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ON THE SCENE: Shipman Center says, ‘Thanks for giving, LPCS’

November 27, 2015
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

For the last half dozen years, the Shipman Youth Center has hosted a "Thanks for Giving" dinner to honor individuals and organizations that have made a difference in the lives of local children. On Thursday, Nov. 19, they honored the staff of the Lake Placid Central School District: the teachers, coaches, administrators, custodial and cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and all the other employees that make up the district's team.

"Each year we want to thank the community for supporting us," said Shipman Center board member Dmitry Feld. "We felt that the school people, all the employees, sometimes get overlooked. We want to say they are an important part of this community. We also want to encourage more of them to come and see this place and that we provide a lot of fun for kids in a safe space."

When I was in kindergarten, Mrs. Brown handed me a paintbrush, some poster paints and newsprint so cheaply made it had wood chips in it. Doing so, she changed my life. From then on making art became a life's passion. During a passionate game of touch football over a lunch recess, a classmate smashed into me, breaking his two front teeth in my forehead. The school nurse, who clearly had seen worse, calmed me down, stopped the flow of blood, and kept me steady until my mom arrived and Dr. Ring to stich me up.

Article Photos

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania holds the village proclamation.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Mrs. Ryan and Mrs. Rand, both of whom had taught my father and clearly felt that my study habits were no better, had me after class more days than not practicing my spelling and grammar, while art teacher Sue D'Avignon, one of my mother's best friends, inspired me to set my sights high for Pratt Institute, the then recognized best arts college in the country. With her and Bob Whitney's help, I got in.

At Lake Placid, people like Howard Page convinced me that some people truly had eyes in the back of their heads and that deviating from social norms had consequences. Bob Connelly kept us motivated and looking forward to beating the upper classes during the annual winter carnival. Mrs. O'Rourke got me thinking about civic affairs. My day began and ended with Mr. Sheffield inviting me on or letting me off the bus. They, and so many others, gave countless hours to me, my classmates and to the thousands who came before and after.

That level of devotion by the school district staff is no less true today. If anything, with the increasing levels of state and federal constraints, requirements and reports, more demanding and more challenging to provide, provide they do. To that end, Mayor Craig Randall read and presented a proclamation declaring Nov. 19 Lake Placid Central School District Employee Recognition Day and presented it to Superintendent Roger Catania on their behalf.

The school district's great partner in watching out for kids is the Shipman Youth Center, an asset not present when I was young. We had an intermittent school canteen, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and of course an array of sporting activities, some such as the Juniors Jumpers and Lake Placid Ski Club program at Scott's Cobble more inclusive than some of today's offerings. Our neighborhoods were way more vibrant, but there was really nothing comparable to the Shipman Center, a truly safe and welcoming place attractive to a broad range of kids.

"Our mission is to provide a nice drug-free safe caring environment where all the kids can hang out," said Shipman Center Director Jason Hooker. "We want to provide them a place where they can grow an expand their horizons and ideas of what they can become, and we want them to understand the value of drug-free space - to desire such environments for themselves and others."

While the Shipman Center attracts a broad range of ages, on average 25 to 30 a day, most are middle schoolers. Lately with the creation of a high school room, more high schoolers are staying with or becoming attracted to the center as now they have a space where the younger kids aren't dashing about.

"The center is awesome," said high school student Alyssia. "I like the fact that I can hang out with friends and meet different people. It's pretty cool having our own room. There used to be vending machines and a piano in here before."

"I like the high school room, but there needs to be a door," said classmate Alexsas of the cacophony on noise coming from the hallway. "Besides this room, I like playing football, even when it's snowing. It's so fun."

"Having a high school room is a big improvement," said Marissa.

"I love this place," said Gage, a ninth grader who has been coming since fifth grade. "I like the variety of the things we do here like putting on this dinner tonight. I like helping out. Jason's awesome. He gets us outside and plays football and basketball with us all the time. Every spring break we take a trip, we've been to Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C. Before that, we went to New York City. We haven't climbed Whiteface yet. I think that would be a good idea!"

The Shipman Center board has made significant upgrades to the facility beyond creating a high school room. The NSA auction allowed them to upgrade furniture and equipment, plus several rooms have been spruced up with fresh paint and they built more storage for kids' bags and packs.

"We want this place to be used for a long, long time so improvements need to be done from time to time," said Feld. "We will review the facility again in two years and make more investments as needed to make sure it continues to be appealing for kids."

"My children all come here, and I just wanted to help out," said board secretary Michael Durham. "I think they have a great mission, and it's great place for the children. My joy is seeing how happy they are when they are here. They are not out on the streets causing trouble. They are here playing games with their friends."

"I love seeing the kids grow and develop and see who they become," said Serina Hayes, assistant director. "I used to come here when I was a kid. It really shaped me and how I grew up in this community."



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