Somersworth Youth Connection, continuing to build
Somersworth’s “Bright Future”
In 2007 Somersworth Youth Connection, fondly known as SYC, first opened its doors at Somersworth Middle School, funded by a Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. The program served middle school students, supporting them beyond the typical hours of the school day, providing academic support, countless enriching extracurricular educational opportunities, and embracing Hilltopper values. In 2012, when the first grant cycle came to an end, SYC applied for, and was awarded, additional grant funds to allow for the expansion to provide these same supports, services, and opportunities to elementary school students and their families. In 2017, SYC was awarded the grant for a third time, becoming one of the longest grant-awarded programs in the state, and receiving one of the highest overall scores in the state due to the quality and diversity of services provided, as well as the level of collaboration with school and Community partners.
With each grant cycle however, the question of how SYC would become a sustainable program, and continue to provide the vital programming that supports students and families of this community before and after school became increasingly important. Each cycle, one truth was becoming more and more inevitable; forever functioning off of grant funds was just not going to be possible, and an end date was approaching.
With this inevitability in mind, in December of 2020 the Joint Commission of the City Council and School Board pledged their support in continuing this program even if grant funding was not available, and suggested financial support from both the School and City in the future. To ensure all options could be explored and discussed, the Mayor's office named The SYC Task Force. The task force aimed at studying the program and exploring creative models to propose a plan to keep SYC in operation. As the Commission continued their work and deep dive into exploring options, all members were in agreement that SYC is an integral part of the Somersworth Community and must continue to be supported.
In February of 2021 a resolution to commit to continuing support for the program was drafted by the SYC Task Force. This Resolution was sponsored by the Mayor, every School Board member, and every City Councilor, and was unanimously passed by both the School Board and City Council. Over the course of the 10 months the SYC Task Force learned of the increasing threats to cut 21st Century Grant funding at the federal level, and increasing restrictions on use of funds & program requirements that made it challenging to build a sustainable program that meets the needs of our Hilltopper Community. At the same time, each grant cycle came with decreased funding, and a decreased likelihood of being re-awarded the grant. In December of 2021 a funding model was developed between the City and the School, creating a shared ownership and responsibility keeping SYC an integral part of the Hilltopper Community.
SYC is now reaching it’s 16th year of programming and has continued to work with school, City, local business, families, and community partners to continue to grow a program focused on positive youth development, and embraces and teaches Hilltopper values such as diversity, tolerance, civic engagement, community service, and lifelong learning. From physical activity and fitness, to wellness and prevention; from science and engineering to technology and programming; from reading and writing, to yoga and mindfulness; from summer learning, to first-job training; from college and career readiness activities, to volunteer opportunities; from academic supports to nutritious meals and a safe place to be. SYC has developed itself into more than just a program, it is a reflection of who we are as Hilltoppers and embeds the Hilltopper values into the next generation of Somersworth citizens everyday.