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PEP Jul/Aug 2002
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One of 125,000
DC 37 Everyday heroes

Mentor for troubled teens

From GED programs to nature trips, Recreation Director Ronnie Sesso makes a difference for youths from group homes.

Just listening to Recreation Director Ronnie Sesso tell about her work can be exhausting.

She coordinates an offsite learning center that prepares students for their high school equivalency tests. For the third year in a row, she has involved up to 25 teens in the Bronx River Project, cleaning up the bushy banks.

Ms. Sesso is busy setting up internships for the youths with companies like Prudential, as well as a two-week football camp and a six-week art program, where teens hone their skills by painting outdoor murals.

And she's organizing an 11-day trip to Colorado with the Aspen Outdoor Experience to open up the world of nature to her inner-city teens and introduce them to Native Americans near Boulder and Denver.
Ms. Sesso is hardly fazed by the whirlwind of activity she supervises from her office at the Bronx Teen Center, near the Concourse Plaza commercial strip on East 149th Street. She sounds pumped and ready to go.

"I enjoy the outdoors a lot and so do the kids," says the Coney Island native and member of Local 299. The teenagers she works with live in group homes supervised by the Administration of Children's Services. Thanks to her efforts, they participate in an array of activities available in few schools.

Recreation Director Ronnie Sesso supervises teens from the Bronx Teen Center in the restoration efforts sponsored by Bronx River Project.

"I feel that it's our responsibility to make sure these kids are prepared when they leave the system," said Ms. Sesso. After working in group homes for 13 years as a Houseparent and Local 371 member, she is very familiar with the problems. "If you can provide them with some guidance and some opportunities, they usually respond in a positive way," she said of the close to 50 teens that participate in the program.

"It's a great feeling for me when they get accepted into a college or land a good job," she said. "That shows that the system is working for these kids." And it shows that Everyday Hero Ronnie Sesso is working for these kids, making a difference in their lives.

— Alfredo Alvarado



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