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Police chief makes case for Massena Boys and Girls Club

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MASSENA - Massena’s police chief says he believes bringing a Boys and Girls Club to Massena could help reduce crime, increase graduation rates for Massena’s students and address a need for youth activities in the community.

Timmy J. Currier, a member of a steering committee that’s working on making a Boys and Girls Club a reality in the community, said during a committee meeting Thursday night that there’s a misconception in Massena that it’s a “retired community.”

Mr. Currier instead believes that the needs of younger individuals need to be addressed. That, he said, is one of the three main factors driving his efforts to bring a club to Massena.

“For years I have heard people in our community say we have a retired community. In reality that is simply not accurate. The data from the 2010 U.S. Census illustrates that less than 17 percent of our community is 65 years and older. The same data shows us that nearly 24 percent of our population is under the age of 18,” Mr. Currier said.

He said the community has for years worked to support its seniors “and by all means should continue to do so.”

“But I am interested in focusing on those under 18 and a putting some resources toward the population that will impact our future the most, our kids,” Mr. Currier said.

Bringing a club to Massena would also do its part to address crime, according to the police chief.

“Since 1998 we have experienced a 232 percent increase in our serious criminal offenses.We know that implementing early childhood prevention programs like the Boys and Girls Club is a big step in preventing our kids from becoming criminals as adults.That makes our streets and neighborhoods safer,” he said.

Mr. Currier said after-school hours on school days “are the prime time for juvenile crime.” But having a Boys and Girls Club could change that.

“Developing ways to attract at-risk middle- and highschool-age children into after-school programs, and to effectively coach them on how to avoid troubling behaviors, can be challenging, but the Boys and Girls Clubs have shown they can deliver,” he said.

He noted that during a study conducted in several U.S. cities, five housing projects without Boys and Girls Clubs were compared to five projects receiving new clubs.

“At the beginning, drug activity and vandalism were the same. But by the time the study ended, the projects without the programs had 50 percent more vandalism and scored 37 percent worse on a combined measure of drug activity,” Mr. Currier said.

The police chief also suggested that Boys and Girls Clubs could help improve graduation rates, which would go hand-in-hand with reducing crime.

“If there’s an Achilles Heel in this country, it’s education,” he said.

He said graduation rates for Boys and Girls Club alumni are 90 percent, compared to Massena Central’s graduation rate of 75.6 percent. The district had a previous graduation rate of 62 percent five years ago. The state graduation rate is 69 percent.

“In New York state, high school dropouts are three-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested than those who graduate.Dropouts are eight times more likely to be incarcerated,” Mr. Currier said.

He said it’s not just a challenge in Massena, but throughout the country to solve the dropout rate and get students to complete school.

“In this country 68 percent of state prison inmates have not received a high school diploma.That speaks volumes to the need to find every possible way of increasing graduation rates.By operating a Boys and Girls Club, making quality Pre-K available to all students and implementing other proven childhood prevention programs in our community, we can give our school district a greater chance at success,” he said.

“Massena Central has made great strides in increasing the graduation rate. However with all of the financial challenges they face they can’t do it alone,” Mr. Currier said. “A Boys and Girls Club will complement their efforts, help increase the graduation rates and make Massena a better place.The club is good for kids and it is good for public safety.Bringing a Boys and Girls Club to Massena from my view makes a great deal of sense.”

Committee members are in the initial stages of the project, and talked Thursday night about what their next steps should be to make the club a reality.

“We don’t want to put steps six and seven at steps two and three,” Mr. Currier cautioned.

The group spent more than an hour drafting up steps that would need to be taken to get the club from a vision to an actual building serving the community. Those steps included fundraising, community education, partnering with local schools that could send students to the club and developing a sustainability plan.

“The cost of the programs isn’t going to come from the kids, and it isn’t going to come from the parents,” said William Wolf, a consultant who’s working with the group.

Committee members also suggested they should focus on researching other successful clubs, establishing a well-sequenced timeline for moving the project forward and determining the location of the facility.

For their next meeting, they intend to research lessons learned in the creation of Boys and Girls Clubs in Ogdensburg and Akwesasne.

“We can tap their minds and their experiences,” Mr. Wolf said.

They also agreed to work on a “case statement” detailing why the club was necessary and formalize their internal structure by electing officers.

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