Sam began his career with the Ithaca Youth Bureau in 1971. He started out as the Youth Development Coordinator, which at that time was a brand new position. He stayed with the Youth Bureau for 30 years, ending his career in the role of Youth Bureau Director in 2001. He has very fond memories of his time at the IYB, and was thrilled to hear of the 75th anniversary celebration.
In 1971, The Ithaca Youth Bureau provided recreation programs for youth, a small version of Youth Employment Service, and a “Youthcorps” for teens. Sam was hired by Bob Cutia, the namesake of the IYB’s building in Stewart Park, and was tasked with developing the entire Youth Development department. Sam wanted to be sure he developed a variety of programs that could serve children who needed them most, and that they were free and accessible to all. He also felt strongly about finding staff who were passionate about working with youth, and who were passionate about “something else, anything else, that could help form the basis for a program that served youth and fed the staff member’s own interests and imagination”.
During Sam’s tenure, the YB began the Outings program, Recreation Mainstreaming Services (now known as Recreation Support Services), The “One-to-One” program (now affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters), and Mechanical All Stars (which in later years became Computer All Stars). Sam is particularly proud of the wonderful people he connected with to create and run those programs, including future directors Alice and Allen Green, long time staff members John Bailey, Chet Salustri, Jackie Merwin, Rich Dietrich and many more. Sam recalls his time as Youth Development director with great joy, remembering the creativity staff showed in their program design, and the willingness Common Council and other outside funders often showed in supporting this new programming…many of which continue to this day!
In the late ’80s, when Bob Cutia retired, Sam admits that he “dragged his feet” when assuming the role of IYB director. He loved working directly with youth and staff, and he feared a promotion would have him too heavily involved in the administrative side of the work. However, he also knew that the best way forward for the IYB would be to do his best to protect the programs they had already created, and continue to seek financial and community support for his growing, amazing staff. While he was Director, he succeeded in securing ongoing support and funding for programs, he helped in the forming of GIAC as its own thriving community organization, he served on the board of The Learning Web, and also found some direct connection to staff and programs by offering periodic classes and workshops in philosophy (another passion of Sam’s).
Looking back on all his years of working at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, Sam recalls a life of meaning and positivity, and also remembers dealing with plenty of trials and tribulations. Overall, he wants to convey his abiding gratefulness for having the chance to help create and lead such a worthwhile organization, and he hopes to see many familiar faces at the IYB’s 75th birthday party on August 5th. And who knows… those of us who have experienced one of Sam’s famous “walk in the park” meetings might just get that chance again if we come down to Cass to celebrate.
As a young boy playing football with the Youth Bureau in the early 1980s, Jeff Love had no idea that his involvement with youth athletic programs would have such a profound impact on his life. What began as a fun sports activity quickly turned into something much more significant. Jeff found himself deeply invested and soon became a participant in other programs and then a volunteer coach, and ultimately, a member of the Friends of the Ithaca Youth Bureau (FIYB).
Throughout his years of involvement, Jeff has been part of several different programs. As a teen, he was a member of the Ithaca Youth Council, which he credits with helping him to develop his leadership skills, as well as part of Youth Employment Service (YES). Getting his first job through YES along with a variety of volunteer opportunities at the YB have been foundational to who he has become as an adult. These opportunities set Jeff on a path of community support and involvement that he still follows.
Today, Jeff continues to support the Youth Bureau and its programs through his membership with the FIYB where he serves as Chair of the Board. When asked about a favorite memory or highlight, Jeff shares, “I am proud to have been a part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Cass Park Enclosure, which was the culmination of years of hard work and effort by the city, the YB, and FIYB.” Looking back, Jeff also says, “The experiences I have had in my life as a user of, and volunteer, in YB programming have had a monumental impact on my life.”
Jeff hopes the community knows that the Ithaca Youth Bureau is a wonderful, diverse, and dynamic place that truly cares about the development of the community's youth. He is honored to have been a part of it for so long and looks forward to continuing to support its important work for many years to come.
When Suse Thomas applied for a job at Cass Park Rink in the late 80s, little did she know that it was the start of a journey with the Ithaca Youth Bureau that would shape her life in many ways. Working at Cass Park Rink led Suse to hold a variety of roles at the YB, from Assistant Manager to Head Guard to Assistant Recreation Supervisor. Although she held many different titles at the YB, she formed deep connections with colleagues and friends, many of whom she remains close with to this day.
