If there's one thing that Shelton Haynes can say about the human touch, it's that it can be very effective in impacting other people's lives. With the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation's Youth Center having finished its massive overhaul to improve functionality and scope, the next focus for CEO Haynes was making sure that the center had expert staff to help guide the small island's future into adulthood.
Previously operated by an outside contractor, the Roosevelt Island Youth Center was in need of significant work to update the facility and make it a haven for the island's youth. On the small two-mile-long island in the East River, Shelton Haynes knew that a more personal approach would be needed to protect the island's most precious resource – its children.
Shelton Haynes wants to see renovations.
Taking advantage of the time needed for the renovations, Shelton Haynes decided to bring the center's management back to the local community. Roosevelt Island, long known for its healthcare and institutional history, has a population of 12,000, giving it a small-town atmosphere in the middle of New York City.
“We also made a conscious decision to look at the staffing model and upgrade that by bringing in experts in subject matters,” Shelton Haynes mentioned in a recent interview. Instead of outsourcing the management or hiring the first person off the street, Haynes developed a model that convinced the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, which is the government entity that operates the small island, that top talent should be hired instead.
Now featuring a staff that has the expertise to build up the children of the island, known by Shelton Haynes and the rest of his team as “little learners,” the facility is poised to help the island's youth with enrichment, health, and life skills activities. The director, Ana Medina, is a veteran of the YMCA and a seasoned child development expert, providing exceptional child care while overseeing an outstanding secondary and complimentary staff.
Not just another after-school program
Shelton Haynes didn't want just another after-school care program but wanted to assemble the best staff to create a top-notch program for the island. “The goal was to acquire the staff so we could be a real reputable child care program. We built the entire program from the ground up. Now we’re able to incorporate a tremendous amount of programming,” Haynes stated recently.
Knowing that the improved credibility of the youth center meant better possibilities for the future of the island, Shelton Haynes undertook heavy research about childcare when designing improvements to both the hard and soft features of the center. He was aware that gaining a New York State School Age Child Care (SACC) accreditation would take a lot of work but would be well worth the effort in the end.
RIOC Puts Community First
Receiving the SACC accreditation in early 2023, Haynes understood this was the first stage in a long string of steps involved in improving the youth center and bringing authority to the work done there. “The SACC license allows us to expand the program and become a legitimate child care program,” Haynes states.
Offering a wide range of programs for island youth, Shelton Haynes sees great opportunities for growth. Many families who call the island home don't realize that the program, which offers top-of-the-line programs in a variety of interests, is actually free. “I think people don’t realize it’s a free program that gives young people a chance at everything,” Haynes mentions, noting that the Youth Center is only one of many plans for the island.