New Paltz Youth Center hosts free 30th Birthday Party

The New Paltz Youth Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and it has a big party scheduled for August 10. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

On September 2, 1989, after several years of migrating among various locations, including the Middle School and the St. Joseph’s Church basement, the New Paltz Youth Program found a permanent home at 220 Main Street. That makes this summer the 30th anniversary for the current Youth Center, sometimes known as the Teen Seen. Program director Jim Tinger has been around for the last 25 of those years, and he has been busy since the school year ended organizing various ways of celebrating the community organization’s big milestone.

“We’ve been doing fundraisers, such as car washes, and having more trips over the summer than usual,” Tinger reports. “We’re having a bunch of different events to honor the 30th year. You know we sponsor an ongoing series of movies down at the Water Street Market, but this Monday, we’re showing The Simpsons Movie. It’s the 30th anniversary of The Simpsons this year as well, so we thought that was appropriate.”

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That screening will be over by the time this issue hits the newsstands, but the big culminating event is yet to come: This Saturday, August 10 from 2 to 7 p.m., the New Paltz Youth Program 30th Birthday Party will take place at the Youth Center. “It’s free, and it’s open to everybody. Anybody can come,” says Tinger. Many former employees, interns and volunteers are expected to show up, as well as many former youths who have taken advantage of the Center’s program offerings over the decades.

Some of these special guests are expected to offer themselves up for a public drenching in a dunk tank, according to Tinger: “Certainly I’ll be there.” But what about the potential victims whom many people consider most heartily deserving of such soggy humiliation, local politicos? Tinger isn’t promising anything. “We’ll see if we can get Neil [Bettez, New Paltz town supervisor] to show up for that one. It’s kind of a hard sell.” Dignitaries dropping by to offer their congratulations to the organization would be well-advised to bring a towel, however.

Besides the dunking booth, attractions at the Birthday Party will include organized games for the whole family, a bounce house for little ones and music provided by a deejay going by the handle of DJ Jay Smooth, whose secret identity is Johnny Coxum. “He’s an officer on campus,” says Tinger. “He does a lot on the side.” There will also be a huge free barbecue, featuring “tons of food donated by local businesses.” Inside the Center, Tinger is hanging a gallery display of photo collages of program users, staff and volunteers going all the way back to 1994. Alumni should have fun finding pictures of themselves and people they knew in their teen and tween years.

One disappointment for Tinger is the fact that the new van that the Center has ordered for field trips, and paid for by a combination of developer fees to the town, donations and fundraising events over the past year or more, will not be ready in time to put on display at this event. The vehicle is not scheduled to be delivered until the end of August.

But that’s just a minor glitch, he notes. “Around 4:30 [p.m.] we’re going to have cake and a toast” – non-alcoholic, of course. “There will be a little ceremony… It should be a good party.”

Reflecting back on the Youth Program’s three-decade history, Tinger notes that program offerings have come a very long way, thanks in part to consistent support from the Town of New Paltz under many different administrations. “When I started, there wasn’t any educational component, there wasn’t any weekend program. So I started the tutoring and the GAMES program. Kids were getting in trouble because they were bored. We needed to offer programming on nights and weekends: the crucial times when they’re most at risk.”

Nowadays, the Youth Center supplies “more tutoring than any other school district in New York State,” with volunteer tutors – mostly interns and work/study students from SUNY New Paltz – participating in 60 classes a day at the Middle School during the spring semester, 30 to 40 in the fall. The long-running Saturday night GAMES program has been on hiatus since the Middle School renovation project began, but it will resume its 7-to-10 p.m. hours at Lenape Elementary School this September.

A “really successful” new program that was piloted at the High School last fall, called Cafeteria Alternative for Everyone (CAFE), will be back this September during the Monday, Wednesday and Friday lunch blocks. Geared toward students who aren’t comfortable with the “drama” that characterizes the regular cafeteria environment, CAFE offers casual drop-in spaces in the small gym and a former guidance office where high school students can play basketball, play games or musical instruments, get counseling, do homework or simply hang out. Tinger says that 50 to 75 students per day were taking advantage of the program during the parts of the 2018/19 school year that it was in operation. Now it’s official, with a contract signed between the Youth Program and the school district, and will be offered throughout the school year.

To learn more about the New Paltz Youth Program, call (845) 255-5140 or e-mail newpaltzyp@gmail.com. For more details on the Birthday Party, including updates on where to park (as of presstime, at the Middle School), visit www.facebook.com/events/new-paltz-youth-center/the-npyps-30th-birthday-party/393865441245688. To RSVP, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/the-npyps-30th-birthday-party-tickets-65187566767.

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