Suse shares, “The Youth Bureau was more than just a job for me; it was a place of growth, opportunity, and lasting relationships. I had the privilege of watching the children I worked with grow into successful adults who are now making their own contributions to society. To see my "babies" become chefs, teachers, community leaders, musicians, and more has been the greatest gift of all.” She feels blessed that she had the opportunity to walk beside young people on their journeys and credits the Youth Bureau for providing a supportive and nurturing environment where these connections could flourish.
Looking back on her time at the Youth Bureau, Suse knows how impactful her job at Cass Park was, as it led her down a path that has been filled with love, learning, and growth. The Youth Bureau will always hold a special place in her heart and she’s grateful for the opportunities it provided her and for the lasting relationships that were formed during her time there.
Suse hopes that people know how valuable of a resource the YB is for the entire community because it “provides opportunities for people of all ages and is a place where lasting friendships are formed. The Youth Bureau plays an important role in shaping the fabric of our society, helping to build strong and vibrant communities.”
Youth development programs at the IYB would look very different if it weren’t for Alumni Bill Shaw. Starting in the early 60s, Bill began working to enhance youth involvement in civic affairs and nurture future community leaders in Ithaca and Tompkins County. His journey with the Ithaca Youth Bureau began when he joined others to establish the Tompkins County Youth Court, a unique program of peer justice for young defendants and a novel opportunity for youth leaders to engage constructively with the criminal justice system.
Bill rose through the ranks and became the Chief Judge in 1964. That experience let him to join and become Vice President, then President of the National Youth Councils on Civic Affairs in 1966. He persuaded other local youth and the Youth Bureau Director, Bob Cutia, to establish the Ithaca Youth Council on Civic Affairs (IYCCA). This initiative provided leadership opportunities, involvement in local government, and trend-setting services by its members (e.g. Fall Creek Youth Park, the first performing arts event at the Hangar). Now known as Youth Council Ambassadors (YCA), the goals and mission are similar; nearly sixty years later.
While studying at Cornell, Bill worked weekends overseeing the Youth Center, which was housed in the “Eagles Building,” 130 E. State, at the time. While working at the Youth Center, he developed a lifelong friendship with Bob Cutia. They shared the same passion for involving local teens in civic affairs and training them to be future community leaders.
One of Bill’s novel programs within the IYCCA was the Youth Employment Service (YES) in 1966. This program provided employment opportunities to youth; and services to homeowners in the City. The Youth Employment Service is still active in the Ithaca Youth Bureau.
Besides helping to create programs during those early years, Bill's commitment to youth and civic engagement led him to serve the community in many different ways. He was a collegiate and law student advisor for both the Youth Court and the IYCCA, offering guidance in the realm of civic affairs.
Bill returned to Ithaca after working with several agencies in Washington, D.C.. He chaired the Tompkins County Youth Board in the late Seventies, as well as the County Environmental Management Council, while working at TC3 as Assistant to the President.
His commitment and interest in civic affairs led Bill to seek election as Mayor of Ithaca in 1979, at the time the youngest candidate ever. He ran again in 1981 and served as our Mayor from 1982-83. In that capacity, he was able to strongly support the IYB and work closely, again, with Bob Cutia.
Bill opened his own law office, now Shaw & Murphy, and chaired and served on many other NFP boards. He was elected to serve as Covert Town Judge after moving to his home near Trumansburg, where he and his wife now live.
Because of Bill, his collaborations with Bob Cutia, and the motivated teens they worked with along the way, a strong foundation was laid to support local leaders of tomorrow. As we reflect on Bill Shaw's decades-long journey, we are reminded of the power of mentorship, dedication, and youthful spirit in shaping a better future for our community.
For Amber Denman, Stewart Park Day Camp (SPDC) has been more than just a summer camp; it's also been a place of growth, creativity, and fun. Along with her brothers, she was signed up as a camper back in 2000, and over the years progressed through the ranks, holding many different roles such as Counselor, Arts & Crafts Specialist, and Assistant Director. She is now in her 5th year of serving as Camp Director.
Many of Denman’s favorite memories involve participating in the "Specials" held at the end of each session. She shares, “Being able to provide fun activities and special treats, like ice cream, popcorn, and cotton candy for campers and staff, make it such a fun and inclusive environment.”
