HUDSON — The Hudson Youth Center revised safety regulations and extended its bicycle co-op program, Director Nick Zachos said at the Youth Department meeting Wednesday.
The Hudson Youth Center closed last week to reassess safety regulations as COVID-19 cases increase, Zachos said.
“We had a very productive week last week and we basically did a pretty significant restructuring of how the Hudson Youth Center operates on a daily basis,” he said.
Youths are assigned groups, or pods, of 15 or fewer, who they do activities with, and the building was separated into four zones. The changes will make contact tracing more efficient if needed, Zachos said.
“It’s basically a much more highly developed and what I feel in the end is a safer environment to be able to serve youths given the current situation,” he said.
The new system has been a success so far this week and feedback from youth and families has been positive, he said.
The pods have led to more participation in different programs from youths who didn’t typically participate in them before because the whole group goes together, which has been an added benefit, Zachos said.
Ongoing activities included a circus program, a sound lab, a TikTok and filmmaking program, hip-hop dance, homework help and the bike co-op, which started over the summer with support from the Hudson Police Department.
The Youth Program caters to ages 5-12 after school from 3-6 p.m. and ages 13-18 from 6-9 p.m., Program Coordinator Vanessa Baehr said.
The bike program, which is for ages 12-18, provides activities for the older youth before evening hours.
“With the schools opening and everything there has been a lot of energy and kids want to get out,” she said.
The program was going to conclude at the end of October, Baehr said, but it was extended.
“Even though it’s cold out, we’ve now extended that for another few weeks,” Zachos said Wednesday. “So as long as we have the weather and the kids are coming, we’re going to continue to run that program.”
Many of the participants are 13 and 14 years old and were accustomed to having programming right after school last year and the year before, Baehr said.
“Because they recently aged out of that program, they’re looking for things to do after school and the bike shop has been able to serve them in that way,” she said, adding the program gives them a space designated for older kids.
With the bike co-op, the center knows where its participating teens are for a longer period of time after school and not just for three hours in the evening, Zachos said.
The teens go to the center after working in the shop, he said.
Bikes represent independence, Baehr said, and in addition to developing a culture in their community, the program aims to help the youths become bike mechanics in the future.
The Youth Center provides the bicycles — which have been donated — helmets and all necessary materials, Baehr said.
Volunteer mechanics, organized by head mechanic Ken Reichl, teach the youth to fix their bikes, Baehr said. The result is kids helping each other fix their bikes. The youths in the program could run the shop in the future, Baehr said.
Program participants custom-build their own bikes, she said.
“The idea is if they build their own bike, they get to walk away with it and keep it,” she said. “It’s kind of like earn a bike by building it.” Five youngsters finished their bikes over the summer, and 10 more did so in the fall, Baehr said.
The program will likely finish three or four more this month, she added.
While the center has enough bikes, she said, they are looking for ones with workable parts that are not rusty.
“People try to give us all kinds of things and a lot of it is usable, but it takes a lot of work,” Baehr said.
The bike shop is open twice a week and the youths ride their bikes around town every week using safety procedures, she said. Bikes repaired by the young mechanics are also loaned out for youth not in the program to go on bike rides, Baehr said.
The center has also had success with its academic support program, which started in September, Zachos said.
The program is meant to meet the needs of teens participating in virtual learning who do not have a support person at home to make sure they are doing their work and participating in classes, Zachos said.
Students who don’t have that support at home don’t participate as much and fall behind in classes, he said.
“It’s a work in progress but so far it has also been a big success and I think a very needed addition to what we’re doing for the youth we work with,” Zachos said.
The Youth Center has been opening at 9 a.m. and six youths are participating in the academic support program, Zachos said. The program will grow until it reaches its capacity of 10 students per day.
Zachos reported on the food program at Providence Hall and the department budget process.
The program has been dealing with long lines, so the center is trying to develop a plan to address the line as people wait in the cold, he said.
The department budget process is ongoing and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment will meet Friday at 1 p.m. to discuss the budget. The meeting is open to the public.
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the department is trying to bring in the 2021 budget at or below 2020 level.
The 2021 budget will not have money for redoing the basketball court, which was dropped from the 2020 budget when Mayor Kamal Johnson asked departments to make cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Zachos said.