YMCA partners with Espaola

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

A new Teen Technology and Recreational Center is set to open in Espaola thanks to some creative partnering between the City of Espaola and the Los Alamos Family YMCA.

"The need is there for Espaola to furnish facilities for our youth to flourish," Espaola Mayor Joseph Maestas said. "It is proactive leadership between the leaders of Espaola and Los Alamos that have made this happen."

Maestas explained he had heard that the Los Alamos Family YMCA decided as an organization to branch out into the region to include Espaola.

"The logical step was to get to know each other," Maestas said. Some four-and-a-half months ago, Family YMCA board member Sharon Stover, who also is the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board coordinator, arranged for him to meet with local YMCA leadership, tour the facilities and observe the programs.

"I was very impressed," Maestas said. "It was at that time that I learned of the YMCA's intention to get federal funding to expand into Espaola. One good turn deserves another, so I invited Linda Daly (YMCA executive director) and her staff to tour our facilities two or three weeks later."

This visit occurred just prior to school letting out last June and Maestas suggested the YMCA operate the Espaola summer youth program.

"They did," Maestas said. "Then I said, 'Why not manage the Teen Technology and Recreational Center program?' The city would provide the facility and provide a part-time person to oversee the operation. This has become a great and lasting partnership."

The Teen Technology and Recreational Center is geared for middle school and high school youth. The Family YMCA's Ben Sandoval has been tapped to be the center's director.

Espaola City Manager Gus Cordova is the former executive director of the New Mexico Association of Counties and Taos city manager. He recently signed the contract with Daly making the partnership official and spoke of the logic in partnering with nonprofits.

"I've always been a strong supporter of public/private relationships in contracting out the running of community organizations," Cordova said. "The nonprofit organizations usually have better sources for obtaining grant funding so it's just a logical thing to do. While Espaola is making strides in stabilizing its finances, it also realizes the community has a critical need for youth and student support services. The city also recognizes the YMCA's 52-year history and expertise in meeting critical community needs, such as outreach to youth."

Daly explained that the Family YMCA exists to build the whole individual, including his or her character. "We stress our core values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility in all programming and interactions," Daly said. "We seek to enrich the lives of Espaola teens through educational support services, as well as cultural, social, and physical opportunities to grow in spirit, mind and body."

The Teen Technology and Recreational Center is housed in a building that is some 3,100 square feet at 808 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park Road, behind the Espaola Fire Department. During the school year, the center will be open from 3-6 p.m., with extended hours planned during the summer and additional instructional hours as scheduled.

"In the classroom area, we anticipate workshops in subjects like jewelry-making, pottery, woodwork, as well as SAT and ACT study and preparation sessions, and classes in resume writing and interviewing skills," Daly said. "We are forming a Teen Technology and Recreation Center Advisory Board and also plan to create a Youth Advisory Board for the center."

Cordova praised the city's partnership with the Y.

"I think it's going to be good for the citizens of Espaola, especially the youth," he said.

The center is open to youth 13- 19-years-of-age. A membership fee runs $40 per year, which includes $20 for the school year and $20 for summer months. Scholarships are available for families and youth who qualify. Use of the center facilities, computers and tutors are free to youth members. A small supply and material fee may be charged for some workshops.

The center is currently hiring instructors and support staff. For information, contact Daly at 662-3100, Sandoval at 505-929-0575 or access www.laymca.org.

The public is invited to attend the grand opening for the Teen Technology and Recreational Center scheduled from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 13. Tours of the facility along with food, music and presentations by dignitaries round out the event.