Youth development has been the core of the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne for years. And this importance is being shown through the announcement of plans to create the YMCA Enterprise Zone.
“About four or five years ago, we started doing career readiness programs as part of our middle school, after-school programs,” said Chris Angellatta the president and CEO of the Fort Wayne Y. “We had been doing a college readiness program previously at our Urban branch, where this center will be located. We started doing more career readiness things very intentionally. We had a video production program and a music production program that were really our first foray into career readiness. Now we do career coaching, and a creative writing program, a number of other things that all relate to this career readiness piece.”
With more emphasis on career readiness, Angellatta said the concept of the Enterprise Zone began to form because they wanted to build a standalone facility that would welcome in anyone in the community to participate without the burden of having a membership.
When the property in front of the Y was donated to the Y in March by the McMillan Foundation the plan of the Enterprise Zone became a reality and a $7 million capital campaign launched November 16.
The YMCA Enterprise Zone is designed to be a 20,000-square-foot facility housing a skilled trades workshop, a computer science center, a teaching kitchen and more. Through the help of programmatic partners, the Y will help connect the youth in their community to explore various types of careers.
“I think the most exciting part of this is the opportunity for kids to see a hopeful future, to be able to recognize that there are opportunities, whether you’re college bound or not college bound for a successful, sustainable future for themselves,” explained Angellatta. “And for kids like them in this neighborhood, to be able to see opportunity through the help of good role models, positive adults, and connections to employers and companies. We’ll have a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College onsite where kids, young adults and adults can connect to training programs through the community college. So, this is really life changing for both kids and adults in the community by locating in this particular neighborhood.”
The capital campaign is expected to last 12 to 16 months and is unclear when the development and construction will take place. However, it is clear the lasting impact this facility will have on the Fort Wayne community.
“It’s not just about us and our programs; and in this case, not even just about the center and the youth,” said Angellatta. “It’s about what can we do for the whole neighborhood. We have capacity. We have experience. Why not use our land for some greater purpose than just build a center. We know it’s going to be really impactful, but while we’re at it, we can do more.”