On the corner


Youth center tries to make a difference

On the corner at 4186 Broadway, behind the handsome College Branch library building, you’ll find the Kaleidoscope Youth Center. The KYC moved into the building the library vacated when it moved into new quarters in 2000. Today, the KYC provides after-school programs and, through Second Helpings, a hot meal for 25 to 30 kids each afternoon. “The goal is to make this a place for students and their parents,” Rod Haywood, KYC director, says.

A year ago, when Haywood arrived on the scene, he found a lot of kids who were in and out of trouble. “Three thirty to 6:30,” he says, “is high-risk trouble time. School is out. If you’re not involved in after-school activities — sports, clubs — you’re ripe for trouble. Now there are statistics that say more kids are engaging in high-risk sexual behavior after school, as well.”

Haywood brought a new discipline to his corner. “What we push is you come to this place to do something, not just to hang out. That’s the way the kids had looked at it — they could do whatever they wanted here. Well, no more. Now we have a disciplinary attitude: You come here to do homework, get a meal. We’re not going to baby-sit.”

With the help of student volunteers from Butler University, Brebeuf and Cathedral high schools, Haywood’s approach has started to work. “In the last eight months we haven’t had any problems. It was all about attitude.” Haywood asks to see the kids’ report cards and believes academic progress is on the rise. “We try to track how they’re doing. Our philosophy is these kids aren’t going to get anywhere without supplementary programs like this one.”

Haywood can see growing the program to include weekends, with offerings covering a range of activities like financial literacy, art, science and dance. Architectural drawings have been developed that show how the space, built in 1958, can be retrofitted for a science lab, study and exercise areas and a media room. First, though, Haywood needs to secure and rehab it.

That’s where things get complicated.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library still owns the building and leases it to Kaleidoscope. Haywood says he has had positive dialog with the library’s new director, Laura Bramble, and believes she shares his desire for the KYC to remain in place.

But the library system’s recent troubles with its downtown expansion and overall budget woes have created pressure to either sell the building or bulldoze it. This, in turn, has put pressure on Haywood to find the financial support necessary to acquire the building. It’s a challenge.

Prior to last year’s mayoral election, Haywood says he had entered into constructive conversation with representatives from the previous administration. Now that the Ballard team has taken over, he looks forward to reaching out to Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams, whose work as director of Christamore House is practically legendary.

The stakes are high. If the KYC should be forced to move, Haywood thinks the city loses a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people in his neighborhood. “What we’d be giving up is a service area where we can really make a difference,” Haywood says. “The recent crime wave in our city blows me away because with programs and dollars — five years ago, 10 years ago — we could have prevented what became a 20-year-old from going into a house and killing two kids and their moms. We might have made a difference in the life of that guy. And that helps the number altogether.”

In the meantime, Haywood, who graduated from Butler University in 1990, and served there as an assistant director of admissions before getting into youth development work — work he calls “social entrepreneurship” — continues to try and make his corner “safe for peace and productivity.” This means reaching out to the larger community in any way he can to try and find the funds to make Kaleidoscope Youth Center’s future safe. “We need to give kids hope,” he says. “We could really solve some problems.”

For more information, contact the Kaleidoscope Youth Center at 317-921-1040 or go to rhaywood46214@netzero.net.


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