Plainfield celebrates opening of $10M STEAM facility at youth center

No one debates the value of early childhood education.

Making sure you have the facilities — and the funding — is another issue. One that Plainfield just solved.

The Second Street Youth Center celebrated its 50th anniversary last week with the opening of a new building — a $10.4 million STEAM facility with 14 state-of-the-art classrooms, a playground and a 1,000-square-foot urban farm and agricultural education center.

Leah Dade of the Second Street Youth Center speaks at the opening of its new building.

The urban farm will not only provide fresh and healthy meals to the students and teachers, but the students will also study aquaponic farming through hands-on learning.

The center, which has before-school and after-school programs, will help bring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education to an underserved population. More than 80 percent of students are from “economically disadvantaged” families.

Executive Director Leah Dade said serving this community is more important than ever.

“We don’t think that a child’s ZIP code should determine the quality of the education that he or she receives,” she said. “That is why it was so important to me, the dedicated center staff and the committed board of directors to provide the children of Plainfield with a new early learning center that equips them with the resources and academic tools that they need to be successful.

“Most of our students are economically disadvantaged, and, for many, English is a second language, which is why we are committed to serving each child by providing the highest quality education, nutritious farm-to-table food, health services and a safe environment.”

The facility was developed by J.G. Petrucci Co. and TD+Partners Inc. and constructed by Iron Hill Construction Management with financing from New Jersey Community Capital and M&T Bank. The building was designed by Think Wilder Architecture and E2PM served as the civil engineer.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp speaks at the opening.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Petrucci Family Foundation, each child received a backpack and school supplies. Other programs and classroom supplies are funded through donations from the Plainfield Foundation; Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp; TD+Partners; Think Wilder Architectural Firm; Kaplan Early Learning; and The Spire Group.

Each donor will be commemorated with a classroom named after it, including a plaque affixed above the classroom.

The previous facility, more than 100 years old, was becoming too difficult and too costly to maintain. SSYC also provides summer programs and family services.

Mapp said the new-and-improved center will have an immediate impact in the community.

“Education is the foundation for success, and I could not be more proud of Second Street Youth Center Executive Director Leah Dade for her bold vision and commitment to excellence,” he said. “This new center is a model for educational innovation.

“The City of Plainfield is in the midst of a resurgence, and these types of social impact developments ensure that it benefits all of the residents and, in particular, our youth. Our city is fortunate to have attracted developers such as J.G. Petrucci Co. and TD+Partners, who stepped up and fully funded this project ahead of receiving New Market Tax Credits so that this center could open its doors for our children. This is extremely rare, and I salute them.”