Fitz Center YESS program strives to improve community

By: Laney Gibson – Staff Writer

The Fitz Center offers many programs to students that combine traditional classroom learning with community engagement and service. These programs include Civic Scholars, River Stewards and Semester of Service. This summer, I had the good fortune to participate in Semester of Service at Daybreak Youth Shelter. It was an awesome experience that truly showed me what the Fitz Center has to offer students. I was exposed to a new side of the city of Dayton and felt that I finally experienced the “community” atmosphere the University of Dayton routinely advertises.

My experience was so positive with both Daybreak and the Fitz Center that I decided to apply for their newest project, the Americorps Youth Economic Self Sufficiency (YESS) program. This summer I witnessed the program unfold with the guidance of many talented individuals at the Fitz Center and was extremely excited when I found out I was accepted to the program. The YESS program is through the government -funded volunteer Americorps. The overall goals of the program are to connect youth to the necessary resources to be successful financially and through employment, become self-sufficient.

The program is unique because as YESS program members, we work with a community of university students and Daybreak youth who are also Americorps members and peer mentors. The mix of experiences, ages and backgrounds creates a truly enriching community experience. Working alongside community members reflects some of the core values of the Fitz Center and helps create relationships with the Dayton community beyond our university bubble.

However, the program does not simply promote community service; it encourages active participation in the community, becoming advocates for change and thinking critically about important issues regarding the youth of Dayton. I think that this program will be successful and is a great addition to the already wonderful programs for students the Fitz Center has to offer.

But more students need to take advantage of the community-building programs the Fitz Center can connect them with. I was not exposed to the educational programming at the Fitz Center until I participated in Semester of Service and have only been involved in the YESS program for a few weeks, but already I can see how this program will take shape and help me learn more about being an advocate for change and working for the betterment of our community. I am lucky to work with such dedicated individuals at both Daybreak and UD and encourage students to take a look at what the Fitz Center has to offer – and to experience a different idea of the word “community.”

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