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Liberty Center for Youth

August 30, 2019 - 4:10pm

Press release:

Liberty Center for Youth, 114 Liberty St., is set to open to all youth ages 9-16 in the City of Batavia at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5th.

The Liberty Center for Youth (former St. Anthony’s school) is a joint agency project between the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, and the GLOW YMCA.

The focus of this project is to broaden the services offered to the youth of Batavia and have it conveniently located in one facility. The property is owned by City Church.

“Locating this facility in heart of the City, to serve our youth, is the right move,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. “I believe that the enrollment for the City of Batavia Youth Bureau programs will continue to grow and this will be 'the place' where kids want to go.

"They will find a positive caring environment here lead by the City Youth Bureau.” 

The United Way of Genesee County has contributed $50,000 to the project and will be providing funding for an additional five years at $10,000 per year.

“The United Way is excited to partner with the City of Batavia and the GLOW YMCA to make this project a reality,” said Tammy Hathaway, regional director of the United Way of Genesee County.

“This project fits within our mission to motivate and organize people...through a unified, community-wide effort to mobilize resources and apply them to best serve the needs of Genesee County.”

The new location will offer a technology center with 10 new computers donated by Marchese Computer Products, 10 brand new tablets, and a smart board with wireless capabilities. The Liberty Center for Youth will provide free tutoring and homework assistance.

The facility will contain a game room with pool, air hockey, ping-pong, and foosball, as well as a four-square court and gaming room with a PS4 and Wii. 

The former cafeteria has undergone a major renovation turning it into a multipurpose room where students are encouraged to socialize, and grab a snack. A free snack will be provided daily to participants. The cafeteria will also be used for special events such as Art, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Music, and other activity nights.

This location also offers a gymnasium to allow for year-round sports activities.

“This has been a dream of ours for a while,” said Lydia Schauf, program coordinator City of Batavia Youth Bureau. “We have wanted to find a central location where we could make the most impact on the Youth of our City, we wanted a place where they could feel comfortable to socialize and be active but most of all to provide a safe environment.”

The City of Batavia Youth Bureau has prided itself in offering free, safe and fun activities to youth and is excited and encouraged by this new endeavor. The staff of the Youth Bureau is capable, trained and ready to see a very successful first year of programming at the new location.

“It has been an amazing journey of learning, problem solving and growing as we have developed this partnership over the last three years," said Jeff Townsend, executive director of GLOW YMCA.

"Working together as a non-profit and government entity has been way less challenging than first thought. I appreciate this opportunity in my career to see a vision come to life. And I’m thankful to have worked alongside Jocelyn Sikorski on this project.” 

The Liberty Center will be open year-round. Hours of operation are as follows 2:30-6 p.m. during school and 1-6 p.m. during school breaks and summer vacation. 

Registration is free and participation forms can be found at 114 Liberty St. or on the City of Batavia website under the Youth Bureau Department.

If there are any questions please call Lydia Schauf of the City Youth Bureau at (585) 815-5308. Transportation will be offered afterschool to the facility but must be arranged through the Batavia Central School District.

August 30, 2019 - 12:41pm
Video Sponsor
August 21, 2019 - 11:48am

youth_center_trio_1.jpg

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.

August 5, 2019 - 10:03am

liberty_center_logo.pngCalling it a “mad dash to the finish line,” City of Batavia Youth Bureau Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski is counting down the days to the opening of the Liberty Center for Youth at the former St. Anthony’s School on Liberty Street.

A joint venture of the City of Batavia and the Genesee Area Family YMCA, the Liberty Center for Youth – until now known as the Teen City project – will provide a variety of services and activities for students from the ages of 9-16, with hours of 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year and 1 to 6 p.m. during the summer.

It will replace the current Batavia Youth Bureau on MacArthur Drive, which will be closing its doors on Aug. 16, Sikorski said.

“We will start the move to the Liberty Street site (owned by City Church) on Aug. 19 and a kickoff event is planned for Aug. 29,” she said. “The actual launch (for kids) will take place on the first day of school (Sept. 4)."

