From startups to selling donuts, what some Hudson Valley teens are doing this summer

Nick Zotto applied to one summer job this year and got it. He’s working at SplashDown Beach Water Park. Submitted.

“I wanted to be like my friends and have a summer job, but I also wanted to get my foot in the job world,” said Nick Zoto.

Lisa Iannucci | July 15, 2021

Last summer, fewer than a third (30.8%) of U.S. teens had a paying job. This was because many of the places where teens typically work — including restaurants, shops, recreation centers, tourist attractions – were either shuttered or had their operations severely curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Pew Research Center’s latest analysis of federal employment data, teen summer employment in the United States had plunged to its lowest level since the Great Recession, erasing a decade’s worth of slow gains.

The summer of 2021 has offered more opportunity for teen workers, especially as employment shortages in areas such as the retail and hospitality sectors continue to affect local businesses.

In June, 16-year-old Nick Zoto put in just one summer employment application — with SplashDown Water Park in Fishkill — and he was hired.

“I wanted to be like my friends and have a summer job, but I also wanted to get my foot in the job world,” said the soon-to-be John Jay High School 11th grader.

“I work in the parking lot as a greeter telling people where to park or I count cars to keep track of how many are in the parking lot,” said Zoto, who works from one to four days per week. “I like that I get to talk to people during the day, especially after the Covid pandemic.”

Once summer ends and SplashDown closes, Zoto is hoping to find another job.

Not all teens are punching a clock. While many are spending their summer days working long hours at their jobs, others are doing volunteer work and some are growing their hobbies to become a lucrative side hustle.

Hyde Park’s Simon Benca is using his time to develop his passion project, a YouTube Channel for a character he created, the Happy Womboof.

“He is on the autism spectrum and started teaching himself how to film and edit short videos during the pandemic shutdown,” said the 13-year-old’s mother, Goretti Benca, who is helping him with the endeavor  (YouTube does not allow users under 18 to earn money without help from a parent or guardian). “This summer, he has been working on his YouTube channel and planning ways to use it as a way to help the community and do a virtual summer academic program through his school.”

Nicole Cunningham’s oldest son, Jayden Cunningham, also has a full summer that includes working and camp.

“Jayden works at Nature’s Harvest in Poughkeepsie as a cashier, but also does inventory occasionally,” said Nicole Cunningham. “This is his first job and he’s been working since May.” When his job ends, Jayden will go to sleepaway camp for a week.

Abrahim Adel, a 16-year-old from Poughquag, has been working steadily for the last two years at Dykeman Farm in Pawling. He also picks up the occasional film industry paycheck by working as an extra.

“The first year he helped with pumpkin season and this year he was asked back earlier,” explains his mom Gena Lisanti. “He enjoys the work because it’s always changing, which keeps things interesting. He does everything from running the register and customer service to painting and handy work.”

Adel worked last fall through the pandemic on the weekends under Covid protocol. He also does background work in the movie industry. “Abrahim enjoys the background work because it’s one to two half days and good money,” said Lisanti.

Jenn Sorrentino owns the Donuts for Days Food Truck and will spend the summer working with her 14-year-old son Jacob.

“He started out as my assistant last summer when we first opened the food truck,” she said. “He was too young to work anywhere but a family business last year, but he hasn’t looked for work elsewhere, because he’s great at it! He can almost run the truck without me.”

Teen entrepreneurs

When it comes to stereotypes about teens and lazy summers, Mariabella Rivera-Todaro is shattering them.

The 19-year-old New Paltz resident has been working as an intern at a tech company since before the pandemic started. Then, during quarantine, she was able to start her own business and is now the president of Millions of Butterflies, her nonprofit organization.

“Last year I was participating in a lot of protests, and while I was there, I saw people handing out food to the protesters, but a lot of it was savory sandwiches,” she explains. “After walking 11 miles, I found myself craving chocolate, not a hummus and cucumber sandwich, so I went home and made a large batch of brownies to bring to the next large protest in the city, but I forgot them.”

She ultimately sold the brownies elsewhere and then donated the proceeds to local non-profits and individuals asking for money for groceries, rent, and other necessities.

“It ended up taking off and we’ve gotten so many community members involved who are donating baked goods,” said Rivera-Todaro who celebrates her nonprofit’s one year anniversary in July.

