Youth Outreach Program History

Youth Outreach Program

Our Background

Through the Whitin Community Center, we are committed to enhancing the health and well-being of individuals and families and building a strong community in the Blackstone Valley. We offer social, recreational, educational, and outreach programs that bring community members of all ages and backgrounds together.

In 1996, in a concerted effort to provide the benefit of a free, weekly recreational program to all interested children, the WCC created the first Youth Outreach program, Saturday Outreach. Each Saturday afternoon, children Grades 2 – 8, are welcomed into the gymnasium and are encouraged to participate in recreational, and/or non-traditional educational activities, such as arts and crafts projects, as well as a recreational swim.

The goals of this program have always been to encourage children from all socio-economic backgrounds to play together, develop friendships and to develop a sense of fair play, team spirit, and cooperation in a safe and supervised environment.

In 1999, the Youth Outreach Program was expanded to offer the WCC Summer Youth Theater Program. The WCC’s Summer Youth Theatre program exposes participants ages 8-17 to the theater arts, from beginning to end. The objective of this free, eight-week intensive, mini-program is to provide children from any town in the Blackstone Valley with an exciting opportunity to learn about the theater arts. The program is designed to expose children to the theatrical arts from all aspects, from acting to choreography, to promotion and set design. Each child who participates has to agree to the rehearsal schedule, as well as a behavioral contract. It is the hope of the Whitin Community Center, and the Outreach Program, that by providing this unique opportunity to explore the theatrical arts, all participating children may grow personally, not only in self-confidence, but that they may also develop artistically, and socially while learning from positive role models. Prior theatre experience is not a requirement, and we enthusiastically invite newcomers.

In 2001, the WCC Outreach program opened the Rockdale Youth Center (RYC)- a facility that provides children, Grades 2 – 8, with a myriad of activities after school, including academic assistance, all free of charge. While there is no income or residential eligibility requirement to participate in the program, the choice was made to locate the center in a high-density low-income area in which children who have no access to computers at home would have the easiest access to it. The center is open from 2:30-6:00 PM Monday – Friday, subject to participation.

The Whitin Community Center’s RYC is designed to provide children with the opportunity for structure in a non-traditional educational setting, as an appropriate alternative to the children going to an empty home after the school day ends. The Rockdale Youth Center provides positive role models, and opportunities for leadership development through the creation and implementation of RYC related projects. The Rockdale Youth Center affords youth the opportunity to raise their self-esteem, to further develop appropriate social skills, including the opportunity to broaden their social network. The RYC aims to create and foster the ability to make healthy living choices via the provision of dietary education, exercise skills and practice, money management education, and the supported development of coping skills.

In 2007, the Youth Outreach Program acquired ownership of the Northbridge Mentoring Partnership. The Mentoring Program serves at-risk children from the Blackstone Valley by providing them with a Mentor. Through a screening process, along with referrals, mentors and mentees are matched for partnership. The mentor plans various activities for he or she, and the student mentee to enjoy together (mini-golf, movies, crafts). Mentors also help with homework and other academic challenges. As a condition of their enrollment, all mentors and mentees are screened before they are matched. Each prospective Mentor is screened using the Massachusetts State Criminal Offender Record Identification, as well as Sex Offender Record Identification systems. The Mentoring Program was started in 1997 and has served over 200 children since its inception.