Touchstone Honoree: Family Freedom Center is empowering with experiences

Touchstone Honoree: Family Freedom Center

The Family Freedom Center is expanding kids' opportunities and experiences after school and during the summers.

When the Family Freedom Center took over Neighborhood Youth Services, they knew they wanted to do more than just keep the doors open.

They wanted to really expand the opportunities for the 400+ kids who come to the center each year.

That includes Studio X, which is named for Xavier Bell, the founder of Family Freedom Center.

Jacob Bell, the Executive Director, said, “It’s really a place that was built as the first installment of our START program. START stands for Skilled Trades, Arts, Robotics and Technology. It’s a mouthful, but its a big program with big dreams and plans to introduce youth and young adults to technology driven career pathways.”

Funding from the Ordean Foundation made this possible. And funding from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation keeps it going.

“What we’re trying to do is build wealth within the Black community. We are very talented and we are full of skills and talents. Our job is to really showcase that talent and to foster that creativity. Provide opportunities to build generational wealth,” Bell added.

They also have expanded outdoor recreation opportunities, and continue to offer meals and activities like basketball.

It’s being rebranded from NYS to The Center.

Aaron Gelineau, Senior Youth Specialist, has been with the program for almost 30 years.

“We’ve always been very effective. We’re averaging more kids right now. The main reason for that is because we have one of the strongest staff that I’ve ever been a part of in 28 years. Yeah, I mean, we’ve got college kids here. We have recently graduated college kids. We have three staff members that were former students here that I worked with.”

Portia Johnson told us that she’s so happy that Family Freedom took over NYS.

And a grateful mother, Chameka Banks, said that the program helped her daughter get on the right path again. “I don’t think I could have done it by myself, you know? I’m so proud of her,” Banks said.

You can catch all six honorees in the Touchstone Celebration coming up on Thursday at 6:30pm.