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Youth center will provide athletic & arts programming in a flexible environment

The West Scranton Youth Center is set to open this summer in a former warehouse on Washburn and South Garfield streets in Scranton.
Kat Bolus
The West Scranton Youth Center is set to open this summer in a former warehouse on Washburn and South Garfield streets in Scranton.

In June 2021, West Scranton High School alumni formed a wrestling program to provide the same opportunities they once had to current students.

Now, the group has created a separate nonprofit that will offer art classes. They plan to move both programs into a new home this summer.

"The community has changed over the years. And a lot of the opportunities for kids aren't what we had," said Doug Boyle, president of the Wrestling Scranton Wrestling Alumni Association (WSWAA). "We thought part of our legacy could be giving an experience back to those kids.”

The WSWAA owns the West Scranton Youth Center. It's a 4,500 square-foot building at 1621 Washburn St. and once renovated will serve over 300 youth through after-school and summer athletics, arts and education programs.

WSWAA is a nonprofit. They currently offer an after-school youth wrestling program and operate out of West Scranton High School.

"The key there is we made it free of charge for students ... which is important because wrestling is an expensive sport," said Doug Boyle.

The nonprofit started with wrestling because of West Scranton’s deep tradition with the sport, said Boyle. There are many multi-generational players. He said the sport also teaches kids about life.

“There’s a lot of teamwork that's involved. A lot of discipline, a lot of structure," he said.

Initially, 180 students in kindergarten to 6th grade signed up to wrestle.

"Once we did that ... we said 'there's more need here than just wrestling',” said Doug Boyle.

They plan to expand into different sports and Laura Boyle formed the nonprofit, Youth Arts Coalition of NEPA. She is the board president.

The Scranton School District cut back on related art classes at the intermediate level, which is grades 5 through 8. The music, visual arts and theater programs at the center will help supplement those classes, including exposing students in those grades to musical instruments earlier. Laura Boyle noted how small the West Scranton High School band is now.

“You can't just enter high school, pick up an instrument and be in the band, just doesn't happen," she said.

While the wrestling program is open to all students in the Scranton School District, the arts programming will initially just be for West students.

The center is meant to be flexible.

"If a kid doesn't show up, or misses a couple of times, because there's valid reasons, we don't punish the kid or we don't take the kid out of the program," said Doug Boyle.

Since forming the nonprofits and purchasing the center, Doug and Laura Boyle said they've received not only financial support from local charitable organizations but also support from city businesses. They're planning to put $400,000 into renovating the center.

"It's ... absolutely overwhelming," said Laura Boyle. "It gets you a little emotional.”

The center is two blocks from West Scranton High School and three blocks from West Intermediate.

"That's really important, because a lot of kids in our community sometimes have a hard time getting transportation, especially a lot of the students we're trying to reach," said Doug Boyle.

The students involved will have responsibilities outside of sports and arts.

"We have a building ... we have to take care of it ... We got to be good community members," said Doug Boyle. "So to me, I think those life lessons are more important than how they do on the wrestling mat or if they end up being an opera star someday."

They've also partnered with Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP) to provide nutritious snacks for the students after school.

Doug Boyle is a professor and department chair at the University of Scranton. He's working with the institution to provide educational opportunities at the center for the students.

Both Doug and Laura Boyle are from West Scranton and graduated from the high school.

"I didn't grow up with any resources," said Doug Boyle. "But we had a great family and a great community. So we wanted to provide that opportunity for everybody."

Both the West Scranton Wrestling Alumni Association and the Youth Arts Coalition are completely volunteer. All the money raised goes directly back to the kids. Both nonprofits have upcoming events.

  • The WSWAAis hosting a Night at the Races on Saturday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at St. Mary’s Center in Scranton.
  • The Youth Arts Coalition’s Beat the Winter Blues Soiree will be held on Thursday, Feb. 22, at AFA Gallery on Penn Avenue in Scranton. For more details, visit youth-arts-coalition.com.
Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org