SHERMAN - The Sherman Town Board has given its backing to a proposal to create a center aimed at helping area youth and their parents learn life skills.
Michelle Swabik, an 11-year resident of Sherman, outlined a three-year plan for the board to create "The Rural Center." The mission of the center, Swabik said, "is to instill positive attitudes and social behaviors among the youth of the rural surrounding areas and within the Sherman community."
Swabik said the center will focus mainly on older teens and will reach out to several groups of youth, including those from out of town who come to Sherman for sports or other activities, home-schoolers, Amish youth and those from other communities who are in town during the weekend. It will also engage clubs, such as the PTA and boys' and girls' clubs, as well as offer workshops for parents.
The center has three goals, Swabik said. The first is to provide education and social activities to youth with the objective of teaching them healthy and successful life skills, including budgeting, cooking and college skills, providing fun activities such as basketball and go-cart racing and to become leaders of drug and alcohol-free living for other youth in the area.
The second goal is to help the parents of area youths develop and maintain healthy life skills they can pass on to their children. The center will hold workshops on topics such as discerning problems youth experience, parenting skills and gardening and preserving food.
"I hear a lot of parents saying, 'I remember my parents canning, but I don't know how to do it,'" Swabik said.
The third goal is to use volunteers, especially youth, to help others learn healthy life skills. This will involve a four-session training workshop to teach volunteers to be mentors.
Swabik told the board she is not asking for financial support, but "a working relationship" that will help the center find the people needed to operate it. Income for the center will come from memberships, special events, facility rental and foundational grants and gifts, she said.
The center is in the planning phase, which includes gathering 600 signatures of support, establishing bylaws, interviewing board members and completing a location study, Swabik said. This should be completed by February.
The second phase will be to seek incorporation, start fundraising, and apply for grants. It should be complete by February of 2014. The third phase will be the actual opening of the center. This has a target date of December 2014.
The center will have part-time employees who will serve 20 hours a week, Swabik said. It will also be staffed by mentors, including six teenagers who will each be responsible for a day of the week.
"I understand this is a really big vision," Swabik said. She noted that she has a bachelor's degree in social work.
"This is my field. I know what I'm getting into," she said.
The board was unanimous in its support of the proposal.
"It's a good vision and very exciting," said Mark Persons, town supervisor.