“In the last few years, we have formed the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet with the City School District, created a Youth Grant program, and struck a deal with Dutchess County that will lead to the creation of a new Youth Opportunity Center. Having key city staff in place as these initiatives grow is essential — and the time to do that is now.”
The Youth Division will include a division head, a shared part-time administrative assistant with the development director, and a bilingual family engagement staff member shared with the Poughkeepsie City School District. That latter position already has been approved by the Common Council. A communication to establish the division was conveyed to the Common Council Monday night by Council members Natasha Cherry, Yvonne Flowers and Chris Petsas.
“The creation of the Division of Youth Services makes perfect sense given the needs of the community and more importantly the needs of those who will one day be the future of our great city,” said Dr. Eric Jay Rosser, superintendent of schools. “Coupled with the work of the Children’s Cabinet and the Poughkeepsie City School District 5 year strategic plan, the Division of Youth Services will elevate the need to develop and implement of a citywide positive youth development strategy, something that the Board of Education, staff and I support 100 percent.”
Recognizing that children spend only about 20 percent of their time in the classroom, Children’s Cabinets are used by localities around the country to bring together school districts, government agencies, child-serving community organizations and other local stakeholders to improve their ability to collaborate and coordinate youth supports and services.
Launched by the mayor and school superintendent in 2020, the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet includes area college presidents, nonprofit partners, philanthropic and foundation members, community stakeholders and others. The Cabinet has created two citywide Working Groups in “Out-of-School Enrichment and Learning” and “Early Childhood,” bringing together leaders across sectors from the community to make policy and other recommendations. Both of these groups support the idea of establishing a City Division of Youth Services to address young people’s needs as they grow and develop.
Understanding the need for robust youth programming, the city created the Youth Activities & Opportunities Grant in 2018 and has made available over $500,000 in funds to dozens of different programs. The awards assist local nonprofits by providing funding to support clubs and leagues, other activities and educational initiatives.
“This has been one of our best programs,” Mayor Rolison said. “The city has made some excellent awards to organizations, but with its own Division of Youth, the city will be able to take a more active and direct role in delivering youth services. That should be a paramount goal to everyone in the community.”
Last year, Mayor Rolison and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro struck an agreement in principle to have the County take ownership of the former YMCA on Montgomery Street in Poughkeepsie to build a new Youth Opportunity Center at the site. The Mayor sought and received approval from the Common Council to transfer the property to Dutchess County, which will contribute $25 million for the demolition of the existing decaying structure and the design and construction of the new youth center.
The center is expected to include educational and healthcare services and childcare and recreation opportunities and will be the home to the county’s Path to Promise initiative, designed to ensure that all young people in Dutchess County, from birth through age 19, have the assets they need to achieve their full potential as they grow into young adults.
“The county has admirably strengthened its Division of Youth Services and is moving forward with the creation of the youth center. The city has an obligation to dedicate staff and resources to steward youth programming at the city level as well — to complement the county’s work.”
The mayor said creating the Division of Youth Services also would dovetail nicely with his commitment to allocate more than $3 million over the next three years to city parks, improving them for youth, families and all those who make use of these key green and recreational spaces.
The Mayor said budgeting for the Division of Youth Services will be included in his 2022 budget proposal to the Common Council this fall.