New protocols and new spaces to greet students returning April 12
By Noah Johnson
LANSING, Ill. (April 5, 2021) – The Patti Leach Youth Center has resumed some in-person activities this month with more in store on April 12.
The center, which provides after school educational and recreational activities to sixth through twelfth-graders, suspended all in-person activities last year in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But on March 26, the center hosted a self-care slumber party from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for girls aged 14 to 18.
It was the first time in a year that Youth Center Director Aneisha Titsworth saw some members in person. She’s missed them.
“We’ve done a few virtual activities since we’ve suspended in-person activities but it’s not the same as being face to face,” she said. “The impact is definitely limited when it comes to virtual.”
On April 12 and beyond, the center will aim to incorporate more outdoor recreational activities and open more fully. Depending on what COVID-19 metrics look like moving forward, Titsworth said she wants to do at least three field trips this summer. And as part of a partnership, members will also learn life skills from Junior Achievement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating students about entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy.
The return to in-person activities will be an opportunity to check on the kids to see how they are doing, she said, since “they’ve been away from each other for so long.”
Titsworth doesn’t want “the feeling of the building to change” but some of the procedures will be a bit different. The center will implement a COVID-19 safety plan that will have staff frequently sanitizing the building and conducting temperature checks at the entrance. There will also be sanitizing stations in every room and the center will be at a limited capacity of 30 kids.
Titsworth said she’s not sure what the first week will look like. Nonetheless, the sleepover event assured her that the kids still have a connection to the building, she said.
“I think the kids are ready. They were not satisfied with the two hours [they had during the sleepover,]” she said.
Remodeling the space
While members made the shift to remote activities amid the pandemic, the building has been the subject of a remodeling project. So far, the center’s multi-purpose room has been upgraded with new furniture, new flooring, a designated dance floor, and a new and expanded stage. The previously bright yellow multipurpose room walls have also been painted a cool blue.
Titsworth said the next step is to renovate the center’s lounge and game room with new flooring and furniture. The center will also see updates to its bathrooms and kitchen. In addition to these projects, Titsworth said she wants renovations to the building’s exterior, noting “it needs to be softened up.”
The building, which has been up and running for about 25 years, hasn’t had any major renovations until now, Titsworth said.
“I want people to really know when they drive past like ‘hey, that’s the place for you,’” she said. “Right now it’s kind of stale and blends in opposed to having artwork and nice landscaping. I also want the kids to have a designated patio area when it’s warm out.”
“I want it to be a place where kids are honored and excited to come,” she added.
The Patti Leach Youth Center is located at 18123 Burnham Ave, Lansing, IL.