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USA: Investing in young people

“We work with what we have”

For the Hornell Area Concern for Youth (HACFY) in the state of New York, USA, this simple saying has been the guiding philosophy regarding management of its facility for years now. Now, however, the organization's recreation center has much more to work with, thanks to the support provided by Alstom Foundation in 2017. The funds granted by the Foundation have been used to support major renovation work at the center.

Since 1975, the private not-for-profit organization has worked relentlessly to provide a home-like atmosphere to disadvantaged children and youth of the Hornell community. Open for 282 days, Hornell Area Concern for Youth had more than ten thousand visits last year from a core group of 400 young people. Normal depreciation from hundreds of kids coming through the center’s doors took its toII and, as programs expanded, the building's functionality came into question. The grant given by Alstom Foundation allowed the center to update its kitchen, bathrooms and even knock out a few walls to make space for accommodating large gatherings. The existing safety systems – fire panel, smoke and fire alarms/sprinkler system and carbon monoxide detectors – were also upgraded to ensure safety of both the young people and the staff working on the premises.

"The renovations made us viable for the future. We believe that the daily attendance will increase by 10% as we expand capacity and are able to accommodate a wider range of activities. We look forward to having new families on board," said Michael Colomaio, President of the HACFY Board of Directors.

The after-school programs run by HACFY not only provides a safe place for young people, but also helps students get ready to face the world through project-based learning. They are taught to apply new experiences to the world outside the classroom and are encouraged to work both individually and in teams. Older participants are provided work-based opportunities where they learn skills through practical experiences such as apprenticeships, job shadowing and other structured workplace activities. The young people are encouraged to actively participate in civic activities to promote leadership and to embed social responsibility in their hearts and minds.

At HACFY, the youth receive healthy dinners and drug/violence prevention lessons so that they make informed decisions and do not fall into the trap of substance abuse. Available for youth from 8 to 19 years of age, the youth centre is a welcoming environment, providing a safe place for young people to hang out, relax and learn.

According to eleventh grade student Anika Henry-Smith, "some of us bring our homework to the youth center and try to get it done, but kids who don't have homework are talking and playing pool, so it can be distracting. The renovated centre will be more efficient and help kids stay focused.”