Programs for youth will take place on the first and second floors while administrative offices will be housed on the third floor.

Sikorski, who also is in charge of the Genesee-Orleans Youth Bureau, and Jeff Townsend, district executive director of GLOW YMCA Inc., continue to oversee the ambitious venture, which stemmed from the results of a United Way needs assessment survey several years ago.

“The concept of Teen City came from the efforts of Erik Fix, who was director of the Genesee United Way at the time,” Sikorski recalled. “He put together a community needs assessment, with the results stating the need for more services for youth and teens. Erik was instrumental in getting the other players to the table.”

Fix, who now manages an M&T Bank branch in Rochester, said the needs assessment survey was conducted in 2013 when the United Way was “looking at who we were funding and why we were funding.”

“What we found was that there wasn’t enough (services) for that age group (teens and preteens),” he said. “So we took a look at boys and girls clubs and, after much deliberation, felt that the youth bureau and the YMCA were logical partners.”

He said they considered several locations before deciding on the former St. Anthony’s School.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring some life back to that part of the city and to restore the use of that building,” Fix said.

Townsend credited the United Way for igniting the spark that has led to a true community collaboration.

“This project would not be possible without the generosity of the United Way,” he said. “They not only did the needs assessment survey but they also put their money where their mouth was – and helped us generate much-needed additional support.”

Indeed, as the local United Way put up $50,000 for renovations of the building and has pledged another $10,000 annually to sustain the program.

Other contributions and grants have been provided by Bullet Aid, Rochester Regional Health, Ralph Wilson Legacy Funds, Rotary Club of Batavia, NYS Education Department, State Aid Recreation Program, YMCA of the USA and Marchese Computer Products.

The Genesee County Department of Social Services is funding special programming such as job coaching, life skills training, foster care support and peer relations.

Partnerships also have been forged with Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Genesee County Probation, Liberty Partnership at Genesee Community College, Batavia City Fire and Police departments, Richmond Memorial Library, GO ART! and Genesee County Business Education Alliance.

Even the cool logo (inset above) was created and donated by local artist Heather Ellsworth.

Both Sikorski and Townsend said opportunities exist for additional businesses that wish to promote activities for teens to get on board.

Townsend said the Teen City committee supports the new name as it “differentiates” itself from the landlord, City Church.

“Teen City may have tied it (the youth center) too closely to City Church,” he said. “This separates it from church functions. We don’t want City Church staff getting calls from parents concerning issues with the youth center.”

The start-up and subsequent daily operation of the Liberty Center for Youth are being split 50/50 by the City Youth Bureau and YMCA.

“We reduced costs by sharing the load -- mirroring our staffing, along with program expenses and what we have to offer,” Sikorski said, adding that the agencies have agreed to a five-year memorandum of understanding.

They’ve also worked together on grant funding, Townsend said, noting that the best thing is that it is free to the students.

When students arrive at the new youth center – busing will be provided by the Batavia City School District from the high school, middle school and John Kennedy Intermediate School – they will find the following:

-- A homework/technology room with 10 computer stations. (A “quiet room” until 4:30 p.m., Sikorski said.)

-- Cafeteria set up for arts & crafts, board games, skill-building activities and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects.

-- A game room for ping-pong, foosball, air hockey, pool and table games.

-- Four-square and video game rooms.

-- Second-floor gymnasium.

Snacks will be provided on a daily basis, Sikorski said, but must stay in the cafeteria. The youth center’s code of conduct will align with that of the school district and must be signed by both the child and the parent/guardian.

Much renovation has been done to get the building in shape, Townsend said, including the placement of 28 security cameras inside and outside, and making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As far as staffing is concerned, Sikorski said the ratio of employees to youth will be at most 1:15, and both classrooms will always have an employee on duty.

The on-site staff of at least six part-timers will be supervised by Lydia Schauf, City Youth Bureau program coordinator, and Charitie Bruning, YMCA child care director.

Sikorski said the school district intends to find a use for the existing youth bureau building and pay all related expenses.

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