Newsday's Everyday Heroes
Not Just a Neighbor, a LeaderNew York Newsday
Sunday, December 23rd, 2001
"I saw a need and wanted to fill it," Frances Scarantino says plainly. But there was nothing plain or simple about forming S.T.A.R.S. (Striving to Achieve & Reach Success, Inc.), a non-profit community youth organization she founded in her hometown, Howard Beach.
The idea of forming a youth center came to her one day while talking with her younger brother about the lack of things to do in the neighborhood. Despite any previous experience, this 29-year-old spoke with a few different people from the area and went to and attended civic and community board meetings. Interested individuals formed a group which later became the board of directors for S.T.A.R.S. Then in 1996, the organization became incorporated.
"Now the youth center is open seven days a week," Scarantino says. It offers various recreational and self-development programs to area youth from ages three and up. Volunteers run everything, from after school homework help, drama classes and cheerleading to arts and crafts and dance. But the volunteers are not only adults. "The kids from the neighborhood are really fantastic and very giving of themselves. We do clean-up together, some teens do office work." Some older teens even teach younger students, she adds proudly. "The youth involved at S.T.A.R.S. have become role models for their peers and an inspiration to us all."
As for herself, "I may never be the President of the United States or win the Nobel Peace Prize, but I know that the work I do is affecting lives in a positive manner and inspiring others to do the same."Claudia Gryvatz Copquin
Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.