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Liberty Center for Youth

January 29, 2021 - 8:28am

The City of Batavia has received two responses to its request for proposal for agencies interested in providing youth services to the municipality.

Interim Manager Rachael Tabelski, speaking at Thursday night's City of Batavia Youth Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, said one firm scored an average of 90 and the other scored an average of 75. Scoring was done by Tabelski, members of the youth board and other persons named to the selection team.

A third firm responded with a no-bid letter stating that it did not wish to bid.

Tabelski shared this information with Youth Board members David Twichell, Paula Fischer and Lydia Schauf and City Council liaison Al McGinnis before continuing with the RFP discussion in executive session – without The Batavian reporter in attendance.

It was expected that the Youth Board would meet in the next week or so to interview one or both of the organizations that indicated responded favorably.

Tabelski did get back to The Batavian following the meeting last night.

“The plan going forward may include interviews (of one or both of the candidates) and for the measure to be put on a Council agenda to explain why the selection committee has rated a particular firm as the highest,” she said.

She would not disclose the names of the two organizations in the running, but said that the agenda of City Council’s Feb. 22 Conference Meeting “potentially” could include the youth services RFP item.

As an historical note, the Liberty Center for Youth opened in August 2019 as a joint venture of the City Youth Bureau and Genesee Area Family YMCA and the subsequent daily operation (before it was closed due to COVID-19) was being split 50/50 by the City Youth Bureau and YMCA.

The RFP was drafted by Jocelyn Sikorski, the former county/city youth bureau executive director, before she left the position to take the executive director job with Cornell Cooperative Extension. It was sent out on Dec. 1 to local organizations that may wish to contract with the city for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins on April 1.

The city’s primary youth services are an afterschool program at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus and a summer recreation program, but it does participate in other activities, including those coordinated by Genesee County.

Fischer reiterated the youth board’s position that the city’s agreement with the county to share the cost of an executive director should be dissolved in light of Sikorski’s departure, the city’s budget situation and the county possibly looking to make changes to the way it delivers youth services.

It was noted that the county has not billed the city for youth services during the first quarter of this year and that the city has not requested any services from the county.

Twichell asked McGinnis if City Council understood that the youth board recommended ending the contract with the county, but Tabelski said dissolution of contracts was a responsibility of the city manager’s office, and ultimately it would be decided by City Council.

Fischer mentioned that the reason the city contracted with the county because, at the time, it was required by the state.

“Shared services were a big thing being pushed by the governor and it made sense to share that position and get the state funding – and save the city money in the process,” she said. “But in 2017, we no longer needed to have that position to get the state funding.”

In other developments, the board:

  • Welcomed Schauf, a former city youth bureau employee, to the committee for a term extending to Dec. 31, 2023. Schauf said she would be contacting Chelsea Elliott, the county’s deputy youth bureau executive director, about the youth board’s intention to participate in the annual Youth Awards Banquet, usually held in April.
  • Put out a call to enlist other community members to join the committee, noting that its bylaws call for 11 members with no fewer than five seats for adults. Currently, there are only four citizen representatives on the youth board.
  • Scheduled its next regular meeting for 6 p.m. Feb. 16 as long as space at City Hall is available as the consensus was to have an in-person meeting. The agenda for that meeting will include the appointment of officers and a review of the bylaws.

Previously:  Youth Board backs RFP for possible outsourcing, but wants city to keep in-house program 'on the table'

November 10, 2020 - 6:22am

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If City Council Member John Canale has his way, there is no way Batavia’s youth programming will be cut.

Canale, attempting to allay the concerns of City Youth Board representatives David Twichell and Paula Fischer, said he sees the city’s youth program as “an invaluable gem” and said he would do everything in his power to continue or expand offerings to its young residents.

Speaking at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Canale responded to public comments by Twichell, Fischer and Fischer’s son, Andrew, who are troubled about a proposal to contract with the Genesee Area Family YMCA for city youth services.

Currently, the city has a contract with Genesee County to partially a fund a youth bureau executive director, Jocelyn Sikorski, but a resolution – currently placed on hold by the County Legislature – would dissolve that agreement and compel City Council to devise a new plan for youth services.

“Much like Paula, (who) spoke about the youth programs in the city, I grew up every day of my life as a kid at MacArthur Park on Monday through Friday, all day there except for lunch because when I was a kid, they didn’t provide lunch,” Canale said. “The youth bureau is an invaluable gem that we have here in the city, and I have no intention of decreasing the services the bureau offers.”

Canale said the cost to run the youth programs in the city “is miniscule in the whole budget picture.”

“So, I can assure anybody that is here tonight that is concerned about Council doing away with the youth bureau or doing away with the services that we provide our local youth, I can guarantee if any of my Council colleagues brought that up, I would definitely be dead set against it,” he said. “And I don’t think there is anybody here tonight that is against that.”

