Wednesday, October 28, 2009

“Kiaran’s Kids” Learning Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

From left to right, back row - Joanne Adams, NYRA, David Smukler, NYRA, Pat Boyle, Gateway Youth Outreach, Cate Masterson, McLaughlin Racing. Front Row - Madison Thomas, Gateway Youth Outreach, Jennila Pierre-Louis, Gateway Youth Outreach, Mike Louissant, Gateway Youth Outreach, Jamelia Jones, Gateway Youth Outreach, Kiaran McLaughlin, Artie Magnuson, McLaughlin Racing

For an hour or so on Wednesday afternoons at Belmont Park, Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn becomes something more than a stable of world-class thoroughbreds – it becomes a classroom.

On that day, McLaughlin hosts a small group of sixth-graders as part of an after-school program with Gateway Youth Outreach, which supports the youth of Belmont Park’s neighbor, Elmont, with a number of programs and services.

“They’ve been here three times, and they’ve gotten to see a lot in that time,” said McLaughlin. The trainer and The New York Racing Association, Inc. were presented with citations from Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray for their efforts in arranging the weekly educational sessions.

So far, said McLaughlin, the students have learned about the different jobs in the barn, watched a blacksmith at work, and gotten to use a hoof pick on a stable pony. This past Wednesday, they had an opportunity to go to the races and got their photo taken after a race with another trainer, David Donk, who invited the group into the winner’s circle.

“It’s a lot of absorb in a short period of time, but they all seem interested,” said McLaughlin. “It’s something different for them to learn, and more importantly, they get to come inside the gates and see Belmont Park, which is so close to where they live.”

McLaughlin said he hopes the pilot program will expand in the spring to include more students.

“This is a great thing Kiaran and NYRA are doing for the community,” said Ed Ambrosino, councilman with the Town of Hempstead, when the pilot program was first developed. “We are appreciative that they are able and willing to take the time to reach out to the children of the community.”

Gateway Youth Outreach serves the children of Elmont and nearby communities with counseling, education and recreation. Its after-school program is one of many that promote a safe environment for children to develop their talents in healthy, productive ways.