Alcohol bottles turned anti-alcohol art

Youth Council rallies community against teen substance abuse


On June 13, the Rockville Centre Youth Council presented “Message on a Bottle,” a gallery of liquor bottles which displayed messages against substance abuse at The Art Studio on North Long Beach Road. The studio is a workshop that teaches art to students and local artists and presents their projects in its showroom.

“I’ve been working with the Youth Council, allowing them to come here and use my space for the last three years,” said Meryl Cittadino, founder and owner of the Art Studio. “We believe in their program. The more they continue to keep doing this, the more the community can rally around them.”

The first year the students in the Youth Council collaborated with the studio, they painted portraits of famous celebrities who died from substance abuse on mannequins. The next year, they designed graphic T-shirts with phrases encouraging alternatives to substance abuse.

“Message on a Bottle” was the brainchild of 16-year-old Sophia Grillo, the Youth Council’s chairman of community service.

“When you see a beer bottle, you automatically think of drinking,” Grillo said, holding a bottle she designed. “So I thought, why not put a spin on it and give it a positive influence to avoid substance abuse?”

Fighting teen substance abuse has been the Youth Council’s main mission since its grassroots beginnings in 2009. Under Chairman Beth Hammerman, the non-profit has come a long way, and now boasts more than 100 members and an approximately $8,000 budget. Hammerman felt that after five successful years with the club, it was time to step down as chairman and take on a board member role. Later in the evening, Andrea Connolly, a board member, was appointed chairman.

“I think it’s better to have somebody at the chair who’s got a child in the school district because it’s a lot easier to communicate with the kids,” Hammerman said. “She has a better pulse.

“I think there are a lot of strategic things to do from a board position, not the day-to-day operations,” said Hammerman, hoping her new position would allow her to get financial grants for the council, as well as strategize other development plans.

With her five years of experience organizing fundraisers, Connolly aims to take the organization to the “next level” as the new chairman.

“Where we’ve come over the past five, almost six years is really amazing,” Connolly said. “But I think now I’d like to actually do a lot more and really get the Youth Council out there and bring in a lot more activities to get the community involved.”