Leo’s Club makes it mark

Teen service group is affiliated with community-minded Lions


Serving the community has long been the mission of the Valley Stream Lions Club, a group of dedicated men and women who meet twice a month to think up ways to help others.

Now, they are trying to build the next generation of volunteers. The Valley Stream chapter of Lions International has launched its own Leo’s Club, a group for high school students interested in serving their community. So far, the group is nearly two dozen strong and is already starting to make an impact.

Since the Leo’s Club launched late last year, students have taken part in numerous community service activities. They have helped plant trees in New York City through the Million Trees Initiative, volunteered at the Interfaith Nutrition Network soup kitchen in Hempstead, and collected items for a back-to-school drive. They also have started a mentoring program with a local elementary school.

Additionally, members have helped the Lions Club with some of its events, including a food drive at Key Food in North Valley Stream, the annual dance for the visually impaired, and a pancake breakfast.

Jose Pastrana, president of the Valley Stream Lions Club, said he is impressed with the group’s efforts so far. “They basically work like a Lions Club,” he said. “They’re all good kids. They’re dedicated. This is what they want to do.”

Most of the students come from Elmont Memorial High School where one of their advisors, Athena Allen, is a teacher. Allen joined the Lions Club last year after learning about the organization from Pastrana, and was excited about the opportunity to help start up a Leo’s Club.

“The Leo’s Club really focused on leadership and giving them the tools to be young leaders in the community,” said Allen, who shares the advisor duties with fellow Lion Janet Mahabir.

Pastrana and Allen both say that they want the Leo’s Club to become, essentially, an independent organization. While the Valley Stream Lions Club will continue to be its sponsor, they want the students to make their own decisions and come up with their own community service projects. The Lions Club, Pastrana said, should merely be there for support.

“We shouldn’t just be dependent on the Lions Club,” said Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, a 10th-grade student at Elmont High School. “We should try and start our own projects. I think it would be really good for us because it will get our name out there.”

Uwamanzu-Nna is secretary of the Leo’s Club and has already taken part in several service projects. She has been with the club since it began. Uwamanzu-Nna said it was an exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor and help make decisions that will shape the future of the club.

“I thought it would be nice to be part of the legacy,” she said, adding that she also joined to help serve the community and to meet new people. “It’s a really good place for students to spend their time.”

One of her projects was to put together a newsletter highlighting the Leo’s Club activities so far, including the induction ceremony at the Pompei restaurant in June, as well as the various service activities.

Allen said that as the club’s membership and treasury grows, it will be able to support other student organizations. Ideas for fundraisers include a fashion show and a talent show.

“I’m very proud of them,” Allen said of her students. “I’m starting to see talents that I might not ever have seen in the classroom.”

Pastrana said she is still hoping to get more students from Valley Stream’s high schools involved in the Leo’s Club, as the group is open to all teenagers in the community. It meets twice a month at the Valley Stream Park Estates conference room in the Alden Terrace neighborhood of North Valley Stream.

He is also hoping that the Leo’s Club members of today become Lions of tomorrow. “Once they’re 18, they’re no longer Leos,” he said. “We’re hoping they will come to our club.”