Molloy students document concerns of LI families

By Olivia Winslow of Newsday

An online survey conducted by the Suburban Millennial Institute found that 64 percent of young adult Long Islanders say they plan to remain here, while 30 percent indicated their intention to leave -- with most citing a lack of job opportunities.

"I think that, perhaps, the 30 percent of folks we spoke to saying they plan on leaving the region was remarkable and sobering," said Jeffrey Guillot, founder of the Garden City-based institute.

The institute's survey last year of 752 Long Islanders, ages 18 to 36, found that among those who indicated they planned to stay on the Island, most cited social and family connections here.

"We have a lot to do to establish this region as a destination" to attract and keep young adults, said Guillot, who also runs a political consulting firm.

The institute says it focuses on public policy to make Long Island more affordable for young adults. It has partnered with Molloy College, which conducted a separate study focused on young families. The institute and Molloy combined their endeavors in a report, released Thursday, called "A Tale of Two Studies."

Molloy took a different approach, with members of an interdisciplinary class of students going to family service organizations to interview 20 young adults with families in 10 Nassau County communities, asking them about the challenges they faced and supports they had living on Long Island.

Among the challenges the young adult families cited in the Molloy study: Expensive housing, lack of quality and affordable health care, high cost of living, a lack of well-paying jobs, and a need for more preschool programs.

Cheryl Camenzuli, who chairs Molloy's psychology department, said Molloy's efforts and the institute's survey coincided "beautifully.

"So we came up with the idea of combining the two and taking a joint look at the [institute's] quantitative data and interviews from the students as anecdotal support," Camenzuli said.

The institute and Molloy are planning to conduct a joint conference in March focused on issues affecting millennials on Long Island.

"There's a real need to do more to retain young families on the Island," Guillot said. "In order for the region to really grow and thrive, we need folks to put down roots here and raise families here on all parts of Long Island."

Among the institute's survey highlights:

Of the 64 percent of respondents who say they plan to stay on the Island, 78.7 percent said their social and family networks were here, while 77.7 percent said it was a good place to raise children, and 53.7 percent said the Island provided "many opportunities for education."

Of the 30 percent who said they planned to leave, 62.4 percent said the Island didn't offer many job opportunities, 55.6 percent said the area didn't provide an "exciting lifestyle," and 53.9 percent said the cost of living was "unreasonable."

Camenzuli said students in a special course called L.E.A.D.S. -- Leadership, Education, Awareness, Development and Service -- study many areas of family life. Camenzuli co-teaches the class with Molloy instructor Angela Zimmerman. The course is sponsored by a grant from the New York Community Bank Foundation.

"Our idea was to speak to the young families and find out what's keeping you on Long Island and finding out why [some] were planning to leave," Camenzuli said.

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