When Mahnoor Memon first arrived at the Riverdale Neighborhood House as a student looking to learn something new, she never imagined she would be leaving as a winner. At least not like this.
But the community center did just that, giving Memon its Celia and David A. Stein Teen of the Year award, honoring the newly minted college student for her work at the neighborhood house — and the fact that even after she graduated from Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, she couldn’t stay away.
“It was really nice to know that my hard work had something to it, and I wasn’t expecting it,” Memon said. “I was fine if I didn’t get it, but the recognition is nice and it just motivates me to do more things in the future.”
Memon’s tenure at the Mosholu Avenue center spans two years now, overlapping the start of her freshman year at Hunter College.
“I learned a lot about time management and how to deal with professional life and how to balance my personal life,” Memon said. “And being patient and being on time. There are consequences if you don’t act the way you are supposed to.”
As a freshman on a pre-med track, Memon doesn’t have much of a choice. She is determined to become a medical doctor specializing in neurology. The 18-year-old says she enjoys helping people, and through her time as an intern at Montefiore Hospital — a position she earned through Riverdale Neighborhood House — she discovered her passion.
“I always wanted to be a part of the health care field, and when I saw this internship, I was like why not test it out and see if I would be a fit,” Memon said. “And ever since I’ve seen doctors giving back. I really enjoyed it and it confirmed that I wanted to go into pre-med.”
However, Memon isn’t the only teen the neighborhood house managed to inspire. One of its alums is now working with the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s special needs program, which itself earned Riverdale Neighborhood House’s Good Neighbor Award. KHCC typically helps special needs people between the ages of 5 and 21, but the program has since expanded to ages up to 40 or so.
Hajnalka Gabris works under KHCC executive director Margaret Della to ensure the students get the most out of their experience. That typically includes a number of field trips to places like the zoo, aquarium, the movies — anywhere that is both educational and interesting.
“They learn how much they are alike,” said Gabris, the program’s director. “It’s such a beautiful thing to see them coming together and learn about each other, and from each other.”
The Riverdale Neighborhood House and the Stein family have been intertwined for decades, dating back to when David and Celia moved to Riverdale in 1944. After a few teens snuck into the Dodge Estate for a summer swim, the Dodge family recognized the need for a community pool. They started a fund to get one built at Riverdale Neighborhood House, and in order to get the word out, David Stein tapped into his journalism experience to publish a newsletter, Neighborhood Notes.
It did ultimately result in a pool at the center, but that wasn’t the only thing Neighborhood Notes would inspire. It’s also what led to David and Celia ultimately launching The Riverdale Press in 1950.
“When my dad died in 1982, my mom wanted to memorialize him and his connection to RNH in some way, and the family decided to make a small contribution to endow an award in his name to the teen of the year,” Richie Stein said.
After Celia Stein died in 2003, the neighborhood house added her name to the award.
Richie Stein was on-hand to present this year’s award to Memon.
And Memon hopes to pay it forward, continue work that helps the refugee crisis and the issues within the health care system.
“It all goes back to community,” Memon said. “It makes me feel good to help and give back and volunteer at other places and keep that connection. You have to help out more, and this is something you get.
“But this isn’t the end, and you still have work to do.”