As the great Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “ We cannot build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” The youth in our communities are the future for our communities- so shouldn’t they be treated as such? In rural areas like Rochester, a youth center or safe space just for kids and teens come few and far between, and rarely stay. The Outlet Center located at 602 Main Street, is looking to change that, with plans of opening its doors to all Middle School and High School age students by the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The facility provides a safe, supervised place for kids to be themselves after school, with a pool table, games, snacks, and a study area. More than just a spot to hang out, the facility will also be offering “life skills programs” to help start them off on the right foot going into adulthood. On top of helping students in their current situations, they also want to provide them with the right tools and mindset for a better future by offering classes on financing, career exploration, college preparedness, and more. Unlike the previous failed attempts at a youth center in Rochester, this one is here to stay. Thanks to the support given by many local businesses who have pledged a three year Commitment to Sustainability, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Collaboration has been key to this journey, and Fulton County has pulled through on their loyalty with most of the local churches chipping in, as well as businesses like Modern Materials, Rapid View, Advanced Magnetics, Rochester Homes, the Dick Belcher Foundation, and many more are donating to the commitment for the kids.
Story and Photos by Shelby Lopez
Rochester has just taken a huge, positive step forward, but it wasn’t something that just started overnight. In the works since 2018, The Outlet Youth Center was directly inspired and named by the students at Rochester High School. For two consecutive years, 2017 and 2018 RHS students participating in the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) business planning competition presented the idea of a youth center. Terry Lee, Vice President of the Outlet Board and a judge for the JAG’s business program from 2016-2018, saw first hand how important this was to not just the students, but the community’s foundation, and future itself, and he wasn’t the only one. The students’ business plan may not have won the JAG competition, but it won the hearts of the whole community. As collaboration coincided, a dream came alive- in October of 2019, the Board signed the lease for the building. Although the official opening day this spring has yet to be set, it will be a soft open when the time comes, with a couple hours, two days a week. Adjustments will be made as they learn more about the local students’ needs and wants. Executive Director Patience Hisey will be working hands on with the kids. New to the area, the wife and mother of two moved to Rochester from Westfield in August of 2018 after her husband accepted a job at Grace United Methodist Church. With a passion for children, she was a teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools for two years and operated a daycare for 10 years. Hisey is excited to get things started and also says as the Outlet gets more established, it has definite plans of extending a food pantry, hygiene pantry, and clothing pantry for anyone in need. Faith based, youth driven, and community minded, the Outlet Youth Center of Rochester values the youth as individual members of our society, changing the dynamic between youth and adults for the future of our community.