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Teen volunteers SNAP to it

Nicole Williams helps set up the Central New York Spay and Neuter Assistance Program booth Tuesday at the Cortland Farmer’s Market. In the background are, from left, Dylana Aldrich, Stephen Hyde and Benjamin Hyde.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Nicole Williams helps set up the Central New York Spay and Neuter Assistance Program booth Tuesday at the Cortland Farmer’s Market. In the background are, from left, Dylana Aldrich, Stephen Hyde and Benjamin Hyde.

Summer break is usually a time for fun with friends, long trips and lazy days, for some.

Not for the 56 students in the Cortland Works Career Center’s Cortland County Summer Youth Employment and Training Program.

The job skills training program caters to people ages 14 to 24 years old, placing each participant with a local business for two months. They work anywhere from 20 to 25 hours per week, making minimum wage, gaining professional work experience and making some money at the same time.

But not only do they gain work values, the young adults are shown volunteer work can be just as rewarding, with the same amount of life lessons learned. One aspect of the program is to come up with a community service project. This year the group chose to help the CNY Spay and Neuter Assistance Program in Cortland — a not-for-profit agency that offers a spay and neuter clinic and a shelter for adoptable cats.

Amy Buggs, an employment and training specialist at the center, said Tuesday that some of the kids working at CNY SNAP had mentioned the organization needs supplies and it lacks the funds to purchase them.

So, throughout the week, groups of the kids in the program are visiting locations around Cortland County with brochures and fliers to raise both awareness of, and funds for, the organization.

Their first location was the Cortland Farmers Market on Main Street on Tuesday. Four teenagers in the program volunteered to speak with community members and teach them what CNY SNAP is all about. It was not only their good deed of the week, but a life lesson.

“It has taught me to appreciate the community I live in more,” said Stephen Hyde, 17, of Homer. “It is great to get to volunteer and help the organization.”

This is Hyde’s fourth year in the career program and he has worked at Main Street Farms, in Homer, each year. His goal is not to be a farmer, or work with plants. He plans to go to college for ceramic and glass engineering. While working on the farm may not prepare him for that kind of career, it has taught him about working hard, he said.

“I learned to focus on college and work hard,” Hyde said. “It is a great opportunity to make money and help the business flourish.”

Kids usually enter the program looking to take early responsibility in their career paths, while others come in with the intention to help their community, said Jaclyn Pittsley, an employment and training specialist at the center.
Hyde’s 15-year-old brother, who also took part in promoting CNY SNAP on Tuesday, has taken a lot of pride in being able to lend a helping hand.

“I like being able to help the community, “Benjamin Hyde said. “Homer and Cortland need all the help they can get. So, if I can be a better person by helping … I might as well.”

He is spending his summer placement at the library in Homer, where he normally volunteers anyway. Benjamin Hyde said work there has taught him how to deal with all kinds of people, especially the ones who are not always in the best mood.

Being able to help CNY SNAP is also a personal cause for him as he said he has had cats for many years and finds it important to give a new home to ones in need.

The group’s CNY SNAP awareness mission will continue until Friday. Today from 8 a.m. to noon, they are at the Cincinnatus Market Place, at 2752 Route 26. Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon they are at Gregg’s Big M, at 28 Cortland St. in Maraton. And Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. they will be at Walmart in Cortlandville.

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