by Melanie Boulay Becker, special correspondent
"We literally would not have been founded without the people at Luther Seminary," said Plymouth Christian Youth Center (PCYC) in North Minneapolis. The center celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Founded in 1954 by Luther Seminary students as a Christian settlement house program, PCYC today teaches young people life skills, educates them in alternative schools and provides a loving, supportive environment for the schools and the North Minneapolis community.
PCYC focuses on helping kids succeed. "We figure out what needs to be done to give kids that boost that they need," said Long, who describes the young people at PCYC as "at promise" as well as at risk. "They come here and find there's a real caring institution," said Paul Monson, '63, a retired pastor and volunteer who helps PCYC build congregational relationships.
Parents have good things to say about PCYC. According to PCYC mom, Lessie Wilson, the after school program keeps kids off the street and gets them doing positive activities. "I know it makes a difference in the neighborhood," said Wilson.
Although PCYC has involved more than 500 Luther Seminary students and alumni/ae over the years, it was started by just a handful of the seminary's students. Founders included Ham Muus, '56, who served as founding director and now lives in Arizona and Grand Marais, Minn.; Curt Johnson, '56, who served as director from 1967-1979, and now lives in Bayfield,Wis.; and Bob Evans, deceased.
In the early years, the Plymouth Youth Center, as it was called until the 1960s, included primarily the "Kinsmen" mentoring program and the Wilderness Canoe Base program. In addition to benefiting those served, the experience of founding and working at PCYC proved to be a formative one for the seminarians. "It broadens you and gives you an outlook that you don't get otherwise," said Johnson. He also explained that it was part of an effort that moved the church ahead in understanding a variety of cultures.
In addition to serving as mentors to the young people at Plymouth Youth Center, the young seminarians were themselves mentored by their Luther Seminary professors, of whom Muus spoke very highly. "In the midst of our learning, others sometimes looked to us for their learning. It's a wonderful cycle, isn't it?"
Today, PCYC alumnae continue the mentoring cycle. Alumnus Nick Krier, for example, now works as an instructor. "It's challenging, but the rewards are when you see kids becoming successful--getting a diploma, going on to college or getting a job. These kids have a lot of ways to be successful."
Luther Seminary continues its connections with PCYC. Muffy Tiede, wife of Luther President David Tiede, serves on the board, as does Janet Anderson, chair of the Luther Seminary Foundation Board of Trustees.
To celebrate their anniversary in May 2004, PCYC dedicated a new $5 million building at 2210 Oliver Avenue North. It houses the 30-student junior high school, youth and family development programs, and the center's staff of 50. Across the street, the 1920s-era Capri Theater houses classrooms and a performance space for the after school and summer creative arts and performing arts programs that PCYC offers.
The children in PCYC's After School Enrichment Program honor Congressman Martin Sabo by planting a Star Magnolia tree in front of the new PCYC building. Looking on at left is John Evans, son of PCYC's founding director, the late Rev. Bob Evans, and Rev. Skip Reeves, '74, PCYC Board President.
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