Published: May 14, 2017 Sophie Mann, The Daily Northwestern
Community members met staff and participated in art projects during Youth and Opportunity United, Inc.’s headquarters grand opening on Saturday.
Y.O.U., which provides services and leadership to young people in the community, celebrated its opening in a 12,600-square-foot space at 1911 Church St. The new facility includes a maker lab for projects, community gathering space, a demonstration kitchen and teaching garden to give students hands-on experiences.
The organization serves 10 schools in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 as well as Evanston Township High School. Students come to Y.O.U. for enrichment experiences and support after school, executive director Seth Green said.
“Kids are going to be coming from each of these sites … to have their geek out moment,” Green said. “Most sites are … coming here for special experiences.”
Y.O.U. serves thousands of students at a time, Green said, which is why the group decided to move into a space that is more than double the size of its old headquarters.
Since moving to the new location, ETHS students have been in the space almost every day, chief operations officer Aina Gutierrez said. The location and size make the new space more conducive to serving the community, she said.
“From a community perspective, the space is right in the center of Evanston, so it’s perfect,” Gutierrez said. “We want it to be a safe space where youth are able to learn, where they can get homework support if they need it and have caring, supportive adults in their lives.”
Gutierrez said Y.O.U.’s location in the 5th Ward is particularly significant because of the ward’s “deep history of caring for their youth.” The organization already hosted a class open to general community members and hopes to do this more often, she said.
At the opening, potential community partners, such as the Open Studio Project, set up booths for families and students to learn about their organizations. Patti Vick, a facilitator at OSP, said she hopes the space will make it easier for organizations like OSP to partner with local schools.
“This is a great resource for kids of all ages to come and make art,” said Vick, whose eldest child attends ETHS. “We hope that we at Open Studio can support Y.O.U. with our arts programming as much as possible.”
Y.O.U. was intentional in selecting its contractors to support local businesses, Gutierrez said. The organization signed 30 percent of its contracts with minority-owned, women-owned and locally-owned businesses, according to its website.
Gutierrez said the inclusion of all-gender bathrooms on the first floor, comfortable furniture and durable flooring are just some of the ways designers worked to create a lasting space for a growing community.
“(This building) really is an energetic, vibrant example of architecture that speaks to the (vibrancy) of our work,” Green said. “We have been building on this incredible foundation, but growing as an organization, and this is the perfect new home for our growing Y.O.U.”