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.