Worcester Youth Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary
June 4, 2014
Worcester, MA - The Worcester Youth Center marks its 20th anniversary of providing safe, educational, recreational and social opportunities for young people in Worcester, with a celebration at its facility located at 326 Chandler Street on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm and a community cookout the following day at the same location between 3:30 and 7 pm.
The Youth Center has provided thousands of young people with a safe place to build lasting, positive changes in their lives. The Center was built from a grassroots effort to provide a place for young people to gather following a challenging summer in 1991 which saw the arrests of many youths for loitering and disturbing the peace. These arrests revealed a problem in Worcester—that the city lacked positive opportunities for older youth.
Young people, assisted by adult supporters including Lynne Simmonds and Anne Moriarity, spent three years visioning and planning what was needed for older youth. Together, they developed the Worcester Youth Center in 1994 at 508 Main Street as a drop-in facility that would be open to all young adults and adolescents throughout Worcester, free of charge.
Worcester’s City Manager’s Office issued a call to support the Center’s efforts at reducing youth violence in the city. Dr. Peter Levine, former CEO of what is now UMass Memorial Medical Center, responded to the call. UMass Memorial has provided critical support over the years to ensure that the Worcester Youth Center could grow, evolve, and expand programming for Worcester’s youth. To accommodate growth, the Youth Center purchased and relocated to its current location on 326 Chandler Street in 2008.
Since its launch twenty years ago, the Center has increased capacity to serve more youth and offers a wider variety of programs and transitional support activities promoting positive youth development. Its program model recognizes the developmental needs of youth and encourages them during the various phases of their social, physical and intellectual maturation. Today, the Worcester Youth Center is truly exemplifying its founding motto: “It’s not just a place to go, it is a place to go further.”
“Every citizen of Worcester owes a debt of gratitude to the Worcester Youth Center,” Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said. “By giving our youth a positive and welcoming place to spend their time, the center has improved the city immeasurably over the past 20 years.”
“The Worcester Youth Center’s mission is as vital today as it was two decades ago,” Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said. “The center continues to provide a critical safe haven for young people in Worcester. I congratulate the tireless volunteers and staff on their efforts, and look forward to continuing the city’s support of this vital work.”
“I can imagine the youth at the time were extremely excited and felt an enormous sense of accomplishment when they played such an integral role in the founding of the Center,” said Samuel Martin, Executive Director of the Worcester Youth Center. “It is fitting that the health care system was at the forefront in providing a sort of “first aid” that sustained the Youth Center through its formative years. The type of long term commitment demonstrated by UMass Memorial Medical Center is exactly what is needed to support community-based organizations and to address the critical, social and developmental needs of our youth.”
“At 20 years old, the Worcester Youth Center is now entering its adulthood,” said Dr. Laurie Ross, associate professor of Community Development and Planning at Clark University; Director of Healthy Options for Prevention and Education (HOPE Coalition); and president of the Worcester Youth Center Board. “We are proud of the Center’s many accomplishments in the areas of education, workforce development, health and wellbeing, and youth leadership. We look forward to continuing to partner with young people to ensure they are connected to positive adults and have the supports they need to achieve their hopes and dreams.”
“UMass Memorial has always been dedicated to the total health of communities, not just treating physical ailments,” said Eric Dickson, MD, President and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care. “We are proud to have been involved with the Worcester Youth Center from its inception, and look forward to the next 20 years and beyond, as we build stronger, healthier communities.”
Since it opened in 1994, the Worcester Youth Center has captured local, statewide and national attention for some of its innovative programs and accomplishments.
Facts and Highlights About the Worcester Youth Center
• Continued growth, including the purchase of a new building to expand program capacity
• Secured reliable transportation for youth through the purchase of mini-bus and a van
• Annually serves 800-900 youth who live in Worcester
• Focus on core programs that include; Health, Recreation and Positive Social Interaction, Creative Expression and Leadership, Academic Support and Work Preparation
• Incorporation individualized service planning case management services and onsite referrals to youth mental health services
• At the forefront of offering youth violence prevention services through a variety of public and private funders
• Multiple community collaborations that include the Worcester Police Department, Becker College, Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester Art Museum, Press Pass TV, Clark University, Boys & Girls Club, Luk Inc., The HOPE Coalition among others
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