Last month, Director Liz Klohmann celebrated her 23rd anniversary with the Ithaca Youth Bureau! Her time with the YB started long before this, however, in 1983 as a Fieldwork student from Ithaca College working with Therapeutic Recreation (now known as Recreation Support Services). She has worked with many other organizations in the community and in her time at the Youth Bureau, she has held many different titles, with her most current being Director, a position she has had since 2013.
Throughout Liz’s time here, the Youth Bureau has changed in many ways. The original building was nicknamed the Tin Can and was a former Naval Reserve Training Center. In 1986 it was torn down and replaced with a new Youth Bureau building. Programming has also changed and evolved in order to continuously provide support and services to the Ithaca community. “You will see this pattern of changing to meet needs and be a relevant resource to youth, families, and other organizations in just about every program offered at the Youth Bureau” states Liz. One thing that hasn’t changed in her time here, however, is “the creative, resourceful, and caring staff. We have had new faces join our team over the years as others have retired or moved onto other opportunities but the care and commitment to young people and the community that staff bring has stayed constant.”
When asked about a memorable experience, Liz shared this, “One of my favorite stories is when Kim Olsen, our Outings Program Coordinator came to my office door late one afternoon after a program and said, ‘Liz! I have to tell someone, I just taught my first person ever how to ride a bike! She is a 5th grader who has never ridden a bike and I just taught her how and she is so excited and so am I! I just had to tell someone!’ This is just one of many shared successes that I hear about at the YB.”
Liz is passionate about the Youth Bureau and hopes others are too because “we play a vital role in the health and wellness of the community and the development of our children.” The YB’s tagline of Building a Foundation for a Lifetime sums up the missions and variety of programs perfectly. “Youth Programming offers children and youth opportunities to learn new skills, develop relationships with others, experience success and failure, be nurtured, go places and see things they may not have had the opportunity to, learn about themselves, the world and others.”
When a few YB staff members were asked what they enjoyed about working with Liz, they said:
“One thing I appreciate about Liz is how calmly she listens and responds, even when the situation does not feel calm at all!” – Ever Stokes, Youth Employment Service
“I wanted to say thank you in this regarding Liz (with the rest of the administration, Suki & Jim) for their resilience through COVID and our IYB shutdown; in keeping the ship afloat and now we are back up and running full steam ahead.” – Kristin Letourneau, Recreation Support Services
“I was actually a student in the very first class at college that Liz taught and so I knew her walking into my interview and we have been working together for more than 20 years since…She has been a long-time mentor for me and the Recreation Department.” – Yolanda Marion, Recreation Department
Congratulations and thank you, Liz, for your many years of service to the children and families of Ithaca and Tompkins County. Here’s to many more years of shared successes at the YB!
Big congratulations are in order for Kristin Letourneau, Recreation Support Services (RSS) staff member, as she celebrates her 31st year at the Youth Bureau, with 28 of those years being a rostered employee. Kristin started at the YB as an intern with RSS while she was a junior at Ithaca College studying therapeutic recreation. Her journey of supporting and serving others started before that, however, when she worked as a nurse's aide in senior living facilities and home care during her high school and college summers.
There are many reasons why Kristin enjoys working with RSS Program Participants. Being a witness to the connections that they make with one another, the life skills that they learn, and just having fun together are all very rewarding to her. Kristin says, “being a civil servant of the City of Ithaca and a local community member, my job serving people in our community and also living side-by-side with them feels very meaningful to me.”
When asked about a favorite memory, it was hard for her to pick just one, however, the one that jumped out is special to her, not only because of what the RSS participant achieved that day at the Cayuga Nature Center’s Jacob's Ladder, but also because she learned something about herself, too. “Long story short…I was correct that I would physically struggle doing this challenge myself. What I didn't realize was how strong physically and mentally [the RSS participant] was and that she was going to take charge and assist me more than I assisted her to climb four of the five rungs of this giant ladder TOGETHER!!! I learned a really important lesson that day…do not make assumptions about other people and their ability to do anything. Also, remember we are stronger together than we are alone.”
The RSS Program is a unique one for a variety of reasons. Because it offers lifelong programming for adults and children with special needs, participants are able to grow up together, go to school together, and, as adults, reconnect with one another despite living in various parts of Ithaca and Tompkins County. “It’s a very emotionally moving moment when a ‘new adult participant’ to our program attends an adult program for the first time and sees a long-lost school friend”, states Kristin. “Our participants are amazing human beings. They are honest, empathetic, sincere, and fun individuals. They are also community members just like everyone else and deserve the same opportunities for connection, belonging, and living their best life.”
