Congressman drops in on ‘Mentoring Matters’ after-school program

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Souraka Diakite, 11, of Riverhead receives a certificate from Congressman Tim Bishop Wednesday for participating in the 'Mentoring Matters' program.

Riverhead Town’s youth bureau officials submitted a proposal to Congressman Tim Bishop in 2009 to help get the town funding for an innovative after-school program called “Mentoring Matters.”

By the next year, the bureau had received a $100,000 grant for the program. The program got under way in April 2011.

Mr. Bishop on Wednesday got to witness first-hand how the money is being spent, when he visited the town senior center in Aquebogue to meet the students participating in the program. And to thank them.

The intense program runs on weekdays during the school year from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the senior center. It focuses on academic excellence while offering teenagers and pre-teens a safe and supervised environment to socialize with friends.

It also offers an opportunity for certified teachers that work in conjunction with the school district, as well as parents, to develop an academic safety net for the students.

The program also offers “free time” supervised activities that include arts and crafts, acting classes, Zumba classes and community service projects.

The program is intergenerational, since its staff members range from ages 17 to 70, and students participate many community outreach projects with homebound seniors.

There are currently 23 students participating in the program.

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