that loves and values them.
CAP’s education goals also include the annual “Say No To Drugs” march, which Ms. Scocozza organizes. During the march, Pulaski students walk the streets of Riverhead carrying signs urging the community to stay away from drugs.
“She’s awesome; there’s no one better,” said Pulaski Street principal Dave Densieski. “She constantly works her heart out and she’s great to get along with. I can’t say enough good things about her … She loves the kids. CAP and the community are lucky to have her working for them.”
For her dedication to Riverhead students and her community outreach efforts, Ms. Scocozza is the Riverhead News-Review’s 2017 Educator of the Year.
In working with Pulaski Street students, Ms. Scocozza organizes monthly discussions to share CAP’s message with the children. These discussions often include visits from parent volunteers and noted guests, such as local politicians.
According to its website, CAP has three goals in pursuing its mission to reduce and prevent abuse of alcohol and other substances within the Riverhead schools and community. These are to prevent or delay experimentation with alcohol or any drug, to prevent said experimentation from turning into abuse and to prevent use from causing serious harm to that individual, family, friends and community.
In order to keep this important youth education program running, Ms. Scocozza fills many roles, both behind the scenes and in working directly with the children.
“She has a lot of energy,” CAP president Brian Stark said. “She’s always upbeat, very positive and great at public speaking. She has the interface with numerous public officials and for the funding. We do private fundraising and she takes the lead in that every year. She’s a woman of many talents.”
Ms. Scocozza puts together prescription drug take-back events and seminars about substance abuse, creates campaigns to raise awareness of the negative effects of drugs and alcohol and provides licensed social workers to four schools in the Riverhead School District.
She also obtains grants that enable CAP to continue its youth outreach programs at Pulaski, which began in 1982, Mr. Stark said.
Inside the workplace, she is also instrumental in helping people new to the field, said Kelly Miloski, CAP community prevention specialist. When Ms. Miloski began working at CAP fresh out of graduate school, Ms. Scocozza helped her begin her career in public health.
“She encourages creative thinking and positive growth here at CAP,” Ms. Miloski said of her mentor.
“She has taught me to never back down if you feel strongly about something and if you work hard, you can make positive changes that will be long lasting. She has created an environment here at CAP where we take a vision and turn it into reality. The things that we have achieved at Riverhead CAP under Felicia’s guidance have been truly amazing.”
CAP became the lead coordinating agency for the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth in 2006, according to its website, and in 2013 won a five-year $625,000 federal grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to further its community-based coalition efforts.
This November, the coalition — which works closely with local law enforcement, town government and schools — received the Coalition of Excellence Award for Short-Term Outcomes from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America for its work. The honor gives national recognition to organizations that have “clearly documented their impact on population-level substance abuse outcomes.” CAP will be presented with the award in February.
Ms. Scocozza is “somebody who just draws people in and people are drawn to her. She’s very positive and open and loving,” Mr. Densieski said. “Honestly, it’s an honor and a privilege to know and work alongside [her] and be a part of her life.”
Photo caption: Riverhead Community Awareness Program executive director Felicia Scocozza (left) with former school superintendent Nancy Carney in June. (Credit: Elizabeth Wagner, file photo)
2016: Melissa Haupt
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