YMCA gets $1 million for revamped youth center

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

McGaw YMCA received a $1 million gift to build a new youth center that will offer more out-of-school opportunities to students, the organization announced Monday.

The YMCA, 1000 Grove St., will use the money from the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation to build the MetaMedia Youth Center, with partners such as Northwestern helping to orchestrate the program, according to a news release. The renovated center will provide Evanston middle school students with access to technology, music and video production, creative design and other options.

“We are excited for the opportunity to create a space at the McGaw YMCA where future leaders will attain the support, skills and experiences needed to transform their lives and their community,” said McGaw YMCA president and CEO Mark A. Dennis Jr. in a news release.

Along with the Youth Organizations Umbrella, a local youth development agency, NU’s FUSE will partner with the YMCA to create some of the center’s curriculum for students, said YMCA spokesperson Cherita Ellens. FUSE is dedicated to linking youth with science, technology, engineering, arts​, ​design and mathematics.

“McGaw YMCA and Y.O.U. are longtime community partners of Northwestern and we look forward to working together on this exciting new opportunity for youth in our community,” said Dr. Kemi Jona, NU’s director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships, in a news release.

The center is designed for middle school students from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to use. Currently, there isn’t currently anywhere in Evanston with these types of opportunities available for middle schoolers, so the new youth center will fill a void in the community, Ellens said.

Construction will begin in October, and the center is expected to open this January. The $1 million will be used to cover construction and initial startup costs, Ellens said.

The Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation also gave money to Y.O.U. to build a new center that would offer more opportunities to youth. Along with Evanston billionaire Jennifer Pritzker, the foundation contributed in late August a combined $2.5 million in land value and cash gifts to Y.O.U. Some of the money is being used to establish new headquarters at 1911 Church Street, where the organization can provide new space for learning and developmental activities, staff offices and collaborations between local agencies that serve youth.

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