We completely agree, Kristin. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to the Ithaca community and to the participants of the Recreation Support Services program!
This May, we’re celebrating the work anniversary of Tito, a beloved member of the IYB Recreation Department. Tito has been an employee for eight years, however, he has been part of the YB for much longer, as he was a volunteer before that. Tito enjoys working with the Recreation Department as a program specialist because “It's important to have kids socializing, playing, and having fun. These are tough times, and the kids need to have that space to be kids.”
Tito initially started working with kids and IYB Rec in 2003, when he coached his cousin’s kindergarten soccer team. He continued his volunteer work and when the opportunity became available, he became a staff member because “I get a unique perspective seeing the kids grow up in the community. I see kids that started in a Pre-K program with me in the newspapers for local high school sports. That’s rewarding!”
The uniqueness of Rec Dept programming is another reason Tito enjoys being a part of it all. “We try to make every program accessible to all the kids in the area by keeping costs low and working with parent and college volunteers. Sports are a great unifier. This is a place where we come together for the enjoyment of sport and comradery” and states that the “experience of playing with kids from all walks of life” has a big impact on participants.
While Tito has many great memories of his time working at the YB and noted that it is hard to pick just one, he stated, “An experience that I get reminded of often is when our little league baseball players got to take the field at Auburn and Binghamton stadiums to throw out the 1st pitch. The joy it brought the kids and families is why we do what we do.”
The Youth Bureau is happy to celebrate Tito and is grateful for the work has done, the lessons and skills he has taught, and the fun he has had with countless children in the Ithaca area. Congratulations, Tito!
This March, we are celebrating Ever’s 11th year of work at the Ithaca Youth Bureau. Ever started out with Youth Employment Service as a seasonal YES Rep in the summer of 2011 before moving into a full-time role. They have now been the coordinator of the YES program since 2015.
Ever has known they wanted to work with teenagers for most of their life, though they started out on a more traditional education route. Ever attended Ithaca College studying Music Education and realized at graduation that a different approach to helping and teaching teens was more their style. “I sort of stumbled into my work with YES, but it was the perfect fit,” they said.
“If the YES Program didn’t exist, teens would still get jobs. But which teens? And what jobs?” Ever says.
“The YES Program provides a really unique experience that seeks to make the job search process less competitive, more equitable, and also connects teens with a much wider diversity of work opportunities than they would have on their own. As adults, we spend most of our working lives trying to fit ourselves into the mold of a position’s qualifications— YES is one of the rare times where a group of people try to mold a job around a teen’s strengths, skills, and needs.
Through the YES Program, Ever has been able to really harness their passion for teaching and learning with the needs and learning styles of teens. “I love working with teenagers. They are eager and motivated to learn about it in a way they might not be about school. And since they are always at the beginning of their working journey, I feel like we have real, valuable information and guidance to give them.” The impact of the YES Program and Ever and their team can be felt across the community. Youth Employment Service has been a part of the Ithaca community for over 50 years and Ever says after 10 years working with the program, it’s hard to go anywhere without bumping into a current or former YES Teen.
“My favorite moments are always the ones where I see a former YES teen thriving in their adult life,” Ever says. “Recently we had an alumni of our leadership program, Youth Council Ambassadors, speak to the current members of the group as an adult guest. Seeing him being able to offer his wisdom to the next generation of youth leaders was incredibly inspiring.”
The Youth Bureau is happy to celebrate 11 years with Ever and is grateful for the work that they have done to help teens in the greater Ithaca community.
Spring is Coming! As I write this, snow is coming down outside my window, but spring is in the air. It is staying light a little longer, the birds are returning to the area, and it just smells like spring in the mornings.
This is also the time of year when Youth Bureau Staff are buzzing with excitement and new energy. Recreation is gearing up for spring sports, expressive art programs, martial arts and more. Ithaca Bike Rental is tuning up bikes and preparing for a new rental season. Youth Employment Services will begin accepting applications from teens for summer jobs.
College Discovery Program and Paul Schreurs Program are helping students complete their school year, some graduating and entering college or the work world. Recreation Support Services are preparing to hit the parks and provide a new season of recreation and leisure opportunities to their participants. Big Brothers Big Sisters is welcoming a new staff member and doing a spring recruit for mentors. And Outings is preparing groups for outdoor adventure trips this spring.
It may be snowing, but we are getting ready and can't wait to see everyone this spring!
When making a charitable gift to the Friends of the IYB, you can make a one-time contribution or set a schedule for a recuring donation. Support with a credit card can be automated as monthly, quarterly or yearly by indicating this interest either online or on a gift envelope. See FIYB website for more information. https://www.friendsiyb.org/donate
Rebecca Norman, a parent in the community and former member of the Friends of the IYB Board, has been giving monthly for six years and plans to continue this practice.
