Local employer and global enclosure manufacturer Rittal donated $18,000 to the Urbana Youth Center (UYC) to support current programming including homework assistance, nutrition programs, general operations, and forthcoming programming on career readiness and placement.
Mike Freund, Managing Director of Rittal North America LLC, shared his company feels strongly about supporting the Urbana Youth Center, a project of the GrandWorks Foundation, because of the opportunity to connect with the future workforce and the importance of lifting up local youth.
“When the Urbana Youth Center approached us, we immediately saw the value in what they are trying to accomplish,” Freund said. “We understand that about one in three of our area children lives in poverty. We are family and community-minded and feel a strong desire to step up and be part of the change.” he added, “This effort is exactly the type of positive, forward-thinking that keeps communities strong and thriving. Investing in the future workforce isn’t just a good business decision, it is a decision to help provide youth with the means for a successful life. I believe others in the community will see the same value that we do and look forward to seeing the success of the Urbana Youth Center ripple through our town for years to come.”
Justin T. Weller, Executive Director of the Urbana Youth Center, said, “The students and team at the Urbana Youth Center, along with everyone at GrandWorks, are honored to accept this very generous investment from Rittal.”
Weller added, “Donations like this make it self-evident that our local employers understand and are willing to invest in the critical work we are doing at the Urbana Youth Center.”
“Rittal believes that the community must invest in our youth,” said Tony Pearson, Rittal’s Human Resource Manager, said. “They are our future. We are thrilled to support the work UYC is doing and our team is looking forward to volunteering to help ongoing efforts at the center.”
The Urbana Youth Center opened Thursday, February 18 at the former Champaign County Library site on West Market Street and has experienced major success. With about 400 student members and regular attendance of more than 100 young people, the demand for UYC’s numerous programs is strong. With such high demand, the need for more space is apparent.
“Many in the community felt if we had 20 to 30 students regularly attending, that would be a great success. With the incredible turnout we’ve experienced, we now need to renovate several of the spaces in the building that aren’t currently usable much faster than we originally anticipated,” Weller said.
Rittal’s contribution is going to help enable the youth center to bolster its career and job programming, which will include a trip in the near future to local career partners of UYC. Additionally, the donation will support ongoing efforts like the youth center’s Homework & Study Assistance program.
The youth center has the official support of Urbana City Schools, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Bundy Baking Solutions, Mercy Health Urbana Hospital, Rittal, and others. Weller says that building a strong network of local employers and organizations is essential to the ongoing success of the youth center.
The Ohio Department of Education announced information in 2018 that classified about 53% of students, or approximately 1,155 children, in the Urbana City School system as “disadvantaged” and the U.S. Census Bureau recently released data revealing that about 30% of kids in the Urbana area live in poverty.
Local educators, retired teachers, and engaged community members make up the volunteer corps at UYC, according to the management team. More information on volunteering and outreach is available on UYC’s website, UrbanaYouthCenter.org
The project management team also identified the importance of additional investment in the youth center.
“Rittal’s contribution and some of the others we have recently received are ensuring that we can operate through the summer and expand our programming. We are continuing outreach to local employers and organizations to make sure we can continue to offer young people at the Urbana Youth Center a quality experience. This is not a small effort; it is a big one. As such, it is going to require other community members to follow Rittal’s forward-thinking and generous example,” Weller said “The great news is investing in after-school programs like the Urbana Youth Center makes great economic sense.”
According to data from the After School Alliance, a national not-for-profit organization, and the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington, D.C. based non-partisan public policy organization, about eight in 10 parents say a youth center will help them keep their job. This can be achieved by avoiding work interruptions due to student scheduling challenges. Additionally, for every $1 invested in after-school programs, $3 or more is saved within the local economy in the future by increasing future worker productivity, improving job placement, and reducing workforce issues such as tardiness.
The data also shows that 70% of children improve their problem solving and STEM skills when they participate in after-school programs, such as the initiatives planned to take place at the Urbana Youth Center.
“There are incredible opportunities for Urbana and Champaign County on the horizon. What we need is bold, decisive, and committed community leaders like Rittal & Bundy to continue to champion positive change and bring our economy into the twenty-first century,” Weller said.
The GrandWorks Foundation is a local not-for-profit organization leading several efforts to reach, restore, and revive the community, according to the organization’s mission. The projects include the historic Gloria Theatre in downtown Urbana, The Big Questions (a podcast exploring some of life’s most pressing topics), and the Urbana Youth Center.
Weller said, “GrandWorks is pushing ahead on multiple fronts to build a brighter future for Urbana and Champaign County. Investments from major local employers like Rittal prove to me that this community has what it takes to address our challenges and set ourselves up for a better tomorrow.”
Rittal North America, LLC is a global manufacturer of industrial and IT enclosures, racks and accessories including cooling solutions and power management systems for industrial, data center, outdoor and hybrid applications. Rittal provides innovative, high-quality solutions for practically any industrial or IT infrastructure application, from single enclosures to comprehensive, mission-critical systems. For additional information visit: www.rittal.us
About Urbana Youth Center
UYC believes that the future of our children impacts our community’s opportunities and success for decades to come. With open hearts and open minds, this community can rally our resources to not only lift kids up, but set them on a trajectory for accomplishing amazing things.
Submitted by Rittal and the Urbana Youth Center.