University of Vermont

Office of Community-University Partnerships & Service Learning

Making Meaningful Connections: The King Street Youth Center

Students and King Street kids bond over books. (Image: kingstreetcenter.org)

$90. That was the extent of King Street Youth Center’s budget when the organization first began in 1971.

 

Since then, King Street, located in the heart of downtown Burlington, has grown immensely in size, funding and community outreach. Now the Center serves over 500 children and families annually, and those numbers are only growing.


The Woman Who Does it All

After acting as Volunteer Coordinator for King Street for over seventeen years, Gabriella Strouse has seen thousands of kids benefit from the center’s work. “All kids deserve a chance. All kids are special. All kids have something to contribute,” insists Strouse, who has worked with struggling families all across the area.

 

In a typical day’s work Strouse does everything from matching children with the perfect mentor to overseeing the tutoring program and even training potential volunteers. Personally, her favorite part of the job is witnessing friendships unfold between the kids and their mentors, many of whom are UVM students.

 

UVM Students Make a Difference

A number of classes offered by UVM through their Community-University Partnerships and Service Learning (CUPS), have given undergraduates a chance to develop meaningful connections working with the center, while also playing their part in helping build a greater Burlington community.

 

One of those volunteers is a UVM sophomore, Andrew Richards, who shared his own experience working with the center: “I love King Street because every time I volunteer there, it’s a different experience. Each time I come in I feel like a happier person that I've been there.”

 

Not only does Richards feel the positive benefits of volunteering alongside kids and UVM students, he admits that he’s learned more and benefited more from  his time working hands-on with the center than with any classes he’s had in his two years at UVM. “When I started at King Street I was hoping to make a positive impact on peoples lives,” he explains. However, during my time here I have found that the kids have had a far greater and positive impact on my life than I could have ever imagined.”


Why Service-Learning Matters

UVM CUPS offers Service-Learning opportunities for students to get involved in the community through programs that span the entire spectrum of nonprofits. CUPS has ties with various organizations focusing on everything from supporting Vermont –grown musicians with the Big Heavy World Initiative to working with Women Helping Battered Women to support individuals who have suffered abuse..

 

Regardless of the field of work students become involved with, “volunteers feel like they’re part of a community.” says Strouse, who personally believes that Service-Learning is all about making connections, building relationships and following your passions.

 

In such a fast-paced world, she urges folks to find what tugs at their heart. “If people would just take a minute to slow down and connect with their community, our world would be a much better place.”