PLAINFIELD, NJ - Despite Wednesday's heat, a crowd gathered at Second Street Youth Center (SSYC), the innovative new early childhood education and community youth center featuring 14 state-of-the-art classrooms, a playground, and a 1,000 square foot aquaponic urban farm and agricultural education center, for its ribbon cutting ceremony.
SSYC is an anchor institution in Plainfield, a community non-profit organization founded in 1967 that provides pre-school, after school, youth leadership, and summer enrichment programs to local youth.
Executive Director Leah Dade kicked off the day's ceremony, saying that a team of people "summoned the will to make an impossible, improbable dream inevitable.”
Dade said the greatest return on investment you can do is to invest in the lives of children in the early childhood space.
Reverend Ronald Thomas, SSYC Board President added, “This building that stands before you today represents two stories. The story of Second Street Youth Center, and the story of Plainfield. This building represents a transformation of a dream to a present day reality. This building represents a history that began fifty years ago in the time of trouble in Plainfield and this community. This building is built on the foundation of fifty years of continuous service to the community.”
Councilman Barry Goode belted out “America the Beautiful,” followed by Patrick Terborg of TD+ Partners, who thanked everyone who worked on the project from the early stages of development to construction.
Terborg had said, “For TD+Partners development is about more than just constructing buildings; it is about making a measurable impact in communities. We are especially proud to partner with Second Street Youth Center and the city of Plainfield on this project because we measure our success by the impact that we have on the neighborhoods where we develop. This project will not only improve the academic lives of underserved children, but it is also creating over 100 jobs and helping to revitalize an economically challenged neighborhood.”
Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp noted, "Those of you who know me and have read some of my writings, you will know that I have a passion for education. And so it was very easy for me to support this project."
Mapp continued, "But this building is about education, about the future of Plainfield. And in terms of education, there is no one who has done more for education in our city of Plainfield than these two individuals that you see right here, Charles and Anna Booker. They are responsible for the integration of the schools here in Plainfield and the integration of schools across the state of New Jersey. Let's hear it for the Bookers!"
Mapp said he was thrilled with the SSYC early childhood and education center, and it is a dream come true for the city. He called it a symbol for true community engagement, and a safe haven for young people.
Other speakers included Sara Pena, Director of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research & Development; Zach McCue from Senator Cory Booker's office; Assemblywoman Linda Carter; and Union County Freeholder Rebecca Williams.
Evelyn Motley, who is the Director of the Office of Early Childhood Programs and Services in the public school district, also spoke.
The new facility and urban farm were financed by New Jersey Community Capital and M&T Bank.
Closing remarks were made by Developer Jim Petrucci of J.G. Petrucci Co., Inc. "Facilities matter. Facilities give a leg up."
He continued, "We're going to take the young talent we have. We're going to take the love and passion that Leah has. We're going to take the town that is on the rise under Mayor Mapp, and we're going to put all those ingredients together," adding, "it makes a statement to the children, it makes a statement to the parents, and it's critically important that we do this."
Petrucci concluded by saying, "I will tell you this, this is not our last project in Plainfield."
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