YES Center Slowly On the Rise

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 By Meghan Steingold                                                                                    Living In the Ledge

Grand Ledge’s own YES (Youth Enrichment Services) Center is growing minimally but still intends to expand and continue to inspire the youth of the community with the help of Executive Director Jay Miller.

Since 2011 when Miller began at YES, the number of kids has increased, and although not substantially, the center is continuously finding ways to expand their program.

“The YES Center is strictly a recreational center for middle and high school youth with lots of opportunities for fun,” Grand Ledge High School Student Coordinator Laura Wyble said.

Jay Miller, Michigan State University graduate, started working for the YES Center in 2011 in an attempt to take a new career path despite his degree in Parks and Recreation.

“I used to be a park director, driving bulldozers, and I hated my job so I wanted to take my career on a different path,” Miller stated.

What he did not know were the lives he would change and the extent to which he would aid the community.

To Miller, working at YES is rewarding “being a role model for students, and helping some of the kids who truly need help. If I can change, influence or help one student for the better then all of my hard work is worth it.”

In the past four years, the average number of kids that utilize the facilities every day has increased from four to 10. “Ever since 2011, people began to know who we are. It’s a place to hang out after school and do your homework and just chill out,” Miller said.

In addition to their routine games of pool and homework help, the activities director, Sherry Doty-Renton, plans field trips, cooking lessons and other activities for the kids to partake in.

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Pool being her favorite YES Center activity, Kimi Guerra, 14, loves to play against the other kids who utilize the after school program. “I love playing pool, and I’m not really a video game person so it’s always fun,” Guerra stated.

“Once a month we have a movie outing at the Sun Theater, we go to the city gym occasionally and this summer we are planning to take a trip to Michigan Adventure,” Doty-Renton said when asked about the types of field trips she organizes.

Kimi Guerra, 14 years old and a Grand Ledge High School attendee, is a common face of the YES Center. Being one of the older kids of the center Guerra said, “Not many of my friends come here much anymore, but it’s a place to go after school and I usually go every day.” According to Miller, as kids get older they start to feel “too cool” for YES, but sometimes return in their late high school years to help out.

Of the many goals that YES set out to achieve, alcohol and DRUG ABUSE prevention is of major priority. The city has implemented the In School Probation PROGRAM, which is paired with YES to help troubled kids.

If a minor is caught in school with drugs, alcohol or any paraphernalia, they are then tested. If positive, they are eligible to partake in the program that negates the 45-day expulsion, according to Miller. 

“They have to be to school on time, and take weekly drug drops. If they are successful, instead of prosecution, their record is cleared,” Miller said. However, if the student relapses, they are to deal with the police department.

Wyble said, “We have found funding for prevention and intervention programs that the school district would not normally be able to AFFORD.”

Since YES is free of cost to all kids, funding is scarce. “We get money through the Juvenile Justice Program to help keep the lights on and upkeep the house,” Miller said. 

With little money, grants are still in demand to help keep the program afloat. This is done through various fundraisers including a “Grease” themed silent auction at the Grand Ledge Opera House.

Just arriving to the YES Center after a day of school, Jenny Roesch, 13, engages in a conversation with YES employee Sherry Doty-Renton. Roesch has been attending the YES Center for two years and has become rather close with Doty-Renton.

Just arriving to the YES Center after a day of school, Jenny Roesch, 13, engages in a conversation with YES employee Sherry Doty-Renton. Roesch has been attending the YES Center for two years and has become rather close with Doty-Renton.

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