SYC: New look, new leadership and a new year
As one approaches the Stillwater Youth Center (SYC) from the alley, it’s unclear what to expect when nearing the double doors. Upon entrance, however, the bright colors on the walls greet visitors with open arms.
Brightly painted murals and bible verses took about two months to complete, and are crowned by a dazzling cross made of CDs mounted on the wall.
The fresh new look is not the only update SYC has undergone recently. A new team of youth ministers has high hopes and big plans for the upcoming year.
This time last year, Chris Strommen was searching for his calling. By April, he had found it as assistant director of ministry/youth director at SYC. It was a trial by fire, but he quickly knew he was where he was meant to be. He greatly enjoyed interacting with the kids while using his own faith to help young people grow in their own.
However, by the end of the year, Strommen knew that he would need some help handling the volume of kids that participate in multiple programs per week at SYC. Enter Ashlee and Justin Wayland.
As a stay-at-home mom and a miner, the Waylands had little interaction with SYC. Ashlee knew SYC’s director Joanie Matovich through a bible study, but that was the only connection.
Ashlee began volunteering with the 3rd through 5th graders last year, and by the end of the year the opportunity to become more involved with SYC presented itself.
At the time, the Waylands were allowing a member of their church who had recently joined the church’s staff use their rental property for free. In order to cover the mortgage, Justin and Ashlee felt a second income would be beneficial.
Ashlee was familiar with SYC and the kids already, but Justin was more reserved. However, following a November “underground” church activity that showed children the difficulties Christians face when trying to worship in places, all throughout time, where the religion is not welcome, Justin says he fell in love with the kids and felt he needed to be part of SYC as well.
Both Waylands have degrees in education – Justin with a Bachelor of Science in physical education with a secondary education emphasis, and Ashlee with an Associate of Arts in early education. Justin also minored in theology.
After much contemplation, the Waylands took a leap of faith and sold their home and property, while at the same time Justin left his job at Stillwater Mine.
So, in January, SYC gained two new full-time staff members to help with the youth ministry.
Strommen knew that he would find help for SYC, but he never expected that he would be “blessed with people who are so on fire.”
The three youth ministers all bring different skills to the table and work well together, leaving Matovich excited for what the future will bring for SYC.
NEW YEAR, NEW IDEAS
Currently, SYC serves about 75 to 100 Columbus-area kids per week through ministry programs, movie nights, as an after-school hang-out, and special activities.
SYC staff are already familiar with the kids and interact with them on a regular basis, but this year they hope to make more of a connection with the parents and families as well.
Justin believes that SYC has the “potential to radically change this community through the kids and hopefully, eventually, through families.”
SYC has an open-door policy, and Matovich invites parents to stop by to say “hello” and visit the Center for themselves.
In its 23rd year, SYC welcomes kids of all ages and any religious background. Matovich says that when kids come to SYC, the goal is to make them feel “loved, cared about, and valued – to help build them up” and see their own worth.
At the Center, there are plenty of activities for young people to participate in from a pool table and basketball court to a prayer room and library. SYC is planning to add a weight room inside, and a fire pit outside on the newly seeded lawn.
SYC holds an after-school program for 3rd through 5th graders on Wednesdays, evening ministry programs for middle and high schoolers on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and Christian movies on Friday evenings. For more information, visit its website at www.stillwateryouthcenter.com, its Facebook page, or stop by the Center.