He then warned people about reacting solely from what they read on social media as well as The Batavian and another local news outlet.

“Don’t believe everything that you read, number one, and try not to formulate your opinion as to what the City Council’s actions are going to be based upon what you're reading on social media,” he offered.

Canale: No Discussion about Cutting Services

Canale said he didn’t recall any discussion pertaining to doing away with the youth bureau or cutting any services.

“Correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe I misunderstood or missed something, Rachael,” he said, looking at Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. “Did Jocelyn not come to us as a county employee contracted with the city to share services? Did she not come to us and request that we cut that contract out?”

Tabelski replied, “That is correct.”

Canale responded that “for some reason, it seems like the public is under the impression that we in the city want to cut that out.”

“And the county manager (Matt Landers) also made public comment that I read that they were going to kind of leave it in our lap first to see what move we made first. I want the public to realize that this was the county that came to the city … and requested that maybe we could discontinue that contract.”

Canale said no decision has been made on the status of the contract with the county, stating that it is at the discussion stage.

“We’re looking at all possibilities and Rachael is looking into other possibilities as well as she approached the YMCA to see what they might be able to do to offer as good of services, if not better services,” he said.

He then aimed his remarks at Twichell and Fischer.

Advisory Board will be Involved

“For whatever reasons, the (Youth) board has not been in the communication circle yet, but I would only assume that at some point when the decisions are going to be made, that we would go to our advisory board and say that these are some of our thoughts (and) what do you guys think?” he said.

Canale urged people to not have a “knee-jerk reaction” to the situation based on social media or news accounts.

“This is all still in the talking stages. Nothing has happened. No programs have been cut,” he said.

The city’s youth center – the Liberty Center for Youth on City Church’s St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – has been closed due to COVID-19 and because the city doesn’t have any youth services employees at this time.

“Maybe, like (Council Member) Rose Mary (Christian) said, 'maybe it’s time to look at that,' ” Canale said. “I don’t know. That should be part of the discussion as well. As things start to open up, we could look at that. Or now, obviously on the rise again with COVID, maybe this isn’t a good time to look at that, I don’t know.”

Youth Programming: More than Meets the Eye

Fischer, a member of the City of Batavia Youth Board for 10 years, said she has “fond memories” of the city parks’ program having attended Kibbe and Pringle parks. She is the director of school-based health programs for the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

She said she has volunteered during city youth events, providing oral health education and giving out hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids and families. She called Batavia a great place to raise a family due, in part, to the services it offers to its young people.

Fischer emphasized that the youth bureau “is more than just the summer rec program -- although the rec program is well-known, serving hundreds of children every summer, providing safe, fun and educational programming – including lunch, which is a big help to many families.”

She mentioned several other events and programs under the city youth bureau, including:

  • The community garden;
  • National Night Out in conjunction with the city police;
  • The Liberty Center for Youth with services provided in conjunction with the YMCA;
  • Programs run by City Church at the St. Anthony’s campus;
  • A partnership with the Batavia City School District for busing to the youth center;
  • Summer safe carnival open to the community;
  • Youth and volunteer awards banquet at Terry Hills Restaurant;
  • A partnership with the Arc of Genesee Orleans for Saturday programs;
  • Visitation at nursing homes and the Senior Center;
  • Open gym nights and grants for summer recreation tennis programs.

“All of these programs provide a sense of pride in the community to the city residents,” she said.

Fischer said she was asking City Council to work with the advisory board to address budgetary issues and “come together to see if there’s a way we can be mindful of the city budget without decimating youth services.”

“A reduced level of service may be appropriate at this time with time to rebuild in the future,” she said.

Youth Board is ‘Open, Willing to Cooperate’

Twichell, the City Youth Board president, extended an invitation to all City Council members “that we are open and we are willing to cooperate with the city, and we are willing as an advisory board to help guide the process.”

“We know … with these COVID restrictions and the tough economic times we’re facing, we know the city is facing great challenges,” he said. “But there are times when we feel that there is somewhat of a disconnect between the board and the City Council.

"I’m here tonight to open and maybe knock down some of those barriers, and tomorrow I will be putting together an email for each and every one of you that will list all of our contact information.”

He then urged Council members to reach out to the advisory board if they have any questions about youth services.

Fischer’s son, Andrew, a former youth board vice president, said he worked for the summer rec program for five years during his summer breaks from Canisius College, where he earned an MBA in Accounting.

“A lot of our youth programs, specifically summer rec, are great ways for youth in our community to interact with one another and interact with the rec leaders,” he said. “It instilled in me a sense of leadership and a sense of empathy toward some of the kids, who obviously were from tougher situations.”

