Center provides safety, structure for youth

The union between the YMCA and Community Center for Youth is growing in popularity.

YMCA Teen Director Nic Wiese, (blue hoodie), converses with teens attending YCCY.

YMCA Teen Director Nic Wiese, (blue hoodie), converses with teens attending YCCY. Photo by Donna Lasater.

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WALLA WALLA — A new start can be a good thing, both for an individual and for an organization. Community Center for Youth, CCY, has partnered with the Walla Walla YMCA. Known now as the YCCY, it’s a brand-new start for the agency that helps give at-risk youth a new start.

Modestly staffed, YCCY has four staff members and three to four volunteers. Nic Wiese, teen director at YMCA, and Kerstin Fenton, AmeriCorps volunteer, are two of the new leaders of the Center.

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Get in touch with the Community Center for Youth at 509-525-8863 or on the Web, Facebook or Twitter.

“They’ve had a lot of turnover,” Wiese said. “They’ve had 13 directors since 1999. I’m lucky 14.”

Wiese hit the ground running in September, and is networking with as many people and organizations as possible.

It’s important for the director and staff to be practical and work on day-to-day functioning, he said.

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Americorps volunteer Kerstin Fenton shoots hoops with YCCY members in the gymnasium.

“There’s heavy burnout if (staff members) don’t take the right approach. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, work with the kids we have,” he said.

YCCY has a variety of programs and activities kids can join.

“We have a monthly movie night, essay competitions, they can go white-water rafting and learn survival skills, play basketball,” Fenton said.

They’ve also done service projects, such as a bike shop.

“The majority of the kids are at-risk youth,” Wiese said. “We want to have a positive effect and mold these kids and be that stable base they need.”

In order to do that, staff members have to create a stable organization. To stabilize YCCY, they need to be there and get the kids to trust them, Wiese said.

“We’re not going to walk away from these kids,” Wiese said. “The Y opens doors, doesn’t close them.” He emphasizes that YCCY offers a safe place and wholesome programs for young people to participate in.

With membership in YCCY, youth will be eligible for a reduced rate at the YMCA, with full details to be determined as the project moves along.

“The biggest challenge is to get the parents to fill out the paperwork,” Wiese said.

The program is seeing a big jump in attendance of late. In October 2012 CCY averaged 22.4 kids attending per night. By October 2013 attendance had nearly doubled, to 44.5 kids per night.

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Fenton discusses a movie that members will view in the media room.

“It’s still growing,” Wiese said, noting that 67 had attended on a recent evening.

Wiese focuses on talking with the kids, not telling them, ignoring them or yelling at them. They are very receptive to structure, and are responding well to the stabilizing of the organization, he said.

“The more dialogue we have with these kids the more we’re going to learn,” he said.

The group is always looking for more volunteers and community partners to help its members.

“They need strong mentors — someone who isn’t going to give up on them,” he said.

“There are no bad kids, just challenged ones,” Wiese said. “That’s my belief and teaching.”

Karlene Ponti is the U-B specialty publications writer. She can be reached at 509-526-8324 or karleneponti@wwub.com.

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