“The Ithaca Youth Bureau is such a central place in the community," she said. "The services and programs they provide for our youth are so important. Now more than ever, we need to come together as a community to ensure our children have access to athletics, the arts, and all of the wonderful services the youth bureau provides. I am happy to continue to support these efforts.”
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This month, the Youth Bureau is proud to celebrate a major staff milestone. As of February 25, Suki Tabor has been working for the YB for 20 years! Suki started out as a member of the Youth Employment Service staff and spent 13 years helping teens develop their work skills. In 2015, Suki was given the opportunity to move into her current position, Deputy Director, which allows her to support many of the Youth Development programs, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ithaca and Tompkins County, College Discovery Program, Youth Employment Service, Paul Schreurs Memorial Program, and Outings.
Growing up as the oldest of four children and whose parents were involved in education, Suki feels as though she was destined to work with kids or programs that serve kids. Prior to coming to the YB, she was a school teacher and has always been passionate about the enrichment of young lives.
As you can imagine, Suki has seen some amazing stories of how the Youth Bureau has made a difference in the lives of youth in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Once, the YES team had a teen participant that had very little support. The teen was walking more than a mile to work in slippers because she didn't have shoes that fit. Youth Bureau staff quickly worked to get shoes and a bus pass for the teen so she could get to work each day. Years later, Suki bumped into that teen at a local park and was happy to hear that she was thriving and credited the YB for helping her.
Suki knows the importance of being connected to and feeling supported within a community. “The joy and growth that participants experience in our programs is something so powerful and meaningful,” she said. She loves being able to watch young people develop passions and build new friendships. Suki is dedicated to continuing to provide quality YB programs at little or no cost to the community.
Please join us in congratulating Suki on 20 years! We appreciate all she does!
Linda began her work at the Youth Bureau as a part-time staff member 25 years ago. Now she works full time as the Program Coordinator for the College Discovery Program (CDP). She began the Tot Spot program at the YB when her own son was two years old because she felt there was a need for a warm, dry place for kiddos to run around and get exercise during the cold Ithaca winters. After that, Linda helped start a YB initiative at Beverly J Martin Elementary school which led to her being hired by the school district to co-lead the program for three years. Linda came back to the Youth Bureau to coordinate the College Discovery Program, which at the time was a pilot program with only 12 students. Linda has now been with the CDP for 15 years and has watched it flourish and grow, serving over 100 youth!
Linda is passionate about using her creativity and experience in the education system to help kids thrive, and she truly loves helping her community. She began her career working as a research assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital studying normal aging and dementia. Linda recalls that while the work was interesting, she felt that there was little room for creativity and growth and began looking for other opportunities. She ended up going to graduate school to get her teaching certification.
She has many memories from her tenure at the Youth Bureau. She said she loves seeing CDP students get involved in their community and give back during service projects.
“CDP provides a sense of belonging to youth and a chance to try different things, visit different places, and learn about possibilities,” Linda said.“We help students, many of whom may be first generation college students, to see themselves as potential college students by offering tutors, mentors, college visits, and more.’’
We celebrate Linda’s work anniversary and thank her for the work she’s done to make the Ithaca community a better place for youth.
We are excited to announce that Matthew Davids is our Soccer Skill Development Coach this season! Matt has been playing soccer since he was ten, when he began at the youth level in Cape Town, South Africa. He loves the sport and became interested in it because it was easy to learn and fun to play. Matt has been involved with local soccer groups both in South Africa, as well as right here in Ithaca.
Matt has been coaching and mentoring young players for the last eight years, often on a one-to-one basis. He spent the past fall with a group of 4th and 5th graders in Ithaca Youth Bureau Rotary Soccer. Matt enjoys watching each player learn and grow in order to begin developing the skills they need to enjoy playing the sport. He believes that soccer is a wonderful way to make friends.
“This game's simplicity levels the 'playing field' (pun intended), allowing people from all backgrounds worldwide to enjoy and thrive,” Matt said.
During the day, Matt works full-time as a Data Officer for Tompkins County Assigned Counsel Program. He loves living in Ithaca and has enjoyed the vibrant soccer community in the area. Please help us welcome him in his role here at IYB!
Your support of Friends of the Ithaca Youth Bureau helps to ensure that our community’s children and youth have access to safe and healthy recreational and youth development opportunities.
Gifts made in the past year were allocated to the Ithaca Youth Bureau according to preferred donor designations and the IYB program needs, including for: