Nurturing Growth at the Joe Williams Family Center

In Lower Price Hill, socio-economic obstacles frequently constrain possibilities, with community members navigating difficulties like limited income, elevated unemployment levels, and a lack of resources.

At the Joe Williams Family Center (JWFC), our Youth Development program staff focuses on highlighting strengths and fostering connections. Jessica Polzin, Youth Development Program Coordinator, explains, “We’ve noticed that when we look for the good, we encourage the students to follow suit.” This positive focus not only boosts morale and self-confidence but also strengthens mental health and motivation.

Our youth are developing their leadership skills and building trust with the supportive adults at the center which also includes Nancy Laird, Youth Development Program Administrative Assistant, Amelia O’Donnell, Youth Development Education Facilitator, and Bri Wilson, Youth Development Program Director. “The students have pride in their community, school, and within themselves,” Jessica said.

JWFC staff recently asked students to complete in a fun contest by writing about how the JWFC has impacted them. Two winners were chosen in two different age categories. Our 10th grade winner said, “The Joe Williams Family Center has changed my life for the better. I feel way more connected with my community. Even more so with my peers. Meeting the amazing staff and volunteers as well. In short, I feel at home here!” This sense of belonging is crucial for youth development.

Our 7th grade winner stated, “Joe Williams Family Center has a positive impact on my life because every Tuesday and Thursday I have somewhere to go and when I do come, I feel comfortable enough to be myself here. And I don’t feel like that about many places, and I have a very good connection with their staff and they treat me like family. And I like helping them clean after hours to make their lives easier.”

The center is a hub of activity where students like a 5th grade student can, “get out more and hang out with my friends,” enjoying games, ping pong, and cooking. Older students find purpose and learn new skills, with a 10th grader mentioning, ” The Joe Williams Family Center has helped me by giving me a purpose in life instead of sitting around. It has also helped me learn things I never knew.”

Students also contribute to the vibrant culture at JWFC. A 9th grader expressed how he enjoys mentoring younger children and helping around the center, saying, I like coming to the center because there are a lot of activities.” He said that he helps calm down kids, clean up, and even step in to do the dishes if needed. He shared Jessica’s earlier sentiment by saying, “I sometimes play air hockey with the kids and if they win I compliment them.”

At JWFC, each student not only grows personally but becomes a part of a larger, supportive family. Another 9th grade student said, “Personally, visiting the center helps me unwind and serves as a welcoming alternative to returning home immediately.” Our youth become teaching vessels for the younger youth, inspiring others and making a lasting impact on our community. It’s a place where they can find support, engage in enjoyable activities, and feel truly valued. The 9th grader continued, “The family center has been instrumental in providing me with support and assistance in various ways.” He said the staff are compassionate and their presence is comforting.

As we celebrate Santa Maria Community Services Day today in Ohio, we hope you will consider making a gift to the H.A. Musser Fund to support our youth development program so that we may continue to provide quality programming to youth at our Joe Williams Family Center.