Saturday, June 30, 2012

Easton Teen Event Aims to Inspire Hope, Provide Alternatives

By Christina Georgiou

Mario Figueroa knows what it's like for young people who have few resources.

Growing up on the streets in New York City, he says he got into plenty of trouble and having nothing better to do, he got involved in the violent subculture of the illegal drug trade, which led to a two-year stint in a New York prison on weapons charges.

But in the four years since he's come to Easton, he said, he's turned his life around. Inspired by a sermon at the city's Southside Greater Shiloh Church to "take the message of God to the streets," he's been doing just that.

Figueroa spends some time every day, he said, talking with teens he finds just hanging around with nothing better to do.

"I was raised by the streets myself," he said. "It was my home, you know? I want to give something back."

He was so inspired by the sermon, he recently approached Easton Mayor Sal Panto to ask him to back an event aimed at the city's teens that would have a positive influence on their lives.

Accompanied by his "chief advisor", Darren Brown of Wilson
Borough (right), Mario Figueroa (center), of Easton shakes the
hand of city Mayor Sal Panto last Wednesday evening after
announcing his plan to city council to hold an event for
troubled teens in Centennial Park on July 14.
"So he says to me, 'How much money do you need?'" Figueroa said. "And I said, 'Sir, you could give me all the money in the world, and it wouldn't matter. What I need is a date, a place where I can hold this event.'"

Figueroa's request was granted, and, assisted by his friend and "chief advisor" Darren Brown of Wilson Borough, he will be hosting that event in Centennial Park for youth ages 14 to 21 on Saturday, July 14, beginning at 2 p.m. 

The day is planned to include music, a dance competition, a basketball tournament, a Scrabble tournament, chess and checkers, and other games. Prizes, including gift cards donated by local businesses, along with refreshments, are hoped to entice troubled local youth to see there are alternatives to violence and drugs.

And, it's not just a one-time thing, Figueroa says.

"The day after my event is accomplished, I'm back out of the street, talking with troubled youth," he said, adding that he hopes to have similar get-togethers on a monthly basis.

For more information, or to donate resources to the day or future events, call Mario Figueroa at 347-241-4343.

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