The Northeast Youth Center (NEYC), a non-profit organization affiliated with the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, is an educational and recreational program for children ages 5-17. We are located at 3004 E. Queen Ave. Established in 1971, the NEYC has grown from a small organization into a program serving children attending nine elementary, middle and high schools. Our mission is to provide at-risk youth with culturally enriching and stimulating educational and recreational opportunities that build self-esteem and teach basic life skills. We serve a diverse population through a variety of low-cost or free outdoor recreational activities, before and after school daycare, sports programs and special events. Each month we serve an average of 510 needy children through 12 program hours per day. We are open year round- including some holidays, Monday through Friday from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm plus some Saturdays for special events. Ninety-one percent of our participants come from single parent homes where the children qualify for the School District 81 free school breakfast/lunch program.
Over the last two years, the program has experienced phenomenal growth. Class attendance is up 70%; sports program participation is up 12% and special event attendance has increased 50%. As attendance in these programs increased, staff at the center recognized they needed to provide extra educational help & to help children bridge the learning gap between school and home.
To answer this need the Executive Director and the staff applied for and received a “School’s Out” Consortium Quality Enhancement Grant to establish a Learning Resource Center for youth ages 5-12. Today, what was empty space in the corner of one room is now home to three workstations; one for hands-on computer work; one for reading/story times and one area for completing homework or art projects. The School’s out grant helped purchase a computer desk, chairs, learning rug and more. The Association of University Women provided $200 in computer software. The Northeast Community Center donated a used MAC, personal computer and books. Kaiser employees donated time and materials to build storage units and cubbies for coats and backpacks. Staff support, learning center space and supplies are encumbered from the NEYC yearly operating budget.
The Northeast Youth Center has a safe and fun environment and provides adult role models who show the children positive ways of learning. A testament to the programs success is seen in increased attendance and positive comments from parents and teachers.
In thinking about the children served at the NEYC, the word ‘average’ just doesn’t apply. In reality there is no standard word to describe them. Each child has special needs. What these children do have in common is their need for things many Spokane children take for granted; extra help finishing their homework; caring and nurturing adult role models; a safe place to feel loved and accepted for who they are, a place that offers a variety of ways to learn and be challenged; a home away from home! The NEYC provides all this and more.