WILLIAMSTOWN -- It’s that time of year again!
Children are counting down the days until the end of the school year. Stay-at-home mothers are doubting that they will be able to keep their school-age children happily occupied all summer. Families in which both parents hold down jobs are struggling with a question: Who is going to take care of the kids when school is out?
Hundreds of children have enjoyed and been very well taken care of as participants in the Williamstown Youth Center summer camp. "Children come to camp with many different interests," said David Rempell, executive director of the private non-profit organization. "We attempt to provide an environment that allows them to pursue and develop these interests, try new things so that they develop new passions, all in a safe and well-supervised program."
Enrollment in the after-school program has increased by nearly 50 percent since the WYC moved from its previous headquarters at 270 Cole Ave. into a new building at 66 School St. "It’s encouraging that the bulge has been in the lower grades," Rempell said.
It is likely that the rise in enrollment will be mirrored in the summer camp; in the past, children in the after-school program were campers, too. This will be the WYC’s first summer program since it began operating out of its new home.
It is the only time in the WYC history that a building was designed specifically to meet their needs and more.
In the early to mid-1900s, the WYC, then the Williamstown Boys Club, used basements, school gyms and the former Spring Street School for activities.
According to "The Williamstown Boys Club: A Brief History," by Williams College Professor Charles R. Keller, now deceased, "the Spring Street School was torn down in 1932 to make the site available for the post office, and the Club operated out of a nearby building."
In 1936 the Club moved into 270 Cole Ave., a building that was erected in the 1800s and served as a school for a number of years. The town gave that 7,000-square-foot building to the WYC in 1966, and major renovations were accomplished in 1969. But as the years rolled by, the aging building became dilapidated, and some spaces were unusable.
In 2009, the WYC launched a campaign to raise funds for a new building. And in November of 2012, the new 12,000-foot building was opened for use.
"Our new facility has allowed the children to engage in a great variety of activities in an environment that supports their learning and play," Rempell said. Included in those activities are art, movement, strategic board games, music, sports, reading and writing. "In addition," he said, "our media room allows the integration of technology into many of the art and music programs."
With the Youth Center located behind the Williamstown Elementary School, the participants in the Center’s programs are able to play soccer and experience the playground on the school’s beautiful, expansive, green fields (a delightful change from the small, concrete backyard at 270 Cole Ave.)
"To enhance the summer program, we visit many local recreational and educational venues," said Rempell. Among fields trips this summer are Six Flags New England, Bousquet Water Park, and the children will also have fun at Guptills Arena, the world’s largest roller skating rink.
"We go to Windsor Lake in North Adams and Margaret Lindley Park in Williamstown. At these parks, we eat lunch as a community, go swimming, play games, take hikes, etc. Every other week we have a cookout at one of the parks," the executive director said.
Williamstownian Janelle van de Stadt, whose two children have attended the WYC summer camp, said, "They loved the swimming trips to Windsor Lake and Margaret Lindley Park, and the field trips most. What stands out most for me as a parent is the quality of the investment the Youth Center staff exhibits towards our kids. For them these relationships are not fleeting - it’s not just for the summer - they are committed to our children and their growth long-term. That is something I really treasure."
The summer camp is for youths in first- through eighth-grade. There are eight one-week sessions, starting June 24, at a cost of $150 a week. Hours are 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Membership in the WYC is required to enroll in summer camp. Membership fee is $50.
According to Rempell, surveys they have conducted with parents and children have shown overall satisfaction with the WYC. "If the children aren’t happy," he said, "we will change things. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching children grow and assume greater responsibility. For example, we have had children participate in Youth Center programs as first-graders, become Leaders in Training at summer camp when they reach high school, and then become summer counselors when they go to college."
For more information, call the Youth Center at 413-458-5925. To register online: williamstownyouthcenter.org.