Youth center event applauds student accomplishments
By Richard L. Gaw
The Garage Community & Youth Center in West Grove served as a communal gathering of both thanks and praise on Oct. 16, as students, business leaders, school administrators, mentors and volunteers joined together to celebrate the accomplishments of the many young people who look at the Center as their second home.
The banquet was complimented by an authentic Mexican food, live music, and three student testimonials, each of whom spoke about the impact the Center has had on them. After a drug conviction forced Juan Hernandez to do mandated community service at the Center, he quickly found strong an influence he was having on the youth he was mentoring, and decided to continue his service at the Center after his mandated time had concluded. Leslie Martinez spoke about how the Garage has become a second home for her.
A third student, Erica Lopez, spoke about the impact the Center had on her close friend,-year-old Raziel Mireles Castaneda, who lost his life on Aug. 28 as the result of a drowning accident at Anson B. Nixon Park. A scholarship at the Center has been established in Castenada's memory.
“This an opportunity for us to all come together and celebrate our mission of empowering youth through academics and social activities,” said Bill Rose, director of the West Grove Garage Community & Youth Center. “To get all of these community leaders, our partners, our friends and family in one room in one night is awesome. To all be on the same page together is just fantastic.”
Rose said that the Garage's effectiveness at mentoring the youth of the community is backed by the selfless dedication and contributions from others.
“We function because of multi-lateral organizations, corporations, school districts, churches, families and individuals,” Rose said. “We're just a small piece of all of that. We like to consider ourselves to be a center where everyone can meet together, as partners, all working together to see our communities thrive.”
Volunteer mentor coordinator Amber Marcoon first began going to the Garage in Kennett Square when she was a youngster. It left an impression, and when she graduated from college, she knew wanted to be able to have an opportunity to give back to the community where she was raised, in the footsteps of her father, who served as a teacher in the Upper Darby area. She began at the West Grove location in August.
“I have to say it's been one of the best experiences of my life,” Marcoon said. “The team here lives with such integrity. Here at the Garage, they serve the students. We're in the business of planting seeds, so we hope that what we teach them here, even if it doesn't feel relevant now, that they'll use it later on in life.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.