Our Story

Syracuse Community Center

In the winter of 2008 St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Syracuse, Indiana, adopted a strategic planning approach to community outreach. That spring they conducted a door-to-door survey of 223 homes, to determine the perceived needs of people in the greater Syracuse Indiana area. The survey demonstrated that many people, both parents, and non-parents, believe that youth needed something to do during their free time.

In the fall of 2008, a second survey was conducted, involving 264 students at Wawasee High School. The survey indicated that youth need a place to “hang out”, where they can enjoy an unstructured activity, including relaxation and games. The survey also showed us that many youths are struggling with school, and need one-on-one tutoring, to help them meet their academic requirements. In addition, our research indicates that youth are negatively impacted by broken families and a lack of positive role models. Likewise, most teenagers do not have a spiritual foundation, upon which to make constructive choices in their lives.

To address these needs, St. Andrew’s funded the formation of a public charity in September of 2009, called Syracuse Community Youth Initiative, Inc. The Syracuse Community Youth Initiative became a collaborative effort, drawing resources from other not-for-profits, churches, service clubs, private individuals, foundations, and government funds. We began meeting in the Syracuse Community Center every Thursday, from 3:30 – 7 p.m.

Wawasee High School

In the spring of 2014, we officially changed our name to “Rock Solid Teen Center,” with plans to eventually expand our mission to share our insights and experience with parties interested in starting a youth center in mid to small towns and communities beyond the greater Syracuse area.

In the winter of 2015, we moved to the Wawasee High School cafeteria. We were grateful for the use of space, but we needed a location with more storage and designated space. We met at All Saints Episcopal Church and later, Wawasee Baptist Church. Numbers continued to decline in Syracuse, as a good location plays a key role in attracting youth to attend. Our Syracuse affiliate closed due to the COVID-19 shutdown and has not reopened.

Discussions were started with the Rinker Boat Company to purchase their old fitness center for $1. After presenting a business plan, Rinker indicated that they were agreeable to the purchase. However, about a week before signing the contract, Polaris purchased Rinker Boat Company. Originally they told us to move ahead with our plans but eventually withdrew the offer. The Polaris Foundation has a policy of not supporting nonprofits that have a faith component. It will forever be an opportunity missed.

The Board concluded that a one-day-a-week program in a church facility is not a viable approach. Rock Solid Teen Centers need to meet in a facility with designated space. As a result, we suspended our Syracuse affiliate until a more ideal location could be found.

North Manchester Firehouse

In the fall of 2019, we completed renovations of the “Firehouse” building, our North Manchester location. The building is owned by the town, and the Fire House Committee assists us in paying utilities by raising funds to rent out the facility. Although not an exact model of our generic teen center, it’s very similar and has all the components of our model design:

  • The main meeting area with sofas and loveseats, tables and chairs a stage, a karaoke machine, a built-in sound system, and video games.
  • A kitchen/cafe.
  • Restrooms.
  • And a sports activity room.

Lessons learned from our two years of managing a facility with dedicated space include necessary changes to our facility:

  • Video cameras with a DVR throughout the building.
  • Locking all side rooms, not in use.
  • Door alarms on emergency exits.
  • Wood paneling throughout the sports activity room for durability.
Programming lessons learned include the critical importance of enough volunteers to do Rock Solid programming. We have shifted our priorities from attracting many youths to offering quality programming to youth who attend. We believe we now have a finely tuned approach to building and operating a youth center and are eager to share what we have learned with others.
Created by potrace 1.10, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2011

North Manchester