Andover's Youth Development Facility

20 Years in the Making

With the establishment of a Youth Services department specifically dedicated to advocating for
young people, the first Youth Council led the effort to build a center in 1995.

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History of the Center

Young people have been working for a Youth Center in Andover long before AYS came along 20 years ago. Several groups of students proposed ideas to the towns leaders but never received the financial backing to sustain a program and building. With the establishment of a Youth Services department specifically dedicated to advocating for young people, the first Youth Council led the effort to build a center in 1995. The idea consisted of a campus of small buildings nestled in the trees out at Recreation Park and was to house the expanding Shawsheen Extended Day (SHED) Program. The partnership would have generated significant annual revenue through sharing facilities during the off-peak hours. It was a solid plan utilizing a town space but neighborhood opposition was vocal. When presented at Town Meeting, the proposal lost by a mere 63 votes from the necessary 2/3 majority. Undeterred, the AYS focused on building a strong, comprehensive program and launched a new campaign in 1999. The new campaign was led by the Andover Youth Foundation (AYF), a newly formed 501(c)3 organization comprised of several former Selectmen,active townspeople, and retired Department heads. The AYF goal was to raise funds, build the Youth Center privately, and gift the building back to the Town to be run by the Youth Services Department. By building the center privately, construction costs would be significantly cheaper than utilizing the public bidding process which requires contractors to be paid prevailing wage. The process continued through site selection and, based upon town leaders input, the Ledge Road site behind the West Andover Fire Station was determined to be the most suitable spot. The AYF went to Town Meeting in 2000 and voters approved the parcel for Youth Center construction. Fundraising continued, an architect was hired, a design finalized, and all was going ahead as planned until contamination was discovered adjacent to the site on the Deyermond Playing fields (on the capped landfill). The process ground to a halt until a new site was vetted. The new site was determined to be centrally located behind Doherty Middle School - on the parking lot. The idea was to create a community campus between the school, senior center, and youth center and improving the whole flow, parking, and look of the area. After much deliberation between all the parties, the site went to a Town Meeting vote in 2007. Again, overwhelming support from the community approved the site and the process resumed at the Doherty site. Unfortunately, the economic collapse of 2008, cost of materials construction, and wars in the middle east drove up the building cost significantly and slowed the giving climate. The project progress slowed and a new strategy needed to emerge in order to bring the Youth Center to fruition. Please click the next box to continue the story.

The Community that Believed

Thanks to a grass-roots effort and legacy of community relationships, a 1,800 townspeople showed up at a special town meeting to vote for $2 million in public funding to the Cormier Youth Center.

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The Community that Believed

The AYF worked hard for ten years to build the center despite a variety of issues including an unsuitable site, local politics, and neighborhood opposition. After determining the new location for the youth center, the group had to develop a new plan to get the building up. Despite the best efforts of the AYF, it was apparent that town funds were going to be required and the community as a whole would have to decide whether or not they wanted the youth center. The young people and AYF organized and asked people to Believe in the project. An information campaign met with nearly every board, stakeholder, and community group and answered all questions about the building, funding, etc. AYF would provide $2.7 million and the taxpayers would be asked to match $2 million. No group has ever raised that sum of money to gift to the town, and residents would be getting a state-of-the-art youth center for 50 cents on the dollar. The fate of the Youth Center would be decided at a Special Town Meeting vote, December 5, 2011. A record number of townspeople showed up at special town meeting, waiting hours to get into the Collins Center. After a brief presentation and discussion, it came time to vote to grant $2 million in public funding to the Cormier Youth Center project. The positive impact of the program on generations of youths was readily apparent as an overwhelming majority of 1,400 stood up to vote in favor of the project. That night, the crowd broke out into a spontaneous standing ovation when the vote was tallied, as it became clear that this long-anticipated community project would finally become a reality.

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AYS = Youth Development

AYS is a positive, creative environment in which all kids---from the star of the basketball team to the president of the computer club and everyone in between---can feel like their voice counts.

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AYS=Youth Development

The mission of Andover Youth Services has remained constant for the past 20 years. To provide enriching programs and experiences for middle and high school aged students and to provide support during the most challenging times in the lives of adolescents and teenagers. That mission, and the tireless work ethic of the AYS staff and its many volunteers will continue at the Cormier Youth Center. AYS follows a number of youth development goals based on literature from the Center For Youth Development and Policy Research. They include enhancing various aspects of a young person's identity including: a sense of safety and structure, high self-esteem, a feeling of having a future, a feeling of belonging to a community, a perception of responsibility and a sense of self-awareness. The organization also looks to improve various aspects of a young person's health including: physical, mental and intellectual, employability and civic and social involvement. The organization's commitment to those goals will continue. What will change is the scope and reach of the programs AYS will be able to execute. AYS programs are year round and involve any individual or organization willing to become partners in helping young people become successful. Recreational sports programming—youth basketball leagues, volleyball, wrestling, ultimate Frisbee—will be run out of the youth center's gym. Currently, there is not enough gym space at any of the public schools in town for AYS to have a consistent location for these programs. The AYS has long been an advocate from local musicians and the arts. Countless young people had their first opportunity to play in front of a crowd at AYS concerts. Some who first formed a band and played AYS show are now touring musicians and sought after session players. Participants in the fashion program have gone from the AYS Keep it Wild Fashion show onto fulfilling careers in designing. Having a dedicated performance space at the Youth Center would enable music & fashion programs to be centralized, accessible, and grow exponentially! Art classes, which are currently run out of a very small back room at AYS's Pearson Street space, will be greatly expanded. Six-week cooking classes, which are highly popular and always full, will also be expanded with a full working kitchen. Andover Youth Service's goal is to have these core programs up and running as soon as resources allow following youth center's opening and to be able to offer them to a larger group of interested young people. The beauty of youth services has also been the willingness of the town's young people to propose ideas and put them into action. AYS is committed to creating new and innovative programming in the new space that takes more of the ideas of youths into account.

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