Currently, she is working on putting a Free Food Fridge behind Snugs Harbor in New Paltz and creating back-to-school care packages for students in the fall.

“If people would like to donate to the Free Food Fridge, we have a gofundme that can be found under New Paltz Free Food Fridge and an Instagram by the same name,” she said.

Lisa Iannucci is a Hudson Valley freelance writer. Contact her at newsroom@poughkeepsiejournal.com

TO APPLY FOR A JOB AT SPLASHDOWN BEACH WATER PARK, CLICK HERE.

News12 Westchester: Beat the heat at SplashDown Beach water park in Fishkill

News 12 Staff Jul 08, 2021 This week’s Road Trip: Close to Home brings thrills at America’s biggest little waterpark.
Beat the heat at SplashDown Beach water park in Fishkill in this week’s Road Trip: Close to Home. Book your tickets and splash your way through America’s biggest little waterpark.
“SplashDown beach sits on 19 acres. We are spanned out of 24 rides, thrills, chills, pools, you name it, we have it!” says General Manager Taryn Eisenman.
Grab a tube and take a plunge down the Humunga Half-Pipe – a gravity defying ride that’s sure to have you swinging back for more. Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss the Megalodon — the park’s newest and tallest attraction. “Megalodon is definitely a crowd favorite here at SplashDown Beach, you go from six stories high into a zero gravity drop,” explains Eisenman.
Need a break? You can reserve a cabana where you can sit back, relax and enjoy some summer sun before hitting the Monster Wave pool.
All these attractions are perfect for all ages. “Everything is retrofitted for 42 inches and under so you really can get in here enjoy the day with your family. It’s a vacation away, one-day attraction, right in the middle of the Hudson Valley,” says Eisenman.

U.S. Top 10 Water Park

(Fishkill, NY) July 24, 2020-SplashDown Beach, America’s Biggest Little Water Park, is proud to announce that it has been named the #6 Best Water Park in the United States according to TripAdvisor.

This is the 2nd Travelers’ Choice award for SplashDown in the last 3 years.  “We focus on delivering the best experience for our guests here at SplashDown Beach, and it means a lot to be recognized among the best in the country” said Steve Turk, the park’s owner.  The Turk family purchased the underperforming water park in 2004, and has since invested nearly $25 million into the now ranked #1 water park in the state of New York.

Chief Operating Officer Andrew Chafatelli said, “Our team members deserve so much credit. While we have many great rides and attractions at SplashDown Beach, our team members are what makes this park so special. Every member of the team works hard to ensure we operate as one of the cleanest, safest, and friendliest family destinations in the world.”

Operating seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day, SplashDown Beach features attractions for all ages.  It is also home to “the best food in the water park business” according to Turk.  The park offers multiple delicious food options, including local favorite Cosimo’s pizza, as well as Nathan’s Famous, and more.

SplashDown Beach Honored At Dutchess Tourism Awards of Distinction

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Dutchess Tourism, Inc. (DTI) celebrated National Travel Rally Day with the announcement of the winners of the 2019 Dutchess Tourism Awards of Distinction, Tuesday, May 7th in front of a sold-out crowd at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum.

Winners in each category (in bold) received beautiful, hand-crafted awards made by Hudson Beach Glass:
The Dutchess County Executive’s Award for Overall Distinction: Fishkill Farms

Finalists were: 40 Cannon Street, Omega Institute

Arts Award of Distinction: Clove Creek Dinner Theater

Finalists were: BeaconArts, MJN – Majed J. Nesheiwat Convention Center

Culinary Award of Distinction: Terrapin Restaurant

Finalists were: Sloop Brewing Co. @ the Factory, Taste New York Store at Todd Hill/Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County

Family Entertainment Award of Distinction: SplashDown Beach

Finalists were: Four Brothers Drive-In, Lilymoore Farm

History Award of Distinction: Bannerman Castle Trust

Finalists were: Beacon Historical Society, Historic Red Hook

Outdoors Award of Distinction: Malouf’s Mountain Campground

Finalists were: Dover Stone Church, Orvis Sandanona

Hospitality Award of Distinction: Scott Koster, Millbrook Vineyards & Winery

Finalists were: Janett Pabon, Hotel Tivoli & The Corner Restaurant, Djan Paunovic, Terrapin Restaurant

