East Meadow Kiwanis bridges the gap with younger generations


Around East Meadow, the Kiwanis Club of East Meadow is well known for its acts of service to both the community and its children. Leaders of the club recently bridged the connection between its adult members and kids even further, by inviting the president and vice president of the Key Club at East Meadow High School to lead a meeting.

Under Kiwanis International, there are several avenues for youth to become involved, at the elementary level with K-Kids, the middle school level with Builders Clubs, and at the high school level with Key Clubs. In college, there’s Circle K, and for members of the community with special needs, there’s Aktion Clubs.

In many of East Meadow’s schools, Kiwanis works closely with each of its youth groups. East Meadow High School’s Key Club is led by president, Mahira Ahmed, and vice president, Geneva Bhagroo.

East Meadow Kiwanis President Joe Parisi  joined the organization in 2018, and said at one point, it was common for Key Club members to lead meetings. The coronavirus pandemic and other reasons took the club away from this, and after speaking with Catherine Razzano, the Key Club liaison for East Meadow High School, they decided to bring it back.

“It’s important to us — it’s important to Catherine and I — because our club is about kids,” Parisi said. “What we’re trying to do is build a closer relationship between what I call the parents — the Kiwanis Club — and the K-Kids, the Builders Club and Key Clubs. So that’s really why we’re reinvigorating it.”

“It’s bridging the gap between the kids and the adults, so they can see the next step,” Razzano said, “and they can see what they’re working towards.”

Razzano and Parisi prepared Ahmed and Bhagroo ahead of the Jan. 23 meeting they led in the Grand Stage Diner in East Meadow, providing notes and instructions. The girls opened the meeting with the club’s opening song, “My Country Tis of Thee,” and then introduced dignitaries who attended, and announced club member’s birthdays. Afterwards, they followed a meeting agenda, discussing upcoming events, other important topics, and any club updates.

“What was also great in that section of the meeting is that they gave their own update about what they’re doing in their own club,” Parisi said. “It gave insight to the members that were there what these young ladies are doing, what their club is doing.”

Ahmed, 17, who’s been on the board of East Meadow High School’s Key Club for the last three years, said when she joined the organization in ninth grade, meetings were still being held virtually due to the pandemic. Now a senior, she said she was inspired by the club’s leaders at the time — and it encouraged her to want to remain involved in Key Club.

“I think the thing that stuck out the most was that I was inspired by the way the club president and the board at the time were able to create community service events, and still donate food for people in need during Thanksgiving time, during Covid,” she said. “These acts of kindness really go a long way, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Ahmed added that now, she draws inspiration from Kiwanis’s leaders.

“The Kiwanis board for East Meadow is some of the most hardworking and inspirational people I have ever met,” she said. “Mr. Parisi, Ms. Razzano, work super hard to facilitate this message of a really strong, Kiwanis community that is dedicated to doing good on Long Island.”

Being that the meeting was held in a public restaurant, Parisi and Razzano said they both received compliments on behalf of the girls for how professional and well-spoken they were.

“The club is about kids,” Parisi emphasized, “and we need to have the kids in the club come to the meetings. And they understood it — these two girls are smart.”

East Meadow Kiwanis also has a liaison for the Key Club at W.T. Clarke High School in Salisbury, and while nothing is finalized yet, Parisi said they’d love to have its leaders join them in a meeting as well.

“I think it was really exciting to talk with these people, as the younger person in the room, because I really do look up to them because of their hard work,” Ahmed said. “Kiwanis is such a big commitment. I have a lot of respect for these people who really work hard outside of their own jobs and come together to do good for the community.

“I think it’s really special that they get the youth involved, like me and Geneva, because it shows the next generation of Kiwanis how the Kiwanis board of East Meadow works.”