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 serving all of Georgetown’s youth from elementary school through high school.
“We opened in October 2019,” said GYCC director Erin Duggan. “We’re low to the ground here, but the sky is the limit. Our goal is the positive development of young people. Instead of saying “Don’t do this,” we give them the opportunity to make positive choices.
“We have developed an elaborate space in the Perley School building and with dynamic new staff we are up and running and ready for our young people to engage in a variety of programs. “
The Perley School building was once a high school and now houses a nursery school, the Council on Aging and the GYCC Leisure Center – three generations in one building, offering plenty of opportunities for collaboration.
GYCC is part of the Essex County Asset Builder (ECAB) Network, which creates regional links 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.
“GYCC is a safe and inclusive place where young people have the power to express themselves, have fun and make new connections between their peers and the community,” said Duggan. “The mission of GYCC is to empower young people to have their voices heard and to make safe and healthy decisions. Our vision is to create engaging, relevant and student-led programs and supports that are supported by community partnerships.
Adapting to Covid protocols, last winter and spring, the GYCC offered 30 programs. In January, February and March the programs were virtual and from March to June they were hybrid. From January to May, the youth were paired with professional artists from the community and teachers who are artists to create murals.
“All of the materials were donated by the whole community,” said Duggan, “because they care and see the value in creating assets for our youth. The murals are all about equality and the inclusion to make sure everyone feels heard, included and recognized. ”
The project culminated with a mural competition for grades 7 to 12 students. The winners were Harley Edwards in grade 6, Domenic Pieroni in grade 5, Elisabeta Forgione in grade 5, Ricky DiChicco in grade 7 and Julia LaSpina in grade 7.
“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. This is my goal for creating this mural – for everyone to feel accepted and that the youth center is theirs and that it can be a place where they belong.
“To me, art means image, image, creativity, visuals, types of styles, feelings and emotions,” said Julia. “My mural project for me means kindness, acceptance, freedom, freedom, justice and to be what you want to be. “
“For me, art is an extension of life,” said Elisabeta. “It’s a way to express your feelings and there are so many different styles of art to choose from. You can be an artist who paints colorful pieces like Picasso, or you can try to paint something realistic. I love art and want to share my love with everyone.
“This is going to sound silly, but I would probably call it (my fresco) ‘Equal. I want everyone to know that equality means everyone is different and you respect those differences.
Dominic’s fresco says “Everyone is welcome here”.
“I chose these words to make everyone feel comfortable in the youth center, so that Georgetown has a safe place for the children,” Dominic said. “I think everyone should be able to come into the youth center whether it is to read, do their homework or something else. 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 homework.
“We can do whatever we love at GYCC,” said Harley. “I’m excited to try new things that GYCC has to offer. I like the idea of having independence and walking from school to meet friends.
There are plenty 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 offer a series of summer 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 and student-led programs and supports that are supported by community partnerships.
“We desperately want to develop. There are so many opportunities that we want to take advantage of, but we can’t without a full time team in place.
At present, GYCC only has funding for a part-time director with a part-time assistant.
“We operate 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 program. very comprehensive that would reach children who need it most through sports, music, art and leadership development.
“We have launched a Youth Council of Adolescents, Tweens and Peer Leaders, and next fall we will start to focus on leadership opportunities, ways to become effective leaders in their community 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.