He said it didn’t “sit right” with him when he heard about youth services possibly changing, and noted that he looked at past city budgets on the website and saw that the summer recreation came in below budget last year.

McGinnis Objects to Sending Letter

Prior to Canale’s comments, Council Member Al McGinnis, the city’s liaison to the youth board, said he didn’t get a copy of a letter sent by the youth board to the media last week – a letter that objected to the resolution to terminate the city/county agreement and expressed the viewpoint that contracting with the YMCA instead was a done deal. (Fischer said that McGinnis and the other Council members did receive the letter).

“If you’re an elected or public official and you’re on a board, it is incumbent upon you to make sure that everyone on the board, whether they agree or disagree, knows that correspondence is going out to the public,” McGinnis said. “If not, the public gets confused when they hear two different sets of a thing. When you do it unilaterally, and basically conduct a rogue operation, without informing everyone, it looks bad for everyone concerned.”

He added, “At the time, the board members could have spoken to us at the meeting and said 'here are our points of view – we’d like to make sure that this is heard by the public.' No one is going to censure or stop a report … We owe it to the public to speak with a unified voice, or at least if it’s not unified, everyone gets a chance to say their piece.”

Christian asked how many kids attend the youth center on Liberty Street and if the city had any youth bureau employees at the center.

Tabelski said attendance ranged between 30 and 50 – “sometimes as low as five” – and that the city had no youth program employees, other than Sikorski, who directs city, Genesee and Orleans county youth activities.

“I look down the street and I see tons of kids out there,” Christian said, referring to the Liberty Center for Youth. She also asked about costs should the YMCA get involved.

Tabelski said that, pre-COVID-19, the city and the YMCA each supplied three or four staff members at the center, depending upon the number of children there, and that the YMCA did not charge the city for those employees,

She also mentioned that the city’s program coordinator, Lydia Schauf, recently took another job with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Could Youth Center Have Stayed Open?

Christian then questioned why the center has been closed for so long while school is in session.

“It was supposed to be because of COVID," she said. "I see people at Walmart, I see people downtown. I see them at the grocery store, I see people here. I see people everywhere in the city. Those kids could wear a mask like anyone else in the city and they, I’m quite sure, would stop anyone from coming in without a mask.

"And I’m quite sure they would be disinfecting that facility for the kids over there. And they’re playing basketball on Tuesday nights and I haven’t heard of a soul from that center who has COVID.”

After Tabelski explained that the city was unable to hire part-timers (due to a hiring freeze) and, as a result, she contacted YMCA leadership to see if that organization could provide youth services in an attempt to cut costs and “also provide the same level of service.”

“I engaged in a discussion with the YMCA if they could staff the center and until we come to any preliminary contract terms, you’ll have nothing (in the form of a resolution) in front of you,” Tabelski said. “At such point, you would have a presentation by the YMCA on the programming that they can provide for us that is the same or better than what we’re providing today at a lower cost to the residents.”

Christian’s response indicated that she wasn’t buying that explanation.

“Yeah, it was mentioned on The Batavian that we have to think of the taxpayers,” she said. “We sure as hell don’t think about the taxpayers when it comes to lights for Ellicott Street over there for the trail, especially when at 4:30 at night it’s going to be dark in the winter time and the summer time around 9 o’clock. We don’t think about salary increases either, now do we?”

At that point, Paul Viele, who was presiding over the meeting in place of City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was out of town, cut Christian off.

Tabelski: Let’s Give it Another Try

Minutes later, Tabelski directed her comments to Twichell and Fischer, stating that she came to them during an Oct. 27 meeting in “good faith with ideas on our situation and our strategy.”

“And when you attended the meeting, you sat there, you listened to what I had to say, you listened to my ideas, we had great dialogue. And I am willing to continue that dialogue with you. But I prefer we did it in a committee setting and not go around the committee setting with emails and letters outside of the people on that committee and to the media, so we can really achieve something,” she said.

Tabelski credited the youth board for its commitment to the cause, but said “we have to think differently about this.”

“I am willing to come back and sit with you guys. And this time at the meeting, please speak up because when I left that (previous) meeting, everyone was in agreement to the strategy that I was going to look into and bring to Council.”

After she finished, Fischer attempted to present a “rebuttal,” but was told that she was not allowed to do that. 

“Then I will give my rebuttal to the media and you can read it there,” Fischer said.

Following the meeting, Fischer repeated the youth board’s claim that Tabelski had indicated to them that the decision to dissolve the city/county contract had already been made, and that Sikorski had obtained a grant to direct a Safe Harbor program and “wrote herself into that and changed her job description.”

Fischer also said there is someone who was employed by the city at the youth center who is willing to return to work there.

“When Lydia resigned, they didn’t feel like they had to go back and readdress this,” Fischer said. “They said, ‘OK, great, everybody is gone, and now we can really go and outsource youth services.' ”

She said the youth board is “leery about that.”

