Education

Davis YMCA Opens Youth Learning Center

BOARDMAN, Ohio – When John Grantonic asked his son how he could best help the Davis Family YMCA, he thought he’d have a fair bit of time between the question and the answer.

I thought maybe he’d take a while to figure out what he’d need the money for,” Grantonic says of his son, Tom Grantonic, executive director of the Davis YMCA. “He made up his mind in half a second. I thought it’d be a couple of days.”

The answer: a new center for the Y’s preschool program and new after-school initiative. And after John Grantonic and his wife, Barbara, made their $45,000 donation, and after renovations took place over the summer, the YMCA in Boardman Wednesday opened the Youth Learning Center bearing their name.

“I’m just blown away by the opportunity and the generosity. Mom and Dad raised seven kids and I grew up pinching pennies,” Tom Grantonic said at the ribbon cutting. “I remember mom saving quarters to buy us our first piano, so it’s thrilling to see them in a position to give more to the community.”

In the new after-school program, held 2:15 to 6 p.m., enrolled students can take advantage of help with homework, art courses, physical activities like swimming and sports, and daily tutoring.

“Most of the after-school programs are outsourced to places like Wee Care Day Care, Lads N’Lasses [Academy] and parents are paying extra money for kids to be transported to places that don’t necessarily have the things we can offer,” said Nicole Murray, the YMCA of Youngstown’s youth and teen director.

Murray helped design the Youth Learning Center and its courses. The after-school program is accredited by the National Afterschool Association, she added. Staff receive more than 30 hours of training, including child abuse preventions, first aid and CPR. the program, limited to 25 students, is $200 per month for members and $225 for nonmembers, with a $25 registration fee for both. Financial assistance is available, Murray said.

“A lot of kids, we’ve found, are sitting at home after school with a babysitter. They’re not doing their homework,” she continued. “Grades in this community have fallen drastically over the last 10 years. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to curve that.”

As for the space itself, the Grantonics’ donation helped expand the space at the Davis Y, now used by both the new after-school and preschool program, Tom Grantonic said.

“We want to serve as many people in our community as we can. We’re limited by a few things. No. 1 is the physical space,” he said. “We had no space, so this is automatically going to give us the opportunity to serve more kids in our community.”

Added YMCA of Youngstown CEO Tom Gacse: “It’s a learning environment. It’s a fun environment. It’s a healthy environment. Not only do they have the daycare facilities here, but they have swimming, the gym and all sorts of things they can do. It’s not just a little room at the end of the hall.”

Depending on the success of the after-school program, YMCA officials envision expanding it into Boardman Local Schools.

“We can start out here and then incorporate our people and program into the schools so we have people running activities and games and enrichment programs,” Murray said. “It’ll be a weight off their shoulders.”

But even if that doesn’t happen, John Grantonic already knows the YMCA program is having an impact, with 17 students already enrolled.

“It means an awful lot to us,” he said. “We’ve always loved working with children. Barbara has done a beautiful job helping raise our kids and she was happy as all get-out when I suggested helping out the YMCA.”

Pictured: Barbara and John Grantonic, center, donated the funds for the Davis Family YMCA’s new Youth Learning Center and after-school program.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.