WILKES-BARRE – Best known for offering recreational and child care opportunities to kids in the Wyoming Valley for decades, the Catholic Youth Center has taken on another critical mission in 2020.
Due to COVID-19, the CYC is now making sure at least 115 students get an education through its cyber-school program.
“I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for my school-aged staff that have really transformed their duties,” Francesco Pesce, CYC Cyber School Specialist, said. “Prior to being counselors for the cyber program, they were school aged counselors who would facilitate activities for the children but now they too have a role in making sure the children are attending their classes.”
At the start of the school year, only 35 students were enrolled in the program but as various school districts began offering online-only classes, many parents needing to work went in search of a safe place for their children to stay during the day.
“Our number one priority is the safety and welfare of any child here and also our staff. Luckily, we haven’t had any (COVID-19) cases to date,” Ryan Smith, CYC Program Executive, said.
Guinivere, a fifth grade student, spends weekdays at the CYC attending classes on her Chromebook. While missing her traditional school environment, the 10 year old enjoys having the ability to spend time with her friends at the CYC.
“When we get in, we get our temperatures taken and then we go to the other gym and then we have tables with our name tags on them. We sit and I usually talk with my friends before I have school and then I go in my classes,” she said.
McKenzie, another fifth grader learning five days a week at the CYC, likes having the opportunity to play games in between her online classes.
“You get to play with your friends and I’d rather come here instead of staying home,” she said.
With students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade enrolled in the cyber-school program, CYC employees have had to overcome challenges for each age group based on their abilities. Some of the challenges involve making sure students stay engaged, complete their assignments and do not interrupt other children because of varying schedules.
Pesce says helping kindergarten students has been particularly difficult because most are only five years old.
“They’ve never been in school before. This is their first time in ‘school,’ in the CYC, in our library downstairs,” he explained.
In addition to the cyber-school program, the CYC continues to offer its Respite and Youth Drop-In Center Programs. The Respite Program allows parents and grandparents of children in the mental health system, ages 5-13, supervised recreational and socialization opportunities while their caregivers are able to receive a short break. The Youth Drop-In Center Program offers a safe place for young adults ages 14 and over.
Help the CYC on #GivingTuesday!
You can help the mission of the CYC on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The CYC is one of several organizations taking part in AllOne Charities Giving Tuesday event. AllOne Charities will match the first $1,000 raised for the CYC and is offering other matching-gift challenges to organizations that raise the most money and have the most donors.
The money raised on Giving Tuesday will support the CYC’s effort to purchase desperately needed replacement vans used to pick-up and drop-off children at the Wilkes-Barre facility. For many families in the Wilkes-Barre area, transportation is an issue.
“We don’t only serve the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, we have children here from Hanover Township, Wyoming Valley West, Pittston Area, Nanticoke and some of the parochial schools,” Ryan Smith, CYC Program Executive, said.
The vans mean many students, like Miguel, a seventh grader, can participate in CYC programs.
“When I come in, a lot of people say hi, some people ask me if I want to play games or basketball,” the 12 year old said. “When I come here, I feel very welcome.”
To make a donation for Giving Tuesday, visit https://allonefoundations.org/all-one-give-day/
Gifts in support of the CYC’s campaign can also be mailed to 300 Wyoming Avenue, c/o Development Office. Checks should be made out to AllOne Charities with CYC Giving Tuesday in the memo line.