A safe place

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

“The kids here in Saugerties have given me a nickname – ‘Hidden Talents,’” said Lydia O’Connor, 24, the new program director at the Saugerties Boys & Girls Club. The Poughkeepsie native, who graduated from NYU with a degree in anthropology in 2009, spent two years volunteering in Micronesia with her uncle, a Jesuit. She has experience in domestic violence outreach, research and prevention, and taught high school while overseas. She’s also a capable basketball and ping-pong player.

“I did move from the urban jungle to the actual jungle,” she said. “And I don’t think I’m super-talented, but I’m pretty good at making games out of learning, so that’s going to be my big push, education,” said O’Connor, the daughter of two lawyers.

Although it’s hard to imagine two locales more disparate than the Micronesian islands of Chuuk and Pohnpei – Lydia lived on each for a year – and the Catskills-on-the-Hudson village of Saugerties, O’Connor says she sees “a lot of similarities in the kids.”

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Teaching kids on tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean isn’t that different from working at a Boys & Girls Club affiliate in a small town, apparently.

“Everybody knows who you are immediately, and they all say hello, whenever I walk around,” the program director said.

Now that the club is on its fall schedule, Lydia works weekdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.. For more than half that period, O’Connor interacts directly with the kids. She likes her new schedule for lots of reasons – mostly because she seems to have a true calling to try and make a difference in children’s lives – but also because now she’ll be able to attend the $5 morning classes at nearby Shakti Yoga on Partition St.

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