“Our awards of distinction recognize local businesses that go above and beyond, providing exceptional experiences to visitors, a hallmark of all that makes us Distinctly Dutchess,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro. “I congratulate this year’s finalists and winners, including Fishkill Farms, the winner of the County Executive’s Award for Overall Distinction, and we thank all those recognized today for their dedication to telling the Dutchess County story. Each offers an incredible variety of high-quality programming and attractions – from every sector and corner of our county – and they showcase the myriad different experiences we have for travelers and residents alike here in Dutchess County.”

 

U.S. Top 10 Water Park

(Fishkill, NY) July 24, 2018-SplashDown Beach, America’s Biggest Little Water Park, is proud to announce that it has been named the #8 Best Water Park in the United States, and #22 Worldwide, according to TripAdvisor.

This recognition comes following the addition of a brand new attraction, The Megalodon, which made its debut this season.  “We focus on delivering the best experience for our guests here at SplashDown Beach, and it means a lot to be recognized among the best in the world” said Steve Turk, the park’s owner.  The Turk family purchased the underperforming water park in 2004, and has since invested nearly $25 million into the now ranked #1 water park in the state of New York.

Chief Operating Officer Andrew Chafatelli said, “Our team members deserve so much credit. While we have many great rides and attractions at SplashDown Beach, our team members are what makes this park so special. Every member of the team works hard to ensure we operate as one of the cleanest, safest, and friendliest family destinations in the world.”

Operating seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day, SplashDown Beach features attractions for all ages.  It is also home to “the best food in the water park business” according to Turk.  The park offers multiple delicious food options, including local favorite Cosimo’s pizza, as well as Nathan’s Famous, and more.

Platinum Award Winner

SplashDown Beach Receives Platinum International Aquatic Safety Award.

SplashDown Beach announced today that it has been awarded the prestigious “Platinum International Aquatic Safety Award”. Earning this award demonstrates that the aquatic facilities they operate consistently exceed industry standards in risk management and epitomize aquatic safety excellence. International Aquatic Safety Awards are conferred to deserving aquatic facilities by Jeff Ellis & Associates, Inc. – International Aquatic Safety and Risk Management Consultants. “It Is apparent that the entire staff embodies the idea of setting the standard in aquatic safety and swimmers who frequent this aquatic facility are afforded the highest degree of swimmer protection currently available for the aquatic industry,” said Richard A. Carroll, Jeff Ellis & Associates, Inc. Senior Vice President and COO. International Aquatic Safety Awards are presented annually to participants in E&A’s Comprehensive Aquatic Risk Management Program (CARMP) and are based on the results of multiple random Unannounced Aquatic Facility Operational Safety Audits throughout the year. These audits include undercover video surveillance of individual lifeguards while they protect their Zone of Protection® areas, in order to accurately evaluate their professional diligence. Additionally, individual and team basic life support and rescue skills are evaluated, along with simulated emergencies that measure the effectiveness of established Emergency Action Plans. The audit concludes with administrative, supervisory and facility evaluations. All E&A client facilities are top performers and represent the finest and safest aquatic facilities in the world. As such, it is of particular note when E&A facilities perform so well that they are granted an International Aquatic Safety Award. International Safety Awards are presented only to E&A’s most elite clients. Presented in three levels – Silver, Gold, and Platinum – only the top 10% of E&A clients in the world receive a Platinum International Aquatic Safety Award each year.

-Ellis & Associates, Inc

Family Road Traveled

Safe to say, you’ll love this place! They call themselves America’s Biggest Little Water Park. After experiencing it, feels like the perfect sized water park for families. I’ve visited dozens of water parks, one of the perks of this blog, and I’m awarding this one the cleanest of all. It’s spotless with perfectly designed colorful rides. No chipped paint or repairs needed here, it’s like a five star water resort without towel service.

Read More

See Max

Enter To Win VIP Tickets to K104’s Private Listening Party with Max!

MAX is coming to SplashDown Beach this Monday, August 31 at 1:00 p.m.! Lucky winners of K104’s “Listen to Win” contest will receive VIP access and seating for a Private Listening Party.