As you know, these days almost everything is endorsed by a celebrity, which can be a cause of friction between parents and children if the parents are not thrilled with the celebrity’s image. When you work with teens, there are additional complications – who is cool, who is “in”, and who is “out” change in the blink of an eye. I feel extremely fortunate that the teens who I work with are into philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, giving me a bit more leeway.
A few months ago, two thousand middle school students from Long Island’s public and private schools participated in Our Kids In Action’s 10th Anniversary Youth Summit at Farmingdale State College. As I sat there looking across a huge table at the Verona Restaurant in Farmingdale, I was able to watch Allisyn Arm from Disney’s Sonny With A Chance interacting, eating, chatting and laughing with some of my favorite teens. All of the students in attendance had the opportunity to hear about Allisyn’s journey to Disney that started with audition after audition, followed by some small roles and missed opportunities. She continually mentioned the ongoing enthusiastic support and commitment of her parents and her adorable sister. I loved that she shared with the students that she was there because of her family and that she knew that if she ever wanted to walk away from it all, they would be there supporting her decision. Her dad, Steve, is actually a Long Island native who grew up in Southold, and the whole family honors their Long Island roots and visit here as often as Allisyn’s schedule allows.
Allisyn made it a point to say how she was incredibly inspired by the Long Island teens that were being honored that day with Action Awards for their philanthropic efforts:
• Liana Rosenman of Smithtown– One of the founders of ProjectHEAL, an organization that raises money to fund hospital stays for teens suffering from eating disorders,
• Ashley Nessenoff of Stonybrook– The founder of the Long Island Go Good Campaign, a group that runs fundraising and volunteer events across Long Island. (She surprised the girls from 1>0 in front of all of the students with a check that day…for $1000.00 to aid their efforts!), and
• Haley Feldman, Anjelica Mantikas, and Ariel Stern of Merrick– Three of the founding teen members of One Is Greater Than None that sponsor the rescue and rehabilitation of enslaved children in Ghana, Africa and free medical coverage in rural parts of the US as well as travel across the US promoting philanthropy- telling kids that you are never to young to make a difference.
Watching these students break bread- and of course ask Allisyn a million questions about Hollywood gossip- made me feel like all was right and as it should be that day on Long Island. It was incredibly rewarding because I know that moments like that don’t happen every day.
And a typical me move…of course I forgot to get a signed photo for my daughter, Brittany…