A visitors experience at City Youth Center

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(City Youth Center)

Well, blow me down!”  Popeye.

That fairly sums up my reaction to the tour with My City Youth Center’s Operations Manager Vicki Vega. This activity center, with heavy emphasis on “activity”, is a veritable hub of educational, career-focusing, character-building, and entertainment opportunities for Hemet’s youngsters, from toddlers to late teens. Center staffed classes supplemented by guest speakers provide a myriad of growth experiences and guidance for willing and hungry young minds.

I visited the center on Wednesday, February 5, and found that there are abundant opportunities for Hemet’s future movers, shakers, builders, leaders, inventors, athletes, and entrepreneurs. Classes range from the School of Skate to ballet to guitar, keyboards and (one) ukulele to robotics to arts (tykes, for only one example, were making during my visit Valentine cards to send to our vets) to gymnastics. At the same time, a nutritionist was conducting a class on proper diet in a kitchen with a fetching smell (well, it was almost lunch time).

Not incidentally, all of the programs on offer are free to the families. Only six of the 50 volunteers are paid via contributions and grants, which are too few and too far between for the creative and dedicated minds responsible for the center’s continued success and growth. There are presently 175 students and that number is expected to grow to 250 by year’s end. Vicki, for one, impressively showed no signs of fatigue. Rather, she presented a “full speed ahead” determination. All of the volunteers I met appeared to be gentle hearts with gregarious dispositions, although also clearly possessing an unflappable determination to guide and mold responsible, productive, contributing citizens.

I must mention the “Mommy Program.” It presently provides guidance to 100 teen girls, and girls up to 21 years of age. In simple terms, they are children with children. The girls are taught the essential fundamentals of child rearing. They are rewarded with a point system that is redeemed in the Mommy Shoppe. The items therein, as are all other items in the center, are donated. “Aged out” students frequently become mentors. (Reassuringly, all prospective volunteers must submit to a screening, which includes a background check.)

The staff welcomes community professionals. Mentioned to me as highly desirable were veterinarians and zoologists. Nurses, engineers, teachers, other professionals as well as trades-people are sought and welcome to speak to the children. (Are there any astronauts in the area?)

Vicki’s presentation was passionate and erudite. She used the word “dreams” rather than simply plans for the future of the center. One such grand dream is a “Tech & Trade Program.” Realizing the fact of life that not all young women and men should or want to attend a four year university, and knowing that this is an ever-evolving, technology dependent and driven world, this particular dream must not remain a mere rumination. As with most worthwhile endeavors, this too takes money. The center’s request for a grant from the State of California of State and Community Corrections is “in the works.” The center did receive a grant from Sobaba Foundation, but, as you see, other large, and lots of small, effecting donations are required to meet the invaluable, progressive ideas of the staff’s high and vital ambitions.

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