Local YMCAs have long-welcomed teenagers to play basketball and swim laps, but the Homewood-Brushton location will soon incorporate 3-D printers, recording studios and film production into a growing list of youth services.
The $6.5 million renovation is expected to target teens from Homewood, Wilkinsburg and nearby areas as part three-year building project in its existing Bennett Street home. Dubbed the Creative Youth Center, the first phase of the project is funded, in part, by a $1.5 million grant from the Heinz Endowments.
“Part of our vision is that young people need to be able to interact with their peers all over the city,” said Youth Development Director James Brown. “We’re cutting Homewood kids short if they are isolated in this bubble in Homewood. So we want kids to connect and create with their peers in other neighborhoods.”
Programming is scheduled to start in January with construction to wrap up in 2018. New features include an expanded garden and outdoor plaza, a café, commercial kitchen, “maker” classroom, computer lab, music production studio and performance stage. The program also welcomes teens and young adults who have aged out of traditional after-school programs.
The idea developed out of Westinghouse High School's Lighthouse Project, which encourages students to focus on digital media, art and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects.
"This is really a commitment to make sure that the same kind of access and equity that kids have in other neighborhoods to emerging technologies and new fields, that kids in Homewood have those same kinds of opportunities,” Brown said.
Organizers say they haven’t figured out how much the program will cost per person, but Brown said they will find a way to help any child who wants to attend – much of it will be grant supported.
Updated at 3:44 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015.