For young people in Rochester, New York, the 50-year-old Center for Youth has been an especially valuable lifeline to a better future, particularly during the pandemic. The center supports young people in Rochester and the surrounding area through wide-ranging services, including transitional housing for LGBTQ youth and young mothers and their children. The organization’s outreach provides youth experiencing homelessness with survival care and referral information. At Rochester public schools, the center’s staff and volunteers offer counseling, tutoring, life-skills coaching, alternatives to suspension and more. Outside of school, job readiness workshops are available to high school graduates as well as to those who were unable to finish.
Through Flower City Changemakers, the center’s youth-centered and -directed initiative, young people are helping their peers do better in school, stay out of the juvenile justice system, prepare for the workforce and remain in stable housing. With funding from Bank of America and help from bank employees who volunteer as mentors, the Changemakers program is assisting young leaders with paid internships, transportation and social and emotional support services. “The goal of this initiative is to recognize the promise of our youth and to offer them a future without barriers, with an eye to racial and social justice,” says Center for Youth Executive Director Dr. Elaine Spaull. “They are full participants in planning their own futures.” These youth leaders will ultimately engage more than 200 local young people each year.
Along with this initiative, the center has opened a new facility, which, at the suggestion of one of the youth leaders, has been named “A Bridge to Peace” to represent both its physical location — a highway bridge separates it from the original center — and a renewed connection to the organization’s legacy as a youth-led agency.
“The authentic voices of our young people, which tell us that safety, housing, food, education and careers are really what they want, must be heard,” says Spaull. “But we can’t do it alone. We need this type of connection with a greater community and with organizations like Bank of America, as they stand with us and these promising young people.” The bank’s support is part of a $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.