Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) introduced its brand-new Youth Center and Intergenerational Digital Lab in Flushing on Wednesday with a grand opening celebration.
While AAFE’s after-school program has been a Flushing mainstay for more than a decade, the Youth Center provides a second home for students, a dedicated safe place to meet, participate in workshops, attend college counseling sessions and to connect with the larger Flushing community.
The facility, located on the second floor of AAFE’s offices at 35-34 Union St., includes an Intergenerational Digital Lab, outfitted with 30 laptop computers. The lab was funded through a $40,000 Spectrum Digital Education Grant.
The Youth Center was inspired by AAFE’s student leaders, who envisioned the new space and led a grassroots fundraising drive to turn their idea into reality. A successful GoFundMe campaign in August raised more than $5,000 from more than 60 donors and AAFE matching funds.
“AAFE’s inspiring youth leaders saw this project through with incredible energy and imagination, and we couldn’t be happier about what they’ve achieved,” said Jennifer Sun and Thomas Yu, AAFE’s co-executive directors. “The Youth Center and Digital Lab will not only serve our immigrant youth, but also the larger Flushing community through an innovative digital skills training program for low-income families and seniors. We thank Spectrum for its generous support, as well as everyone in our community who made this center possible through their donations.”
AAFE youth will play a major role in the Intergenerational Digital Lab, hosting workshops to help immigrant and limited-English proficient community members build their computer skills. AAFE is also partnering with Queens Library to design the curriculum. The lab will serve families and seniors in the Flushing area, as well as in other neighborhoods such as Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. It will be integrated into AAFE’s Workforce Development Program, which serves almost 300 immigrant job seekers annually, and is also based at 35-34 Union St.
“The AAFE Youth Team works hard to empower low-income immigrant youth in Flushing to develop themselves, build their leadership and serve their community,” said Gabriel Hisugan, program manager of AAFE Youth & Family Development. “With this Youth Center, we will have our own, welcoming, truly youth-centered space to conduct after school sessions, karaoke nights, college workshops, board games, counseling sessions, homework help and so much more!”
Students have always come to AAFE’s office for group events and one-on-one counseling, but they did not have a space to call their own until now, according to AAFE. The opportunity to establish a Youth Center presented itself when AAFE’s immigration, immigrant small business and homeownership offices moved earlier this year to One Flushing, AAFE’s new mixed-use building in Downtown Flushing.
The Youth Program is operated in collaboration with Flushing High School, Flushing International High School and Queens High School for Language Studies. The principal of each school congratulated AAFE on its new Youth Center.
Ignazio Accardi, principal of Flushing High School, said, the work of AAFE in the school has helped countless students move on to success in college and beyond.
On this very special day, our school congratulates AAFE on the opening of their new Youth Center. We wish AAFE great success in serving our students and community for many years to come. Thank you for being an amazing partner and we look forward to many more years of collaboration to come,” Ignazio said.
Melanie Lee, principal of Queens High School for Language Studies, said, “AAFE’s programs for our students, in particular their after school COMPASS program and their summer Youth Leader program, have provided opportunities for our students to develop leadership and communication skills beyond what we provide in our classrooms. They then take these skills into their colleges and careers with confidence. I’m so thrilled to see AAFE’s resources grow, with this new safe space for our youth within the Flushing community, and I look forward to our continued collaboration!”
Rosemary Mikszewski, assistant principal of Flushing International High School added, “We have worked together with AAFE for many years, and we are very thankful that they have provided us through their programs, not just community engagement and college access, but also providing spaces like this one, so I’m very excited to have our students benefit from this new Youth Center.”