YMCA Expanding Program for Disconnected Youth to The Bronx

By Eddie Small on July 1, 2014 7:21am 

 Y Roads graduates with Congressman Gregory Meeks and the YMCA and OBT staff.
Y Roads graduates with Congressman Gregory Meeks and the YMCA and OBT staff.
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Raymond Liang/YMCA of Greater New York

MOTT HAVEN — The  YMCA plans to expand a program meant to help city youths earn education and job credentials into the Bronx this fall — the organization's second outpost since the initiative started in Queens last year.

The program, called Y Roads, is a collaboration between the YMCA of Greater New York and Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), a group that aims to help disadvantaged youths and adults improve their lives through services like job training and academic support.

The organization also plans to open the borough's second YMCA nearby.

Y Roads was launched last spring in Jamaica, Queens, to assist older teenagers and young adults obtain qualifications such as high school equivalency diplomas and certification in Microsoft Office and CPR, among other things.

Organizers now plan to open up a new location in the Bronx at 332 E. 149th St., in a section of the borough that has demonstrated a need for the program’s services, said CEO of OBT Randy Peers.

“The demographics are pretty clear,” he said. “There are a lot of young people who are not working, and they’re not in school.”

Several program participants are now traveling from The Bronx all the way to the Y Roads center in Jamaica, a journey that can take upwards of an hour. The new center, slated to open around mid-September, would be geared toward these participants, as well as those in upper Manhattan.

The YMCA hopes the center will help them establish a stronger foothold in the Bronx as well, according to Senior Executive for Youth and Community Engagement Marty Forth.

“We don’t have a huge presence in the Bronx,” he said. “We only have one branch.”

But the YMCA is working on opening a new facility in the borough in an area between Bergen and Brook Avenues and East 149th and 153rd Streets as part of a mixed used development called La Central. The first phase of development is scheduled for 2015.

Y Roads focuses on helping "disconnected youths," which the YMCA defines as those who are not going to school and not working. About 250,000 people in New York City between ages 16 and 24 fit this definition, according to the YMCA.

Services that Y Roads offers include workforce development training, fatherhood training, medical screening and English proficiency.

More than 300 older teens and young adults participated in the Y Roads program in Jamaica, and Peers said he hoped to see the center in the Bronx serve between 400 and 500 people in its first year.

The Jamaica program focuses heavily on retail, customer service and office jobs, while health care jobs have a larger role in the Bronx, said Peers. However, he stressed that they would not truly understand the differences until the center opened up.

"You never really know until you get out there on the ground," he said.

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