AREA NEWSThe Putnam Examiner

Mahopac’s Sweeny the First Female PAL Executive Director

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Alana Sweeny
Alana Sweeny

A Putnam County woman is once again making history. Alana Sweeny, a Mahopac resident, was named the Police Athletic League’s (PAL) new executive director. She will be the organization’s first female executive director since its founding in 1914.

PAL is New York City’s largest, nonprofit, independent youth organization.

PAL’s mission fits with Sweeny’s passion and experience. Throughout her career, Sweeny has been dedicated to working either directly with children and youth facing challenges including poverty or special needs, or supporting them through policy, partnerships, funding and by building infrastructure.

“We are truly privileged to have Alana Sweeny accept the position of PAL Executive Director,” Robert Morgenthau, PAL chairman of the board, said.  “Alana is one of the most respected leaders in the child care and youth services community, with a proven track record of building programs that deliver successful results.”

For over 97 years, PAL has helped millions of young men and women build for their futures by providing them with safe, attractive and supportive environments to enjoy their free time, after-school, evenings and weekends.  PAL serves over 50,000 boys and girls each year at 16 full-time PAL centers and 11 part-time centers throughout the five boroughs with a budget of approximately $25 million.

“I am honored to be appointed Executive Director of the Police Athletic League,” Sweeny, who has served as acting executive director since June 2011, said.  “I look forward to continuing to strengthen the quality of PAL’s programs, focus efforts on serving the youth of New York City in the most needed areas and establish initiatives that position the PAL for growth.”

Trained in elementary education, as an early childhood educator, special educator and school administrator, Sweeny has worked directly with young children and their families, developing model local programs and influencing state and national policy and initiatives.

As an educator, she created a variety of curricula, including an interest-based curriculum for high-achieving students, curriculum for learning disabled and emotionally disturbed youth in a residential treatment facility and a preschool cultural curriculum.  Prior to the movement for inclusion of special needs students, Sweeny developed a unique co-located early childhood program.

For 10 years, Ms. Sweeny served on the cabinet of Governor George Pataki as executive director of the NYS Council on Children and Families, where she was charged to work directly with the Commissioners of the State’s 13 education, health and human services agencies to coordinate their policies, priorities, regulations and budgets as they related to children and families.

Her work on out-of-state placement of youth led to changes in placement procedures, the creation of in-state alternatives, leading to substantial savings to localities.  Through her work as chair of the Task Force on Out of Wedlock Pregnancy and Poverty, New York State won a $25 million federal award.

As an early childhood specialist, she trained Head Start teachers and was chair of the NYS Head Start Collaboration Project.  She worked extensively with the New York State Association for the Education of Young Children (NYSAEYC) to improve the quality of early childhood programs across New York State, and was a leader in the development of the NYS Early Childhood Comprehensive Services (ECCS) five year plan. Sweeny also served as the Governor’s liaison to the National Governor’s Association on Early Education and Workforce Development and authored the early childhood portion of a national political platform.

As a member of the Task Force on School Violence, Sweeny co-chaired the prevention/education subcommittee and assisted in the development and implementation of the SAVE legislation.  In conjunction with Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, she developed materials and training to support children and teachers who were exposed to violence.  In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, working with the State Department of Mental Health, she developed materials to guide parents in recognizing normal reactions in children, versus those requiring intervention.

In addition, she served as an advisor to two governors on juvenile justice issues and funding.  Sweeny was a member of the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, a member of the Megan’s Law Task Force, and brought together community groups, law enforcement, churches and community agencies together to identify collaborative strategies to reduce youth crime in areas of high poverty.

While on the Governor’s Task Force on Restructuring Health, Education and Human Services, Sweeny outlined functions of four state agencies for restructuring and made recommendations for more effective operations.  She has conducted strategic planning, created employee evaluation and development instruments and developed policies, procedures and by-laws for not-for-profit, education and government agencies.

Skilled at fundraising, Sweeny was the management chair of the NYC and State Employees Federated Appeals where she raised $10 million, surpassing all previous campaigns. As a former United Way President, she increased funding through development of a first of its kind community telethon.  In addition, she secured a substantial private foundation grant to keep a local Child Care Agency from closure, ensured ongoing funding to a library by transforming it into a school district library and spearheaded the creation of a Festival of Trees to benefit a local hospital.

Sweeny has been the recipient of numerous community leadership awards including the Woman of Distinction Award by the NYS Senate.  She is an active Red Cross volunteer and serves on the Board of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Board of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County, and is a member of the Putnam County Fiscal Vision and Accountability Commission.

She is married to Judge John Sweeny, associate justice of Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department and is the mother of three boys, James, Brian and Patrick.

Last May, Sweeny considered running in the special election for Putnam County Executive, but decided to work for PAL instead.

Mary Ellen Odell won the county executive race in November and became Putnam County’s first female county executive.

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