YMCA center on Casino Road gets new name

The name wasn’t inaccurate, just incomplete. Kids aren’t the only ones finding help and an inviting community at a center on Everett’s Casino Road.

This week brings a new name for what had been the YMCA Casino Road Youth Development Center. It’s now the YMCA Casino Road Community Center.

“This has evolved way past a youth after-school drop-in place,” said Cory Armstrong-Hoss, associate executive and director of evaluation with the Mukilteo Family YMCA.

It was September 2011 when the Mukilteo Family YMCA opened the center in the Children’s Village complex at 14 E Casino Road. The site, renovated by the YMCA of Snohomish County, is near seven schools and about 40 apartment complexes. The apartments are home to many immigrant and low-income families.

Over the past five years, more than 500 children and teens have been served annually at the center. Thousands of nutritious meals have been served. The center provides homework help, computer access, mentoring and simply a safe place to be after school.

It’s also a hub for the Y’s Minority Achievers Program, which helps teens strive toward college.

Doing all that has brought opportunities to help the area’s adults.

When the YMCA came to Children’s Village in 2011, there was a small English language learning program. “It was run by teenagers, and it was kind of on life support,” Armstrong-Hoss said Tuesday. “We were serving kids in the afternoon, and many of their parents didn’t speak English.”

He said the Y was approached by Todd McNeal to take over the English program. McNeal is executive director of Hand in Hand, an Everett-based nonprofit that provides short-term shelter for children entering foster care.

At first, the YMCA used its own staff to teach English language learners. By 2012, the YMCA had forged a partnership with Seattle Goodwill to provide English classes at the center. Goodwill has a job training and education center near the Everett Mall, but doesn’t provide child care.

“They sometimes have to turn away moms because they don’t allow kids in a classroom,” Armstrong-Hoss said.

Today, the newly named YMCA Casino Road Community Center provides English and other adult education classes, with free child care offered, along with GED preparation classes in Spanish and a Spanish play-and-learn group for young children.

And there is a new partnership with Edmonds Community College to offer high-level English language classes at the center. That coalition, between the YMCA of Snohomish County, Seattle Goodwill and EdCC, is called the Casino Road Adult Education Academy. “The first class is about to end,” Armstrong-Hoss said.

Students in the adult academy are offered family YMCA memberships at an 85 percent discount, giving children from the Casino Road area access to the Mukilteo Y.

“Now we’re seeing more kids coming for swim lessons and sports, and more moms are coming,” Armstrong-Hoss said.

There are still more goals.

“The dream is to have additional classes for credit,” Armstrong-Hoss said. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if parents on Casino Road could get credit for classes they take at Children’s Village?”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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