FIRST, A BIT OF HISTORY
For over 10 years, The Determination Center has provided a safe and inclusive atmosphere built around youth-centered programming that emphasizes the importance of community integration and engagement for children and young adults. What do we do? We mentor, we provide academic support, we teach life & leadership skills, we help kids problem-solve. We nurture.
The Determination Center Story
For Mrs. Bettie Graham, Founder and Director of The Determination Center, it's all about the kids. Mrs. Graham opened the Center in May of 2007 at 228 Shonnard Street (Syracuse, NY) with very few resources and lots of hope and determination. Mrs. Graham quickly established The Determination Center as a safe haven for local kids; a place where she and her staff would provide kids with the foundation necessary to make the right choices in their young lives--a place where there were always people who cared. The Determination Center soon became a popular after-school care program in the neighborhood, with children from all over the Syracuse area riding buses to the Center on weekday afternoons. In May of 2009, The Determination Center moved to its current location at 1654 West Onondaga Street. ( UPDATE! AS OF 4/1/17, OUR NEW HOME IS 1640 SOUTH AVE! COME SEE US! )
Today, The Determination Center welcomes up to 80 children (ages 5-12) and teens (ages 13 and over), and 20 adult volunteers. Programs range from art, music, and culture to homework help, martial arts, and basketball. The kids are served an early-evening hot meal--every day. According to Mrs. Graham, "The Determination Center is so much more than an after-school program. Whatever the kids need, that's what we do."
Employees, volunteers, and children describe Mrs. Graham as one of the most caring, giving, and loving women they know: "an angel walking among us." Mrs. Graham describes her eagerness to help others as a calling, however there is no doubt that her personal journey has influenced her present mission. She was born into a large family, and after losing both parents before the age of ten, she moved to Syracuse with her siblings. The older siblings cared for the younger siblings, making sure they all attended school and worked hard. At the age of fifteen, Mrs. Graham moved to Wisconsin to live with her eldest brother and completed high school there. Soon thereafter, she returned to Syracuse, studied radio and television at Onondaga Community College, and ultimately completed her degree at Empire College. Mrs. Graham holds a master's degree in counseling and has more than 20 years of experience in the human services field.
Alumni of The Determination Center consistently return; Mrs. Graham often helps them find summer job placements, continuing in her role as trusted advisor and mentor. She and her staff encourage all of the Center's kids to succeed; this encouragement is rooted in the important work of self-confidence and self-esteem building. Her ultimate goal is to help as many children as possible and teach them to give back, as she has given back, many, many times over. "I want them to be productive citizens," she says, "they can always come back. I will always be a resource".