Teen enrichment, education, entertainment focus of Goodman Community Center

by Hannah McClung

J401 Spring ’11

Looking past the rehabilitated building of the Goodman Community Center with its exposed steel beams, original brick and restored pulley system on display is nearly impossible on weekend afternoons when the building is quiet and primarily used as a meeting venue and fitness center.

Walking into the center after 3 p.m. on any weekday is a completely different story. Smiling faces, large groups of teens boisterously trying to get each other’s attention and groups of preschool kids leaving for a walk in a perfectly straight line upstage the building’s features.

The Goodman Community Center opened its doors Sept. 2, 2008 after outgrowing its original location on Atwood Avenue where it was originally known as the Atwood Community Center.

“We were bursting out of our other buildings,” said Margo Tiedt, facility use manager at the Goodman Community Center.

The community center was using three different buildings, an all-purpose building and a youth building located on Atwood Avenue, and a teen center located on East Washington Avenue.

“We were too scattered,” said Tiedt. “It was too hard to manage our programming and try to expand.”

The community center may be bigger and look nicer but their goal remains the same, to strengthen the lives of the people who participate in their programs in their neighborhood.

Moving from Atwood Avenue to their current location right off the bike path was not only to about space. The expansion efforts also focused on increased programming and neighborhood use.

“Last year we had a total of one hundred thirty thousand visits,” said Tiedt. “That is at least a 60 percent increase from the old buildings because we have more programming.”

With the addition of a daycare space and the Lussier Teen Center that features a full gym, skate park, basketball courts, music loft, game room and a space designated for teenage girls the center now offers one of the best teen facilities in the area, according to Lussier Teen Center Coordinator Eric Hartwig.

The teen center offers an after-school recreation space and enrichment opportunities including a Sketch Squad, movie club, skate club and scrap booking club, but the location of the center is a big part of the program’s success.

“Our location, not being on a busy thoroughfare and being tucked away in a neighborhood gives us an advantage by being close to multiple schools,” said Hartwig.

According to Hartwig, the teen center offers Friday and Saturday programming, which is a big advantage to other drop-in programs in the area that are being cut back.

The current drop-in structure of the teen center gives students a safe, supervised place to release energy after school.

“Here they’re with positive adults,” said Hartwig. “They get to choose the path their after-school time follows, which is important developmentally.”

Tucked away in the Lussier Teen Center is Girls Inc., a program that aims to inspire girls to be “strong, smart and bold.”

“The program allows girls the opportunity to receive academic help and to participate in a variety of educational activities,” said Colleen Hayes, Girls Inc. coordinator.

The weekly program brings middle and high school girls together from nearby schools to learn, socialize and grow.

“I enjoy going to Girls Inc. because I like meeting new girls,” said Arriana, an eighth grader at Sherman Middle School.

Girls Inc. is a national organization established through the YWCA that offers an after-school curriculum focusing on health, media literacy and a variety of other topics geared towards teen girls.

“You get to do community service and other fun activities,” said Fatoumata, an eighth grader from O’Keeffe Middle School. “I think [Girls Inc.] is important because it helps you learn about our community and get new opportunities.”

“Generally, the girls really like being here,” said Hayes. “They feel a little bit special about it, like it is a club, and a lot of them identify with the goals of the [Girls Inc.] program.”

The program also introduces girls to educated women in the community by hosting speakers from professional and academic programs, said Hayes.

“It’s fun because you get to see how women make a difference in society,” said Alayvia, a seventh grader at O’Keeffe Middle School.

With an update in the teen center programming starting next year the center will offer a more structured, academic environment like the Girls Inc. program.

“[The new structure] is much more necessary when you’re dealing with some of the most vulnerable populations of the city,” said Hartwig. “Being able to bridge the gap between students, their families and the schools is what we will be doing a lot more of in our academic focus next year.”

Hartwig acknowledges the community’s concern that students will not show up for an optional academically structured program but he believes students will want to be challenged outside of the classroom.

“Students want to access our site and our staff,” said Hartwig. “They want to have a challenging and fun place to go after school and we will offer all of those things that are great about this program now, just put into a much more well-rounded program.”

In addition to offering an after-school program for teens, the Goodman Community Center partners with East High School to participate in the Vocational Integrated Pathways program. The VIP program at the community center operates under the name Teen Works and brings high school students into the center as part of a work-study program.

According to Tiedt, the program works to teach the teens vocational skills like working in the café or as part of the grounds or custodial crew. The center is also looking to add childcare as an option for teens in the program.

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