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.