The Georgetown Youth Community Center is booming

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He’s only two years old, but the sky’s the limit for Georgetown Youth Community Center (GYCC), Georgetown’s after-school and recreational program that serves all Georgetown youth from elementary through high school.

“We opened in October 2019,” said GYCC Director Erin Duggan. “We are at ground level here, but the sky is the limit. Our goal is the positive development of young people. Instead of telling them, “Don’t do that,” we give them the opportunity to make positive choices.

“We have developed an elaborate space in the Perley School building and with a vibrant new staff, we are up and running and ready for our young people to participate in a variety of programs.”

The Perley School building was once a secondary school and now houses a preschool, the Council on Aging and the GYCC Recreation Center – three generations in one building, providing many opportunities for collaboration.

GYCC is part of the Essex County Asset Builder (ECAB) network, which creates regional connections and supports for individuals, families and organizations in Amesbury, Georgetown, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury and Newburyport, using a positive approach to youth development to help young people thrive.

“The GYCC is a safe and inclusive place where young people have the opportunity to express themselves, have fun and make new connections with their peers and the community,” said Duggan. “GYCC’s mission is to empower young people to use their voice and make safe and healthy decisions. Our vision is to create engaging, relevant, student-led programs and supports that are supported by community partnerships.

Adapting to Covid protocols, the GYCC last winter and spring offered 30 programs. In January, February and March the programs were virtual and from March to June they were hybrid. From January to May, youth were paired with professional community artists and artist teachers to create murals.

“All materials were donated by the entire community,” Duggan said, “because they care and see the value in building assets for our youth. The murals are all about equality and l to ensure everyone feels heard, included and recognized.

The project culminated in a mural competition for students in grades 7-12. The winners were 6th grade Harley Edwards, 5th grade Domenic Pieroni, 5th grade Elisabeta Forgione, 7th grade Ricky DiChicco and 7th grade Julia LaSpina.

The Georgetown Youth Community Center held a mural contest and the winning muralists are, left to right: Harley Edwards, Grade 6;  Domenic Pieroni, fifth year;  Elisabeta Forgione level 5;  and Ricky DiChicco, 7th grade.  Not shown: Julia LaSpina 7th grade.

“I see art as a way to put emotions and feelings on paper or on canvas,” Ricky said. “I wanted to let the children know that the youth center is for them, for everyone, a place where they can feel included and valued for who they are.

“If children feel valued, they will instinctively value others. That’s my goal for creating this mural – that everyone feels accepted and that the youth center belongs to them and can be a place where they belong.

“For me, art means image, image, creativity, visuals, types of styles, feelings and emotions,” Julia said. “To me, my mural project means kindness, acceptance, freedom, freedom, justice and being what you want to be.”

“For me, art is an extension of life,” Elisabeta said. “It’s a way to express your feelings and there are so many different art styles to choose from. You can be an artist painting colorful pieces like Picasso, or trying to paint something realistic. I love art and i want to share my love with everyone.

“This is going to sound silly, but I’d probably call it (my mural) ‘Equal’. I want everyone to know that equality means everyone is different and you respect those differences.

Dominic’s mural says “All are welcome here”.

“I chose those words to make everyone feel comfortable in the youth center, to make Georgetown a safe place for children,” Dominic said. “I think everyone should be able to come to the youth center whether it’s to read or do homework or whatever. What makes me excited about the new youth center is that I will have a place to go after school to read, draw and do my homework.

“We can do all the things we love at GYCC,” Harley said. “I look forward to trying new things that GYCC has to offer. I like the idea of ​​being independent and walking from school to meet friends.

There are lots of new things to try this summer at GYCC, which offers a variety of summer programs including Field Day, Man Hunt Tournament, The Pride Parade, Mystical Magic for Girls, Summer Sports Conditioning and Project Runway.

GYCC will also be offering a summer series of afternoon activities for several weeks in July and August focusing on art, theater and sports.

“This summer, we want the kids to have a safe place to go,” Duggan said. “Almost everything will be outside. The central theme of the programs is that they make positive decisions and deter them from engaging in risky behaviors. Our vision is to create engaging, relevant, student-led programs and supports that are supported by community partnerships.

Erin Duggan, director of the Georgetown Youth Community Center, shows off a mural created by one of the center's participants.

“We desperately want to expand. There are so many opportunities we want to take advantage of, but we can’t without a full-time team in place.

Currently, GYCC only has funding for a part-time director with a part-time assistant.

“We’re running on fumes,” Duggan said. “The ECAB Network, State Senator Bruce Tarr, State Representative Lenny Mirra and Police Chief Donald Cudmore have been strong advocates, but if I had $5,000 I could run a very comprehensive program that would reach the children who need it most. sports, music, art and leadership development.

“We have launched a youth council made up of teens, tweens and peer leaders, and next fall we will begin to focus on leadership opportunities, how to become effective leaders in their communities so that they can find a voice, feel safe and feel empowered.

To learn more about GYCC and to register for programs, visit www.georgetownyouth.org.

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