Amber’s experience with the IYB provided her with opportunities to learn about different cultures, make new friends, and gain a strong work ethic. Working with children and having her first job as a camp counselor has influenced her professional life; she works as a school social worker.
She also credits Todd Peterson for having a profound impact on her experiences at SPDC, both as a camper and in the variety of staff positions she’s held. “[Todd] established an environment where individuals felt welcomed and could experience activities in a place with so many possibilities to be creative and gain many new skills. Ever since I became the Camp Director, and especially since Todd passed away, it is my goal to continue working here each summer to provide a place where all individuals can experience new things, be creative, and gain many new skills and interests.”
Amber hopes the community is aware of the many activities and experiences that the YB offers to youth and families. She emphasizes that it is a place where young people can learn, grow, and make memories, and encourages all to see the positive impact it can have.
John Oakley first got involved with the Ithaca Youth Bureau 32 years ago when his five-year-old son played soccer. John recalls watching him run around, kicking the ball, and interacting with his teammates. Five years later, when John’s daughter wanted to play he decided to coach her team and continued to do so even after she stopped playing. Watching his children play and coaching his daughter’s soccer and Desi Jacobs softball team for six years was a joy for him because he loves seeing the players’ enjoyment and how much they improve over the season. Eventually, John was asked to be the league director for fall soccer and has been doing so with great pleasure for the last 18 years.
John’s experience with coaching and being a league director with the IYB inspired him to become a teacher because he wanted to help young people discover the joys of learning and playing. Although his time commitment to the YB may be small, he says volunteering and working with the soccer players, coaches, and referees each season is one of the things that makes him feel the most worthwhile.
A favorite coaching memory for John was when one of his players, who had previously enjoyed sitting out during soccer games, told him she wanted to run all game long. It was heartwarming for him to see how much joy she found in being active and playing with her teammates. It reminded him that letting a child realize the absolute joy of being active is what rec soccer is all about.
Overall, John feels people should know that the Ithaca Youth Bureau is one of the few places committed to supporting young people as they explore how to play with friends and strangers.
Working for the Ithaca Youth Bureau (IYB) was more than just a job for Robin Webb. It was the foundation for her professional career and the start of lifelong friendships. Robin says she was fortunate to have been hired as a Senior Account Clerk in 1983, working alongside Chris Wilbur and Carol Wilson to manage payroll and prepare financial statements for the IYB and Greater Ithaca Activities Center. During this time, the three of them formed a tight-knit team, quickly learning the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and customer service.
As part of the IYB, Robin worked to provide quality programs, often with limited resources and facilities. For example, when asbestos was found in the Old Tin Can building, she shared that they had to relocate to a temporary location in a strip mall. The YB was then housed in the City Hall Annex until the current building was completed in 1987. Despite challenges like this, they still continued to provide programs and services to residents.
The IYB was not just a place of work for her but also a place of learning. When Common Council decided to buy each department a computer, Robin was one of the few staff members who had any training in Computer Science, so she worked across departments to decide how to use the new equipment, which led her to discover how much she enjoyed Information Technology.
Robin also shares that her 16 years of working at the IYB gave her a unique perspective on customer service, which she carried with her for the next 21 years as part of the county and state government. The teamwork and collaboration required to provide quality programs at the IYB were addictive and became a cornerstone of her professional career, and she is thankful that her initial work with people started at the local level in Ithaca.
Today, 40 years later, she is still in touch with her former colleagues from the IYB and they often meet for lunch and to provide support to one another. The experience has taught her that building professional relationships is just as important as building professional skills.
For Robin, the IYB was more than just a place of work. It was a place of learning, growth, and lifelong friendships. Her time at the Youth Bureau has been invaluable in shaping her approach to teamwork, collaboration, and customer service.
We’re celebrating Youth Employment Service (YES) program leader Caitlin Lawrence as she celebrates her fourth year of working with area teens, helping them to navigate the world of work.
Since she was a teen, Caitlin has known she wanted to work with adolescents in a youth bureau or youth center setting; helping to plan a weekend-long teen event at her hometown youth bureau helped her realize this. She says, “It provided me with a much-needed sense of belonging and I recognized the lasting impact that a group like this can have on a young person. That was the first time I remember thinking, ‘I want to work at a youth bureau!’” Though she has held a variety of other jobs in the years that followed, ultimately she found her way back to her original goal of working at a youth bureau.
