Sheehan has city Youth Committee on the move

Members of Salisbury’s new Youth Development Advisory Committee “hit the ground running” and are preparing proposals to make to the City Council in February.

“We are formulating recommendations now. The goal is for every young person in kindergarten to 12th grade to have a safe place to go after school where they will receive a hot meal and meet caring adults,” said Committee Chairman Robby Sheehan.

Mayor Jake Day, who suggested developing a committee while he was president of the City Council, appointed members, but others attended organizational meetings and there are now 87 volunteers working in four subcommittees.

“They are super active. When we meet, there is so much power in the room,” Sheehan said.

Day, at the time, said concentration on youth is important, considering Salisbury has a “declining crime rate year after year, a declining adult crime rate and adult arrests” but a “relatively growing juvenile problem.”

Sheehan said Day charged the committee with “investing in the need for community centers.”

So, members have been visiting various hubs on the Shore, “looking at commonalities and seeing what works and drilling into it,” said Sheehan, who is working closely with Jim Thomas of the Greater Salisbury Committee.

Ideally, Day said, there will be role models for boys who are “upstanding men” and mentors for girls who model strong self-esteem.

“All those are really good lessons,” the mayor said.

“We could be a government that never talked about those things, but if we ignore this, and we ignore the next generation and what they need to be positive, we would be short changing our youth,” he said.

Sheehan, who recently left his job at Salisbury University to join the ministry at Uprising Church in Hebron — is working on the committee as a volunteer.

He knows the benefits of caring about youth, helping them, working closely with them. He’s seen success with a young boy he mentors, a child who was reading two levels behind others in his class but has now achieved 10th grade proficiency.

“My personal story is, I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t been mentored, so I can understand what these kids need on a personal level. It was humbling to be asked to chair this committee. There is a collective interest in doing what we need to be doing in this community,” Sheehan said.

“There has to be an accessibility for kids who can’t afford to have a private tutor in the home and can’t afford to go to an organization that isn’t affordable,” the mayor said.

The city earmarked $500,000 for community centers, although it’s too soon to determine the location or opening date.

“I’m not interested in a brand new building. It’s more about neighborhoods right now, the core of the city — Church Street, the west side, Dover Avenue, Church Street, Doverdale –that need the most attention. It’s about getting it right and doing it fast so it serves the purpose and lends dignity to people’s lives,” the mayor said.

“It’s a slow process to get property and to retrofit it,” Sheehan said. “We’re working as fast as we can. We’re busting our tails.”

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