Growing Healthy, Growing Strong
What does a “high-quality” educational facility look like? This was the question that Leah Dade, Executive Director of the Second Street Youth Center (SSYC), asked her board. “We had been in a space that was very old since inception,” says Leah. “We were operating a very high-quality education program in a district that’s known for its early childhood programs. So we asked, ‘How are we operating in a space that’s truly substandard?’ ” For over 50 years, SSYC had been an anchor for Plainfield’s Fourth Ward, providing residents with affordable and quality childcare. When agencies and organizations began moving out and closing shop, SSYC stayed, offering children a safe and nurturing space to grow and learn. It became increasingly clear that a new developmentally appropriate educational space was needed to work in synergy with the services provided.
Alongside developer TD+Partners, the City of Plainfield and the Office of Early Childhood Programs and Services, SSYC conceptualized a high-quality, state-of-the-art facility that catered to the developmental growth of children, supported a curriculum dedicated to healthy living and self-sufficiency, and forged strong ties with the surrounding community. “This is an area in need of great attention. The redevelopment process in the City of Plainfield is much more holistic, so the development [of the center] was also looked at as a holistic plan.”
SSYC opened its doors in September 2018 to a newly constructed 25,000-square-foot early childhood educational and community center, directly down the street from its former building. “We brought them into a new space that was clean, pristine, and had state-of the-art equipment,” says Patrick Terborg, President of TD+Partners.
To complement the center’s focus on health, safety and developmental growth, the facility includes features such as in-classroom sinks to encourage each child to be independent and self-sufficient, bay windows for all-day access to natural light, and dedicated staff preparing daily meals from local ingredients. Over the next year, the center will launch a 1,200-square-foot aquaponics urban farm and agricultural education center, offering educational classes for parents and the broader community to further affirm healthy habits. “We’re going to be able to generate a working farm that’s going to have an impact on the dietary situation of our children, and anything left over, we’re going to make sure goes to the parents and the community.”
“Before, people may have known about us, but now that we sit in this new facility on the corner of Plainfield Avenue, people gravitate to us, wanting to be in this space and a part of what we do.”
— Leah Dade, Executive Director of Second Street Youth Center