Above and Beyond

Jan. 13- 19, 2005
Above and Beyond
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
CYO After School Program Offers Young People More Than Athletics

FULTON — Students in the Fulton area have a great resource at their fingertips. The Fulton CYO is offering computer access and tutoring assistance through its After School Program. CYO Program Director Jim Smiley said, “The After School Program was established to help meet the needs of the students. The program offers area youth the opportunity to come to CYO and use our computers to do their homework and get familiar with operating a computer and using different software.” Smiley, Justin Shepard, a G. Ray Bodley High School senior, and Christina O’Neil, an Oswego State senior, all teach the computer program. O’Neil finds it very rewarding when she interacts with the youth. “It’s been nice to see the kids advance themselves,” said O’Neil. “It’s a very good opportunity for both the staff and the youth.” In addition to computer access, students can also seek help from a tutor who is part of the After School Program. The tutoring aspect was a natural extension of the program. “We have a college student on staff who enjoys working with the younger students and helping them with their studies,” added Smiley. O’Neil assists Smiley with tutoring. A psychology major, she enjoys motivating the youth. She hopes that more youth will come to participate in the program. “I’d like to help a greater number of kids,” said O’Neil. “I love to tutor kids.”

The CYO offers additional educational assistance for youth. Reading programs are offered for younger children. The CYO has also added educational presentations on a variety of pertinent topics to meet the changing needs of today’s youth. “Youth are dealing with different issues and concerns today than they did in the past,” said Smiley. “We try to help them with these issues by bringing in guest speakers and offering them the opportunity to take part in awareness groups that help educate them on topics such as abstinence, alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse, self-esteem and other relevant issues. We are always looking for ways to help area youth. If there is a need for a new program, we will do our best to accommodate it whether it benefits five students or 35 students.”

The CYO Program was created in 1961, when the three Catholic churches in the Fulton area – Holy Family, St. Michael and Immaculate Conception, realized the need to provide youth with recreational activities in a safe and welcoming environment. It has evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of area youth. Smiley, who has guided the program for the past 25 years, was instrumental in expanding the depth of the programs offered through the CYO. “When I came on board in 1979, the CYO Program was very structured,” said Smiley.” It was pretty much basketball leagues, open gym time and some arts and crafts were also offered. There were also separate days for boys and girls.”

Even though the CYO was serving a substantial number of area youth, Smiley saw the potential for the program to grow and accommodate even more youth. “I conducted surveys to find out what youth we were serving and what they would like to see offered at the CYO,” said Smiley. His goal was to increase the number of youth using the CYO by creating an atmosphere that would not only appeal to them, but also benefit them as well. As a result of the survey, Smiley developed a less structured and supervised schedule that allowed more freedom as to what recreational activities the youth could participate in. “After being in school all day, they appreciated the fact that they could relax and enjoy themselves with the games and activities,” added Smiley.

The establishment of a summer program in early 1980 was another result of the surveys. He found that a large number of youth expressed an interest in coming to CYO during the summer. To accommodate their request, Smiley and his staff developed a six-week summer program that the youth could attend as often as they wanted. The summer program provides youth with the use of the CYO facilities as well as supervised trips to area parks for swimming and other outdoor activities. The program serves hundreds of youth throughout Oswego County. The summer program combines recreational activities with a series of informative seminars and demonstrations that provide youth with an enlightening and enjoyable experience. The CYO has recently hosted demonstrations by Menter Ambulance, the Fulton Canine Unit and the Oswego County Health Department. Last summer the CYO hosted a seminar on abstinence, which continued into the fall.

For the past 43 years, the CYO Program has been a positive influence in the lives of area youth and the community as well. The CYO program offers youth a safe place to go where they can feel comfortable and welcomed. It helps them become better citizens by providing them with positive support and adult role models that are necessary for them to develop into well-rounded persons who can make a difference in the community. For more information on the program, contact Smiley at (315) 598-3980.

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