Y gets $1M grant for 'metamedia' youth center

An image from the FUSE website.

The Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation has given the McGaw YMCA a gift of $1 million to construct and support the start-up of a MetaMedia Youth Center.

The center is a partnership of the Y with Youth Organizations Umbrella and Northwestern University is meant to provide an innovative, youth-driven approach to providing out-of-school learning and personal development opportunities for under-served middle school youth in Evanston.

MetaMedia will provide access to advanced technology, music and video production, creative design, and additional tools and networks.

Northwestern’s FUSE program which connects youth to real-world STEAM -- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Design, and Math -- tools and practices will be one of the programs incorporated into the MetaMedia offerings.

Construction will begin in October, with an expected opening next January.

“We are excited for the opportunity to create a space at the McGaw YMCA where future leaders will attain the support, skills and experiences needed to transform their lives and their community," Mark A. Dennis Jr., president and CEO of the McGaw YMCA, said in a statement. "We are grateful to the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation for conceiving of this project, and for their investment in our youth."

“McGaw YMCA and Y.O.U. are longtime community partners of Northwestern and we look forward to working together on this exciting new opportunity for youth in our community,” said Kemi Jona, research professor of learning sciences and computer science at Northwestern and director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships. 

“We truly believe this space will deeply engage and excite the minds of our youth, and enable us both to engage new youth and to increase our impact among those we already serve,” said Seth Green, executive director of Y.O.U.

The Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation is tied to three families who are long-time McGaw members and have long called Evanston their home:  Chuck Lewis and Penny Sebring, Peter and Rachel Lewis, and Casey Lewis Varela and George Varela. Casey is a member of the McGaw YMCA Board of Directors, and Penny is a former board member.

FUSE is an interest-driven learning model created by Jona and his colleague Dr. Reed Stevens at Northwestern University to engage pre-teens and teens in STEAM topics while fostering the development of critical 21st century skills, including adaptive problem-solving, creativity, self-directed learning, and persistence.

Y.O.U. is a youth development agency that has been providing services and leadership to meet the emerging needs of young people and their families in Evanston for more than 40 years.

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