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KP High School Senior Proposes A Saner World

Eric Gordon, 17, creates organization using fresh ideas and energy of youth aimed at tackling community problems.

Something happened for Eric Gordon when his principal honked for the peace demonstration he and some friends were holding down Middle Country Road from Newfield High School in Selden in April 2010. The principal gave a nod to the students over the school’s intercom, and the positive response sparked excited conversation among Eric and a friend.

“I thought to him, how cool would it be if we could actually, ya know, organize something?” Eric said. They talked about the kind of youth activism seen in the 1960’s and how they could apply it to their own lives and community – “do something that would help the community, help kids in high school… from collaboration between kids from different ethnic groups - the whole stereotypical images that people fall into these days – to break that up.”

Eric’s idea grew after he moved to Kings Park with his mother and her husband, high school music teacher Roy Abrams, last year. Abrams’s experience as live music director for Brookhaven’s 2010 Youthstock event, which featured six hours of performances by area students, gave Eric a framework for the “something” he had discussed with his friend.

They named their fledgling organization Students for a Saner World. The first project: raise $10,000 to replace the battered instruments in Kings Park High School’s music program. The idea, Abrams said, is an event like Youthstock which features students but is also organized and hosted by students, without what Abrams saw as grandstanding by local politicians.

Abrams and Eric presented the idea at the school district’s Oct. 3 board meeting. The result was excitement.

“It was very well-received,” said district supervisor Susan Agruso. “Some of the logistics need to be worked out, but I think it’s a unique opportunity for students to get involved.”

She said she thought Eric had gone “a little out of the box” in envisioning proactive community involvement by high school students. Eric calls the notion exciting, and Abrams’s eyes narrow as he discusses the implications of the idea.  

“I think if you give young people the opportunity, the experience, of becoming community leaders now, they’re going to learn from that and they’re going to bring that with them,” said Abrams.

That starts with an organization that is entirely student-driven, with support from adults but without the steering. A problem with adults can be cynicism, he said.

“It’s really going to teach, I believe, a lot of the adults a thing or two about what it means to be a community,” said Abrams, adding that he hears more problems being brought up than solutions.

Eric said the benefits are not intended to be limited to the school. The plan is to identify issues in the community as a whole, then identify solutions that the students can put in motion on their own.

Ultimately, he would like to turn the organization into a full-fledged non-profit that will continue to operate after he graduates in May. Abrams called the Kings Park community “fertile ground” for such an effort, and Eric hopes to create a success that can inspire other young people.

“If you find it somewhere, you can pick it up and take it somewhere else,” Eric said.

Frank Mercuri December 02, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Usually fresh minds come fresh ideas. I do not believe that adults are cynical. What I would like to hear are what are the problems and what are the solutions. there are many in the community that have done much to have Kings Park be what it is and continuing to address problems and seek solutions. Many of our politicians have done much for the community. It would be great for the younger gender to get involved and i would be the first to assist where I can. Having ben a community activist for years I feel i can provide some indight on the road to take in a discussion. Usually the young look at elders as a parent image. Not so when it comes to community issues. As to the instrument problem, I find this to be puzzeling. If they are school district property, they should have been replaced as taxes are paid for the purposes of providing the resources need for students. This has to be discussed with the district.
Linda Henninger December 02, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Mr. Abrams, I think it’s wonderful that there is real interest and a plan for the youth of our town to get involved in school and community issues. I think once you get to know the adults in this community, you’ll find they are far from cynical. As for what it means to be a community – well, this town, and the people that live here, are the most community minded people I’ve ever met. There’s no shortage of civic, religious, sports and business groups that are filled with optimistic, hard working people. About problems and solutions, having been to KP In The Know meetings, Kings Park Civic Association meetings, chamber meetings, etc, I’ve found lots of discussion and actions in an effort to enhance the community. While not everyone, including myself, might agree with each and every decision these groups make, they’re all volunteering their time to help make positive changes. There are many kids in our community that volunteer their time to problem-solve and help fellow community members. I think it’s great that there will be another organization, especially one with the youth perspective. Like Frank, I would be happy to help in anyway.
Roy Abrams December 02, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Hello Ms. Henniger and Mr.Mercuri, I couldn't agree more with you about the wonderful community we have in Kings Park! This town serves as a model, showing what can be achieved when people work together to transform dreams into reality. As an independent contractor special education teacher, I view Kings Park High School as a best-case example of how an educational institution can function in the best interests of its students, forming a virtual circle of support around each and every child. From the administrators to the faculty and staff I have met during the past two years, I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the level of dedication, commitment, and passion that these adults have to truly make a difference in the lives of their students. Eric's mother and I have been blessed to meet some other wonderful people through the Kings Park High School PTO and the Music Boosters Association. Addressing the Board of Education at its November 15 meeting, Eric and I were humbled by and extremely grateful for the unanimous support shown by the board members and attendees. From the combined perspective of a teacher and a parent, I can state without hestitation that the Kings Park community is a rare commodity in today's world. The cynicism I referred to in the article resides in many other communities - but certainly not ours! Eric and I would love to hear from you and welcome your offer to help.
Frank Mercuri December 02, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I would be happy to provide any suggestions or enlightenment, history, of KP issues that seem to bother some of our youth. There definately has to be a dialouge between youth and adults. I agree with them in forming a relationship with adults where they are the councelors and youth the leaders. This is how future leaders are developed. You can reach me at my home number 269-1035. I live on Lordly Court, which borders the KP high school parking lot. I am a resident of KP for 46 years . I am sure Linda would be as interested as stated in her comment.
Karen MacDougall December 04, 2011 at 12:53 AM
I guess I may be the one you label cynical. While I am certainly a fan of all citizens doing their part in making our community a better and saner place, I fear many view the activities of the 1960's with rose colored glasses. Woodstock was a compilation of many of the things that are going wrong in society. Sex outside of marriage or for that matter outside of even knowing the person, drugs and alcohol, disrespect for law and order and authority, a general lack of personal responsibility and accountability and whatever feels good must be right attitude. I applaud this young man for his desire to help the community, but I would encourage him to stay as far away from connecting himself with this 1960's movement as he could. By the way, civil rights is inappropriately attributed to this movement as the fight for civil rights started with the creation of our Constitution with 70% of our Founders who signed that document were abolitionists fighting to end slavery. Bet your teachers never told you that.
Karen MacDougall December 04, 2011 at 01:02 AM
By the way, I loved what seemed to be Eric's notion of keeping politics out of it and keeping it community and citizen based. The answers to our problems rarely come from government.
Roy Abrams March 08, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Hello Linda, Thank you for posting the event in the calendar section. FYI - the fundraiser is not free; there will be an admission charge of $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors with free admission for children 5 and under. Eric and I will be speaking at the Kings Park Civic Association meeting on Tuesday, March 13th. I hope to meet you there!
Linda Henninger March 08, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Hi Roy, Got the info from your website - looks to be a great event! I updated the event post. I hope to see you at the KPCA meeting - March 13 at 7:30pm in the Kings Park High School Community Room. Should be a good meeting. Linda
Roy Abrams April 17, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Hello Linda, The fundraiser's admission charge has been slightly revised as follows: $10 for adults, $5 for students, free admission for children 5 and under. Would it be possible for you to update the event listing in the calendar section? Thank you very much for helping us get the word out about our event, and Eric and I hope to see you there!

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