YES is impactful to its participants in many ways, but the biggest impact according to Caitlin is, “The relationship and one on one support provided by the YES Rep...I think many teens appreciate that kind of care and attention with a mentor.” Along with the dedicated support of YES staff, being part of the program also allows teens to gain real-life experiences and real-world knowledge through workshops, trainings, and summer jobs.
Caitlin and her co-workers continually ensure their program is as equitable and efficient as possible, while also providing teens with the support they need in their first work experience. Empowering participants and watching them flourish and grow into young adults is rewarding to her and gives her hope for the future. Although Caitlin is passionate about every aspect of the program, one of the things that gets her most excited is when a YESConnect teen gets hired for a job they applied for.
Her fellow staff members also make the job fun. Recently when one co-worker left for a new job, Caitlin shared how they gave her a proper send-off. “We gathered a few instruments, conjured our musical talents, and gave Charlene the performance she deserved on her last day of work! We sang and played to the tune of "Jolene" by Dolly Parton, even included some chilling harmonies.” Sounds like a proper send-off, indeed.
Cheers to Caitlin on her work anniversary! The Youth Bureau is grateful for her continual support of area teens and for helping them build a solid foundation for their future. Congratulations!
Daquan Rockett (AKA Rockett) first got involved with the IYB in 2005, when he played basketball in the YB Rec Department’s youth basketball league. Soon after, he enrolled in the College Discovery Program (CDP) which he remained a part of until he graduated high school. CDP participants are able to take part in a number of different components while in the program which range from mentoring and family dinners to campus visits and a 3-week summer program. As a participant, Rockett’s favorite memories are from his first summer trip with the program.
Fast forward to 2019 when he began working with another YB department, the Paul Schreurs Memorial Program (PSMP), as a seasonal employee until he once again joined CDP as a full-time staff member in June of 2021.
When asked about his time with the Ithaca Youth Bureau Rockett credits the organization for shaping him into the man he is today. Through his experiences, he learned how to approach things with an open mind and to be non-judgmental. He emphasizes the importance of treating everybody with respect and doing the right thing, as many positives can come from it.
As he transitioned from a participant to a staff member, he gained a new perspective that created an appreciation for the job and helped him to realize the patience that is sometimes needed in working with different personalities of the youth in the program.
Being a part of the Youth Bureau has created friends and connections that he will have for the rest of his life. Above all, he wants people to know that the Ithaca Youth Bureau is about inclusivity and that all kids have the opportunity to be a part of this organization.
**photos courtesy of Daquan Rockett
For over three decades, Karen Friedeborn worked tirelessly at the Ithaca Youth Bureau (IYB) to serve and empower the youth of Ithaca. Her journey with IYB began in 1981 when she started working with Youth Employment Service through a federal jobs program called CETA. Over the years, she held various roles at IYB and created programs that had a significant impact on the community.
As a Special Projects and Events Coordinator, Friedeborn created new programs and helped bring them to an underserved population. She was also an administrator, serving as the Youth Development Division Coordinator. Friedeborn's children were also involved in many IYB programs, from Kiwanis Baseball to Expressive Arts to summer day camps.
One of Friedeborn's favorite memories of her time at IYB was starting new programs and securing funding for them. She brought in over $1 million in grant funding and was instrumental in creating several programs, including the Youth Employment Service Municipal Jobs Program, Café Cayuga, Youth Council, and the Urban Rural Adventure Program, among others. Friedeborn was also involved in addressing racial tensions in the community, including leading weekend retreats with diverse groups of teens to promote cross-cultural understanding and address racism.
Friedeborn's experience at IYB impacted her life significantly. She worked at the YB for 34 years until her retirement in 2015, and she loved every minute of it. She appreciated the flexibility of her role and the ability to work towards social justice in every role she held. Additionally, Friedeborn was able to balance work and family life when her children were young, which was a significant benefit of working at IYB.
Reflecting on her time at IYB, Friedeborn recalled one person who stood out in making her time at the YB memorable: Sam Cohen. “Sam Cohen was Youth Development Coordinator in the first part of my career and then IYB Director for many years,” Karen says. “He really helped me understand and develop my strengths and inspired me as a boss.”
Overall, Friedeborn believes that people should know about the great diversity of programming at IYB and the diversity of children served. She attests that there is something for everyone, and the impact of IYB on the community is immeasurable.