Recovery Talk readers may remember we reported on the Creative Connections Clubhouse, one of the first Youth Clubhouses in New York State, prior to its opening in the June 2016 issue of our newsletter. We recently caught up with its Director, TJ Czeski, and to say that the clubhouse is making a difference in the community could be the understatement of the year. The impact is evident in the numbers of youth coming through its doors every day, the feedback from local school administrators and faculty, and the support of the local business community.
TJ tells us that sadly, there isn’t a lot of parental guidance or direction in the community in which they operate and as such, the youth in the area don’t typically have a lot of accountability or inspiration to change their lives. However, the clubhouse is making a profound difference!
The Creative Connections Clubhouse currently has 277 individual members and an average daily attendance of between 35-60 youth (ages 12-17); and operates with three full time and two part-time staff, one intern from Fulton Montgomery College and an additional ten to fifteen volunteers on regular basis.
According to TJ, there’s an evident behavior change in the kids that walk through the doors of the Creative Clubhouse. Once they arrive, they come to know what’s expected of them. And apparently the change is evident outside of the clubhouse as well. Administrators and faculty from the local schools have contacted clubhouse staff to tout its positive influence on students’ grades. TJ remembers a particular call from a teacher letting him know that the smile on the face of one of her student’s who attends the clubhouse after receiving her highest grade was priceless. The school district now provides transportation for students to attend the clubhouse at the end of the school day.
The positive impact of the clubhouse has also reached local businesses who’ve stepped up to lend support. One anonymous donor has built a basketball court behind the clubhouse, and another (also an anonymous local business) has committed to to fencing in the entire property.
We asked TJ to tell us about some of the programs the clubhouse provides and he told us that one of the primary programs is “Productive Hour” which happens first thing every day. This is when the “kids” do their homework and/or participate in an assignment of the day that’s meant to stimulate their minds. It might be coloring or math, reading comprehension, word search, etc. Another of the popular programs is Creative Vision which is offered 2-3 times each week and includes team building and problem solving exercises. As the kids come from different backgrounds and clicks at schools, it serves as an excellent exercise in coming together and working together.
Next popular is the Music Club which meets on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays for 2-3 hours each day. This club has the advantage of utilizing the clubhouse’s in-house recording studio. A talent show is scheduled to take place April 26th and many of the clubhouse’s members are scheduled to perform.
We also learned that the clubhouse is making a positive difference in the loves of other members of the community too. Twice each week residents of a local halfway house, Victoria Manor in Gloversville, show up at Creative Connections to cook dinner for the clubhouse members. The dinners are always well attended and the “cooks” report having a real sense of service and hope as a result of the experience.
Clearly, the Creative Connections Clubhouse is making a profoundly positive impact on both the youth it serves and the community in which it operates. We look forward to reporting on their continued success.