A basement room that once held books that were sold to patrons of the Mesa Public Library has new life as a career and job counseling center for youth ages 14-21. The repainted and repurposed space is a partnership between the city of Mesa and Maricopa County.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house celebrating The Genesis Youth Center, 64 E. First St., was held Jan. 14. (See an exclusive video of the ceremony under galleries.)
“It had racks of books that they would sell to the community for 50 cents. So much of this – all the walls – were gray, there was nothing down here except for racks and racks and racks of old books,” Patricia Wallace, assistant director of Maricopa County Workforce Development, said at the open house. “They offered the space to us and we said ‘yes,’” she said.
“I am so excited. Last time I came all of the furniture was here but the paint wasn’t done, so the paint really, I think, made a big difference,” Ms. Wallace said.
While some of the funding earmarked for the program is to help low-income youth, the center is open to anyone ages 14-21, Ms. Wallace said.
“It is open to everyone. There are eligibility criteria for funds that are available through our programming, but this is open to the public. So there are different levels of service,” she said.
Two full-time employees are stationed at the center to help with career pathways and employment readiness, she said.
“We really want to equip youth with everything that we possibly can to make them successful young workers of the future,” Ms. Wallace said.
The center is open when the library is open, she said.
The library is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, according to www.mesalibrary.org.
Laptop and desktop computers are near the middle of the room with bright-colored tables and chairs scattered throughout. A chalkboard-type wall near the entrance includes writing instruments to post comments. At the open house, Mesa Mayor John Giles drew the city of Mesa logo with “NextMesa.”
The Genesis Youth Center is a Workforce Investment Act-funded program that provides employment and educational services, according to a press release. The WIA funds are for eligible low-income youth ages 14 to 21 who face significant barriers to employment. Genesis services in-school and out-of-school youth; youth with disabilities and low literacy rates; as well as others who may require additional assistance completing an educational program and acquiring an industry-recognized credential or entering employment, according to the release.
Steve Chucri, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said there needs to be more partnerships between the county and cities.
“You’re going to see these kinds of partnerships between Maricopa County, Mesa and other municipalities in this state for our kids, for the future of our state, for the future of our county and for the future leaders that I think are going to take this great state of Arizona to the next level,” he said during a program at the open house.
Mesa City Manager Chris Brady told county officials in attendance to consider partnering with and using other Mesa facilities.
“We are absolutely thrilled, happy, excited to be partners with the county,” Mr. Brady said. “So, all of those who are here representing the county and the other agencies, please consider facilities that Mesa has – whether this library or any other. You should think of it as your home too. It’s the same taxpayers, we are doing a lot of the same work together and this is wonderful where we can combine resources,” he said. “Please look for more opportunities. This should be the genesis of our relationship and we have lots of opportunities in other areas that we would love to work with you on.”
Mayor Giles also said he hoped there will be additional opportunities to partner with the county.
“As a community, Mesa does pretty well in a lot of things, but there are, frankly, some areas that we need to improve in. One of those is the gaps that we see for some of our youth that come from challenged-financial homes that graduate from high school and are transitioning from high school into college. We have these gaps. It’s not a problem that peculiar to Mesa, but it’s certainly a problem that is very evident in Mesa. To address that, the Genesis Youth Center is really right on target,” he said.
Another resource available in the city is Mesa Counts on College, he said. The website is http://mesacountsoncollege.org.
For information on Maricopa County Workforce Development, go to http://myhsd.maricopa.gov/Divisions/Workforce-Development.aspx.
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