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Essay from the D&C: New space for the Center for Youth can serve as Bridge to Peace

The historic legacy building at 797 Monroe Ave, a home of the Greater Rochester YMCA for nearly 100 years, recently became another victim of the pandemic.  The Center for Youth, now the beneficiary of the generous gift of this building from the YMCA, envisions this site as a symbol of hope for a more equitable and peaceful future for our youth and beloved community. And so we plan to create a “bridge to peace”—as named by our youth—in that space.

Every day we find ourselves surrounded by amazing young people who dream of a place where they will have voice, become career and college ready, learn about their history and role in American history, and have a SAFE place in their community. A Bridge to Peace can be that place where our youth can strive and thrive! In combination with the current services offered at 905 Monroe Ave and our School-based services, 797 Monroe Ave offers additional space for staff and youth to expand in new ways to meet the needs of our ever-changing world. Although this will be a new endeavor for the Center, with a laser-like focus on youth voice, financial parity, restorative practices and equity, it is a mission that was birthed from youth voice and honored by the caring adults more than 50 years ago. Our youth deserve an outlet to process their world of pandemics, social media and mental well-being.  Bridge to Peace can be that place of awakening and refuge.

We appreciate the YMCA’s gift, and as the Center’s Executive Director noted: “it’s the next right thing to do in this time of crisis and adversity.” Even before the pandemic, , additional space was needed to fulfill our vision: a world where all youth grow and thrive in an equitable and beloved community; our mission: to partner with youth to realize their full potential by creating opportunities, removing barriers and promoting social justice); and our promise: started by kids for kids, our services are rooted in a culture of belonging, growth, and understanding to ensure youth voices will always be heard and respected.

Our young leaders, community partners and Center staff and Program Committee will carefully consider the best use of this precious space, informed by positive youth development and the voice of young people.  This building offers opportunities to connect students and staff through technology, has generous space for meetings to address issues such as racial disparity and social injustice, and restorative practices, the hallmark of respectful relationships with youth and families.

Kishawn Medley, Youth Board Member

Elaine Spaull, Executive Director

Nolica Murray, Director of Restorative Practices & Equity

Cheryl Gossin, Board Member

Dr. Richard Kreipe, Board Member

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