With much to be done before next week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house, Tuesday was not the time for a photo shoot of the soon-to-be-ready Liberty Center for Youth at the corner of Liberty Street and Central Avenue.
But it was an appropriate time for the major players in the project – Jocelyn Sikorski, Jeff Townsend and Rachel Hale – to give this reporter an inside look at what kids can expect when school begins on Sept. 4.
“We’re about 40 to 50 percent done (with the extensive renovations),” said Sikorski, executive director of the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, admitting to being somewhat weary from taking part in the move from the old youth bureau building on MacArthur Drive.
Sikorski also shared her excitement as the partnership between the City of Batavia and the Genesee Area Family YMCA (which evolved under the working title of Teen City) is ready to bear fruit at the former St. Anthony’s School, property which is owned by City Church.
“We’re really pleased with the way things are going,” she said. “This is going to be great for the kids.”
She was joined on the tour by Townsend, district executive director of the GLOW YMCA Inc., and Rachel Hale, the YMCA’s community development director.
The Liberty Center for Youth has a lot to offer for students from the ages of 9-16. Hours will be 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year and 1 to 6 p.m. during the summer.
The first floor will feature a tech center, video gaming room, four square room, table game room, boys and girls bathrooms, and cafeteria -- with stairs to the second floor located on both sides of the cafeteria.
A lift (elevator) also has been added per the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is located in an area that used to be the school’s kitchen.
Other ADA-required modifications include the placement of 28 security cameras inside and outside, and new doors and a ramp on the Central Avenue side of the building.
-- The tech center (25-foot by 20-foot) will offer 10 computer stations – five of them donated by Marchese Computer Products – along with tables for work space in what used to be the St. Anthony’s School library.
A smart board will be attached to one of the walls and computer tablets will be available for use by students. The room also will support activities such as job/life skills seminars and is designed for youth to interact on a 1:1 basis with staff or to work quietly in small groups.
-- The cafeteria (70x60) has been completely gutted and renovated, and is equipped with round tables and chairs. It will function as a room for arts & crafts, board games and team building and where kids can have their snacks.
“You can call this the ‘Blue Room’,” Sikorski said, noting the couple shades of blue paint on the wall.
This is where all the children will reconvene at the end of each day, around 5:30 p.m., to make sure everyone is accounted for during cleanup time, Sikorski said.
-- The video gaming room (12x20) and four square room (20x20) are located behind the south wall of the cafeteria and provide further entertainment.
A flat screen TV and gaming systems will be available on a rotating basis for a predetermined amount of time, with the equipment under lock and key.
The four square room is ready to go, with the rules prominently displayed on one of the walls.
-- The carpeted table game room (20x27) is across the hall from the cafeteria. It will offer pool, ping-pong, air hockey, foosball and more.
The second floor holds the check-in station and a large gymnasium (basketball court) that can be used for volleyball, floor hockey and other group activities.
Hale, who during an internship donated hundreds of hours writing grants and setting up the curriculum, said the youth center received an abundance of sports equipment and games through the Ralph Wilson Legacy Fund and the Rochester Community Health Foundation.
Students will enter through the main doors on the Liberty Street side of the building and immediately be “checked-in” at the window of a small office, which also can be used for one-on-one discussion, parental meetings and as a space for those with additional social needs.
After check-in, kids go directly into the gymnasium and from there can go downstairs if they wish.
The Liberty Center for Youth project has been the beneficiary of numerous grants, led by a $100,000 pledge from the Genesee United Way. The City and YMCA have entered into a lease agreement with owner City Church.
Hale said the success of the joint venture is a proud achievement for the community.
“It’s encouraging to watch these two entities come together … to create that space for individuals,” she said. “I’m very excited to see what will become of this new youth center.”
In preparation for its opening, the Liberty Center for Youth staff has participated in team-building exercises and will undergo CPR and first-aid training, sensitivity training and child abuse indicator training, Sikorski said.
Both Sikorski and Townsend will address the public at the ribbon-cutting ceremony from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, and will be there later that day (5 to 6:30 p.m.) to greet parents and grandparents at an open house.
Photo at top -- Ready to greet students at the check-in window of the Liberty Center for Youth (former St. Anthony's School) are these friendly faces -- Rachel Hale, left; Jeff Townsend and Jocelyn Sikorski. Photo by Mike Pettinella.