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Molinaro Presents about Dutchess’ Countywide Youth Center at Prestigious National Conference

Published: 7/14/2022

Poughkeepsie, NY ... Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today discussed the development and potential of the County’s forthcoming countywide youth center, the Youth Opportunity Union (The YOU), and the County’s Path to Promise initiative with attendees at the national A Gathering of Leaders: Power of Place conference, hosted by the William Julius Wilson Institute (WJWI) at Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) in Washington, D.C.

In October 2021, a team of senior HCZ leaders, including President and CE Geoffrey Canada and CEO Kwame Owusu-Kesse, visited Poughkeepsie, meeting with County Executive Molinaro, City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and members of the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet and touring the future site of the YOU. Dutchess County, the City of Poughkeepsie and the Poughkeepsie City School District recently formalized a partnership with the HCZ through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a local collective impact organization, the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet, in which all three public institutions are key stakeholders.

Impressed by their visit to Poughkeepsie, HCZ leaders invited County Executive Molinaro to discuss the YOU as part of this afternoon’s panel discussion, entitled Neighborhood-Based, Cradle-to-Career Work and the Public Sector, which convened public officials and individuals with experience working with the public sector discuss how to effectively partner with local governments to advance neighborhood-based, cradle-to-career work.

County Executive Molinaro said, “Dutchess County’s innovative Youth Opportunity Union will transform the lives of countless children, countywide, for years to come. We are building a first-of-its-kind model for the Hudson Valley and New York State, one that can be replicated throughout the country. The Harlem Children’s Zone and Geoffrey Canada, have been invaluable collaborators, offering Dutchess County their vast experience and resources to help ensure the YOU’s success. I appreciate the HCZ’s desire to see the YOU flourish, and I thank them for the opportunity to discuss the project with such an eclectic group of national leaders, all of whom share the same goal: seeing our future generations succeed.”

The YOU will be a state-of-the-art youth facility for children and families throughout Dutchess County, which will serve as home to the Path to Promise initiative, to be built on the site of the former YMCA site, located at 35 Montgomery Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. The YOU project has received ample interest from a variety of organizations, including the nationally renowned HCZ. County Executive Molinaro has committed to spend $25 million, including $10 million from American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, for the YOU’s design and construction; design is still ongoing, and a major fundraising campaign will be undertaken to build off the County’s initial investment.

The conference convenes hundreds of cross-sector leaders, practitioners, and policymakers to deepen HCZ’s work to drive social and economic mobility, at scale, for the most vulnerable children and families in the country. Attendees include Blue Meridian Partners’ Place Matters Investees and leaders in the field of place-based partnerships, philanthropic partners, and public sector leaders. Among other local stakeholders, Mayor Rolison, Poughkeepsie City School Board Member Dr. Felicia Watson, Dutchess County Assistant Commissioner for Youth Services Karmen Smallwood and Rob Watson, co-founder and advisor to the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet and Director for Partnerships and Community Impact for EdRedesign Lab at Harvard Graduate School of Education, are among those attending the event.

Taking place over three days, A Gathering of Leaders: Power of Place conference has three main goals:

  • Align on an understanding of the importance of community-based, cradle-to-career strategies and vulnerable neighborhoods in place-based partnership work;
  • Foster a community of practice by celebrating progress, sharing what's working, highlighting innovations, and discussing challenges; and
  • Provide clarity on ways WJWI and other key actors can help leaders accelerate its work.

In addition to County Executive Molinaro, the conference attracted dozens of speakers, including, among others:

  • Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education;
  • Michael Nutter, former mayor of Philadelphia;
  • Dr. Lester Young, Chancellor, New York State Education Department, Board of Regents;
  • Dr. Michael McAfee, President and CEO, PolicyLink; and
  • Dr. Russell Booker, Executive Director, Spartanburg Academic Movement.

Residents can learn about the progress of the YOU project, as well as learn about its history, by accessing its website,