For the past two years, Lawrence Family Development has been building a Youth Center for the hardest to reach young people, ages 14 to 24, in the City of Lawrence. Many of these young people have dropped out of school or are at risk of dropping out prior to completion. Most have had involvement with law enforcement because of gangs, drugs, and guns. They often come from single parent households and have been victims of abuse.
The youth center began as a work project for our hardest to reach young men, all of whom are gang involved. In the summer of 2015, we rented a building that used to house a local business. The young men began demoing the inside of the building and then performing the construction tasks to build a youth center. In addition to taking down walls, drop ceilings, and ventilation systems, they pulled up linoleum floors and repaired hard wood floors. They learned masonry and plumbing. They worked side by side with carpenter and electricians. They put up walls and ran wires.
Last month, the main part of the Center was completed and programming moved in. Our young people completed 80% of the labor. In the process, they not only learned the hard skills but also the soft skills to survive in any work environment.
At the SISU Center, young people are able to complete their high school education through a HiSET (GED) program or the diploma tract through a partnership with Lawrence Public Schools. They work with case managers and mental health clinicians. They participate in workforce development programs and learn the soft skills to begin applying for and succeeding in employment opportunities. They are provided with positive recreational activities. They also receive two healthy meals a day. They have started a school store and will soon be opening a café and a barber shop. The Center will also feature a recording studio, film editing studio, commercial kitchen, rock climbing wall, carpentry shop, and screen printing shop
In January of 2018, we will be celebrating the Center’s Grand Opening with a Gala. We will be inviting everyone who has contributed to the development of the Center and/or the development of our participants. We will be hosting elected officials, as well as numerous funders. We will have a short speaking program, live music, audio visual presentation, raffle, food, drinks, and tours.
As a non-profit who has invested over $300,000 in the development of this Center, we are currently seeking sponsors for this event. Any help will be greatly appreciated.