Tag Archives: Jamaica YMCA

Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning offers space to cultural institutions

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) is opening its doors to the city, inviting other cultural organizations and working artists to use any of its many available performance spaces.

“We began to realize that we had untapped resources that weren’t being utilized,” said JCAL’s Executive Director Carl Fields. “A lot of folks go into Manhattan [or] Brooklyn to find suitable rehearsal space. Now they’ll be able to find something closer to home.”

Fields added that cultural organizations such as JCAL get funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs, but have seen cuts over the past couple of years. With the new space initiative, JCAL will charge cheaper prices than the standard rates for rehearsal and performance sites, in the hope of boosting the center’s own revenue.

The Jamaica YMCA recently signed on to use some JCAL space for its new youth program, the Y Roads Initiative. JCAL’s space initiative should be in full swing by the summer.

“The availability of JCAL for use by a wide range of arts groups is of terrific benefit to Jamaica,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “Cultural activity [is] a key element in the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica.”

Fields said that JCAL has a responsibility to cater to the artistic community of southeast Queens. The center hopes that others will use the rehearsal space, perfect their craft and give performances for the community to enjoy.

Four dance studios and two theaters along with music rooms are available.

“We think we have enough to meet the demand for space,” Fields said. “One thing primarily is it’s going to give an option that’s first class, safe and closer to home.”

JCAL has already had informal talks with “a number of people” who have indicated they would like to come and use the space, according to Fields. The site will be open until 9 p.m. every night, but hours are subject to change depending on need.



New program helps put youth back on the right road

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

The southeast Queens community is coming together to help put their youth back on the right road – the Y Road.

The Jamaica YMCA, in partnership with Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), is launching a new program, the Y Roads Initiative, geared towards giving youth ages 16 to 24 the little push they may need to get their lives going in a productive direction. It is designed to support roughly 300 young people who are neither employed nor in school and gear them towards a fruitful life.

“We want to build a plan for each student,” said Clare Dwyer, the Y Roads Center Director, “and figure out how we can get them to be successful.”

OBT staff and the YMCA have collaborated over the last several months to create a comprehensive one-stop service facility, building off of the Y’s strengths in youth work, counseling service and leadership development.

Y Roads will additionally provide job training and a GED model within a simulated corporate work environment.

Emergency housing units are available to participants, as well as mental health and lifestyle counseling, and recreational programming and childcare services.

“We really feel like the all-encompassing pieces are coming together,” said Dwyer. “Now we can offer all of the pieces, and that’s really what makes Y Roads special.”

The program will be held at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning on Jamaica Avenue. OBT has raised half a million dollars, which puts it 2/3 of the way towards its funding goal, and is enough to open the doors to the public.

“We think we have something that works,” said Peers. “This is really exciting. I think Jamaica has a really good advantage. This is where we want to be, we’re ready to roll.”