“They outsourced the county youth director, and look where we are,” she said. “And I don’t think we’re going to have the same quality of services – and it was our feeling that we had to let the community know.”

Photo: City Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer speaking to the media following Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 12, 2020 - 3:26pm

Press release:

As with the Liberty Center for Youth, the Batavia City Youth Bureau and Genesee County YMCA are partnering once again to provide a safe child care option for the families of Batavia.

Due to the cancellation of the Batavia Youth Bureau's Summer Rec program until the 2021 summer season, The YMCA will be hosting summer camp at their branch beginning Monday, June 29th through Friday, Sept. 4th.

The YMCA offers a variety of care options to fit each families needs. Thanks to the United Way, the YMCA’s Annual Strong Communities Campaign, and personal donations, the YMCA has the opportunity to offer scholarship assistance to those who qualify.

The YMCA Scholarship Program provides confidential financial assistance for memberships and programs. Additionally the YMCA also accepts child care payment plans through the Department of Social Services. No one is denied services because of inability to pay.

Just as with Summer Rec, participants will still have free access to the summer feeding program being provided by the Batavia City School District with breakfast and lunch daily. Batavia School Nutritional Services is committed to providing well-balanced meals efficiently and effectively, while promoting healthy lifestyle choices, in addition to supporting a nurturing environment.

When a child has access to good nutrition, it empowers students to grow in body and mind. By supporting each building administration’s goals to serve students and staff professionally, we hope to support excellence in nutrition promoting lifelong health and wellness.

For more information on the Summer Feeding Program, please contact School Lunch Director Susan Presher: (585) 343-2480, ext. 1007.

Families may sign up for one week or multiple weeks. Care is offered daily 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. (half-day option runs 7 a.m. - 12 p.m.) for children ages 3-15.

  • Five Day Option, YMCA Member Rate $175, Non-Member Rate $220
  • Three Day Option, YMCA Member Rate $132, Non-Member Rate $165
  • Half Day Option (7 a.m. - 12 p.m.), YMCA Member Rate $70, Non-Member Rate $95

Weekly themes, activities and registrations packets can be found under the summer camp tab at:   www.glowymca.org

For further information on camp programs, membership or financial aid, please reach out to Charitie Bruning, Child Care Director at [email protected]

Space is limited and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

March 15, 2020 - 2:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Liberty Center for Youth, batavia, news, covid-19, coronavirus.

Press release:

In response to the State of Emergency called by Genesee County officials and the closure of Genesee County schools, The Liberty Center for Youth will be closed until further notice.

The City of Batavia will continue to take all reasonable precautions to keep City employees, residents, and students safe from contracting and spreading the coronavirus. 

  • Please continue to follow social distancing techniques;
  • Stay home if you are ill;
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently;
  • Above all, remain calm.

All official updates on coronavirus will continue to come from the Genesee County Health Department and you can stay up to date by visiting the County’s website.

January 28, 2020 - 8:32am

Submitted photo and press release:

The JCPenney department store in Batavia is dedicated to helping our local youth. It has proudly donated $1,200 to the Liberty Center for Youth located at 114 Liberty St.

They have made this donation to help close the opportunity gap for the youth of our community. The opportunity gap refers to youth who have unequal access to programs, resources and necessities that enable them to be academically successful.

Many factors such as age, race, gender, household income and community wealth can put the underserved youth at greater risk of not graduating high school or getting the formal training they need to secure a good-paying job. That is where the Liberty Center for Youth Comes in. 

The Liberty Center for Youth offers free programing to all youth ages 9-16 in the community. The center is equipped with a technology lab fit with 10 new computers, 10 tablets and a smart board.

The facility is also has a gymnasium, indoor foursquare court and gaming room complete with air hockey, pool and foosball tables. Youth are offered a free snack every day in the cafeteria and tutoring services are also provided free of charge. 

The City of Batavia Youth Bureau and the Genesee County YMCA have entered into a collaborative partnership to deliver Liberty Center for Youth for youth programing. Both organizations have prided themselves on offering free, safe and fun activities to our youth.

JCPenney proudly supports this community and its success. JCPenney would like to thank Lydia Schauf, who is the program coordinator for the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, for making us aware of this need in our community and taking the time to coordinate this donation.

Photo: Back row, from left -- Sue Dart (JCPenney), Charitie Bruning (Glow YMCA), Elise Lee (JCPenney), Lydia Schauf (City of Batavia Youth Bureau), Rachel Hale (Glow YMCA), and Jeff Townsend (Glow YMCA). Four local youths are in the front row, from left: Kamela Lockhart, Jonelis Martinez-Williams, Gabrielle Lawlis and Gianna Williams.

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

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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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