The Village Exchange Center Village Youth Club is back in action this fall after being shut down by the pandemic last spring. Not without challenges, the program has been getting back on its feet with recent additions to the team: Austin Lazek (our new Youth Program Manager) and Alex Rios Muñoz (Program Assistant). Our team fosters student safety by checking temperatures, ensuring students wear masks and stay socially distant, and updating students on best health practices.
In the midst of lingering shutdowns, Austin has worked to partner with neighboring organizations, including Stanley Marketplace, where students will learn theater arts and musical performance basics; the City of Aurora Parks and Open Spaces, where students participate in urban farming, nature hikes, and outings; and the Christian Family Community Martial Arts (CFCMA), which will teach Tae Kwon Do. Early next year shows promise as well. Our kids will learn hands-on about equestrian care, how to ride a horse, and farm operations (livestock, gardening, etc.) at The Urban Farm, a new partnership.
VEC Youth Club also focuses on academic support and mentoring. Students from the surrounding neighborhood in northwest Aurora attend this program Monday through Thursday afternoons from 3-6pm. Each afternoon we spend some of our time together offering academic support in reading and provide tutoring as well. We hope this fills in the gaps in online learning. Students attend local schools, includin Crawford Elementary, Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, or Aurora Central and have been adjusting to online learning and a remote in-person hybrid school model this term. It's been a challenging time, but VEC continues to provide its neighborhood youth a fun, safe place to go each day. Here, they receive a snack, run around, and learn something new from mentors and coaches. Perhaps most importantly during this time of tremendous isolation and stress, our youth form part of a community of peers that are supportive and engaged with each other.