Where Lives Change: Granite YMCA moving forward on major expansion project for teen center

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Granite YMCA capital campaign kick off student speaker Mary Karasi.
Granite YMCA capital campaign kick off student speaker Mary Karasi.

MANCHESTER, NH – City youth will have new and expanded offerings during out-of-school periods, thanks to a new program expansion announced Tuesday by the Granite YMCA.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, area young people need a safe and healthy place to spend their free time,” said Hal Jordan, President and CEO of the Granite YMCA, during the Sept. 22 kick-off celebration.  “Today, we’re pleased to announce the “Where Lives Change” capital campaign which will expand and enhance our downtown Manchester teen center, build a new dedicated youth and senior center at our Allard Center facility in Goffstown and expand summer camping facilities.”

Mayor Ted Gatsas speaks during the kick-off event.
Mayor Ted Gatsas speaks during the kick-off event.

The Granite YMCA hosted a special kick-off event for the public phase of its capital campaign, which is expected to conclude late next year.

“Thanks to individual donations, foundation grants and CDFA grants, we are well on our way to meeting our goal and we are excited to begin sharing our vision with the broader community,” Jordan said.

The YMCA’s teen center is currently housed at the downtown Manchester branch and serves about 1,000 teens each year.  Core offerings and services include:

  • Leadership development, training, college and career support
  • Healthy lifestyles
  • Academic support, tutoring services and mentoring
  • Positive peer interactions
  • Community service opportunities
Conceptual drawing of the Center for Youth Teen Leadership.
Conceptual drawing of the Center for Youth Teen Leadership.

Jordan added that with the expansion of its downtown YMCA center and the new youth and senior center to be built at the YMCA Allard Center in Goffstown, the YMCA will more than double its current capacity and expects to be able to serve over 2,000 young people by early 2017.  New construction is expected to begin this fall at the Allard Center with renovations at the Manchester branch starting in early 2016.

The new and expanded Centers for Youth and Teen Leadership will provide teens and “tweens” with a safe, supportive and growth-oriented environment during after school and out-of-school time periods, when kids are at the greatest risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviors.  These include alcohol use, drug or tobacco use and other dangerous activities.  While annually ranked among the healthier states in the U.S., NH is among the worst in the nation for drug abuse in young people, with the heroin epidemic a painful reality of life for many.  Other challenges in the YMCA’s primary service area include: lower literacy, compromised health status, poverty and a higher population of non-English speaking residents.

Hal Jordan, YMCA president, and Stay student Tyana Cruz.
Hal Jordan, YMCA president, and STAY student  leader Tyana Cruz.

Both centers also support a healthy continuum for area youth by providing a bridge from the YMCA’s nationally recognized START and STAY programs that serve at-risk children from Beech and Wilson Street elementary schools as well as four middle schools in Manchester.  By adding new capacity as children age out of these programs, the YMCA is providing an ongoing solid foundation for teens and young adults.

“Both START and STAY programs have proven to be highly successful in helping close the achievement gap for students through improving grades, preventing truancy and fostering healthier behaviors,” Jordan said.

“The YMCA’s teen center is my home away from home on a regular basis and the staff are amazing,” said Jennifer Gonzales.  “Whether I want to study, get extra tutoring help or participate in activities with my friends, it’s a place where everyone can feel welcome.”

Jordan went on to add that in providing these programs and services, the Granite YMCA espouses a collaborative approach.  “Our state has always been unique in its ability to form healthy partnerships for the greater good,” he said.  “In providing services out of our centers, we work very closely with health and human service agencies, local schools, law enforcement, state and local government agencies, businesses and like-minded community organizations.”

“As one of the state’s longest standing non-profits, we firmly believe that public-private partnerships are the bedrock of our success and this effort is very much in keeping with philosophy,” Jordan said.

For more information about the YMCA’s Capital Campaign, please contact Leslee Stewart, VP of Development at (603) 782-2805 or you can make a donation on the YMCA’s website.

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About Carol Robidoux 5783 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.