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'Big team effort:' West Scranton Youth Center to provide free arts, wrestling programs

Artists put finishing touches on the mural at the new West Scranton Youth Center at 1621 Washburn St. in Scranton.
Haley O'Brien
/
WVIA News
Artists put finishing touches on the mural at the new West Scranton Youth Center at 1621 Washburn St.

The vibrant mural on the outside of the West Scranton Youth Center depicts the enrichment that will take place inside.

The West Scranton Wrestling Alumni Association (WSWAA) purchased the building roughly two years ago. Doug Boyle is board president of WSWAA and his wife Laura founded the Youth Arts Coalition (YAC). Both entities will share the space to provide athletic and arts programs for area children and teens.

City officials toured the building on Monday and presented the founders and board members with a community center grant for $15,000.

In the main room, a large wrestling mat will allow for up to four wrestling matches at once. The mat will roll up for arts programs and performances.

An arts classroom, weight room, and kitchen with a washer and dryer also occupy the 4,500-square-foot building. In addition to arts and wrestling, the University of Scranton will implement a health and wellness program and Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP) will provide free meals.

Arts

Come fall 2024, middle school students will have the opportunity to attend the West Scranton Youth Center for free after-school programs in visual, musical, and performing arts.

The center will have a few dozen band instruments and a music teacher.

“We'll also be working with the University of Scranton and Marywood University, to have students that are in their music programs come and help us teach,” Laura said.

Conor Kelly O’Brien, co-founder and executive director of Scranton Fringe, will bring in performing arts lessons like improvisation and original scene writing.

“We find that there's a gap of programs that empower the students to be not only the performers, but the creatives and creators themselves,” he said. “So we're going to be focusing a lot on that and allowing them to empower and tell whatever stories they want to tell, while still learning the fundamentals of performance, voice and movement.”

“It's not just teaching them art skills,” Laura added. “It's more about them expressing themselves through art.”

“We’re excited to be branching out further into the neighborhoods,” O’Brien said. “It’s such a perfect marriage, each organization is bringing what the other needs to the table.”

Wrestling

West Scranton’s wrestling program outgrew the school, Doug said.

“What we're going to do now that we have the building is we'll have different groups come in at different times, depending on their level of experience,” he said.

“We're also gonna do a wellness program, we're working with the University of Scranton OT department,” he added. “They're gonna look at physical health, but they're also gonna look at emotional health, anxiety issues, and things like that.”

Joe Gaughan, treasurer of WSWAA, explained why they support local wrestlers.

“It really gives the kids some direction in life, and it follows through with the rest of their lives,” he said. “They have the toughness and the grit to get it done. And that's what they learned at a young age, and that's what we're hoping to instill here with the programs that we have.”

It looks like a school gym, with banners on the wall naming state champions, only the winners here are the donors that helped them transform the building.

“We purchased the building outright. And then all the grant money and sponsors we got paid for all the renovations. So we currently don't have any debt, which is fantastic,” Doug said. “So it's all a big team effort here.”

"Wrestling is a great sport that takes a lot of discipline, that's really good for our youth," Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti said. "Those free programs being offered to the community are really important."

Wrestling programs will begin late this summer and arts programs will start in the fall. A block party is planned for July 20th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the public is invited to tour the space.

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org
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