K J Smith from First Tee Connecticut stepped onto the green at Goodwin Park in Hartford with four tentative-looking youth to show them the basics of golf. It is their first lesson, and they are learning how to hold a proper stance and practice swinging the club.
The youth are under the care of Community Partners in Action’s (CPA) residential program in Hartford, where they receive a range of therapeutic services, schooling, and life skills to set them on the right path in life. Golf is the perfect way to teach important life skills like patience and perseverance.
In addition to their instructor, the youth are joined by Steve Cedor, Assistant Program Manager at CPA’s residential program in Hartford for male youth and Taylor Spyros, whose focus is organizing recreational and life skills activities so youth experience things they might not have a chance to do.
Steve Cedor likes to find opportunities to interact with the youth, help them buy into the game, and see how their interest in golf grows as they learn the fundamentals.
Steve joined Community Partners in Action in May from the Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division (CSSD) where he was a Superintendent at the Hartford Juvenile Detention Center. Throughout the span of his twenty plus year career, he has seen the movement toward placing youth in spaces that feel more like home than detention. Working at CPA is an opportunity to work in a therapeutic treatment center that partners with essential community-based providers. This includes a contracted program with teachers and Yale Behavioral Health, who meet with the youth on a regular basis and with CPA staff to discuss their progress.
Community Partners in Action aims to get the youth out into the community as much as possible, so it’s not so much of a transition for them when they are eventually released, which typically happens after about six months. To ensure continuity of care, CPA’s Reintegration Mentors continue to work with the youth beyond discharge for the next twelve months, alongside parents, guardians or other family members who help to reinforce the skills they learned, while in the program.
“My focus right now is to empower the Senior Mentors and to coach the Youth Mentors who have responsibility for the direct care of the youth,” said Cedor. “My goal is to give them the consistency and structure they need to thrive.”
Steve believes in teaching in the moment to reinforce and support the skills youth are learning. His inspiration to get into this line of work came from his own upbringing in Brooklyn, New York. He was helped by older youth who stepped in to provide guidance when his family was working, so he wanted to do the same and give back. Today what he enjoys most is seeing staff members grow and building professional relationships with the youth.
On the golf course, things are going well for the youth. They are warming up to the game and starting to have fun, despite their initial skepticism.
“Like in real life, things on the golf course aren’t always going your way,” said Cedor. “You’re going to have to put a bit of work into it and learn it is a game with ups and downs.”