Category Archives: Downtown Community Center

A Second Home: Spotlight on Camille, Deputy Director

You may not see Camille teaching a class or at the front desk, but she plays a very important role in the functioning of Manhattan Youth. Camille works at the Downtown Community Center as deputy director to Bob Townley. She oversees the goings-on at the Community Center, including hiring, marketing, communications and handling programs. She also brings the COO’s attention to other aspects of the Community Center that need work.


But what does marketing or communications really mean? Camille said that if she had to explain her job to a five-year-old, she would say, “’my job is to make people happy,’ and ultimately communications, marketing, a clean center, a friendly center, all of the things that I’m in charge of, do make people happy.”

Camille has a passion for community centers that, interestingly enough, was born while working in the theatre world. Camille was originally an actress. She got her master’s degree in theatre and was a part of the New York City theatre world. “As I went on and I was in shows and I enjoyed it, I realized the thing that I was most passionate about when it came to theatre was this thing that we do where we pool our resources together; we all have a part in something that we are creating for an audience.” While Camille was an actress, she had a day job as a fitness teacher. When she taught fitness at community centers, she found that they possessed the same camaraderie that she loved so much about theatre. “I found that the fitness, working in community centers, and my love for theater sort of came together and I realized that what I really loved was building community.”

Camille spoke about the importance of community centers, specifically Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Community Center, in a place like New York City. She said, “We’re a city full of huge amounts of people, but we can also feel so lonely and isolated, and just coming to a community center like Manhattan Youth feels like a town square, it feels like a second home.”

Camille’s favorite part of working at Manhattan Youth is the kids, and what goes on downstairs every day. She stated, “Whenever I feel sort of bogged down with things, if I just go downstairs and see the kids having a great time, that is my favorite thing. Just saying hello to the kids, getting to know the kids, talking to the parents, and you know, taking their suggestions.”

Camille remarked that Manhattan Youth is unique in the respect that it isn’t part of a larger franchise, like the YMCA. She also commented on the facility. “It’s not hard to bring people in and show it off and say ‘don’t you want to be here?’ And they always do.”


Spotlight On: Isaac, Front Desk

Isaac is a newbie at Manhattan Youth. However, he’s already bonded with some of the kids.

“They get attached really quickly,” Isaac said.

“I do a lot of things with children, so I figured working here would be cool,” he explained. Before Isaac worked at Manhattan Youth, he babysat and worked with children at a summer camp and with kids at his church.

Working at the front desk and the service desk in the Great Hall are the main parts of Isaac’s job. He greets customers, picks up phones and sends emails.

Isaac said he likes working with children because, “They’re just really fun to be around.” He continued, smiling, “and they really like me, so…”

Isaac added that he’s excited to see the kids grow over time. He noted, “I’ve only been here three months, but I guess the longer you work here you get to watch them grow too.”

Aside from working with kids, Isaac’s favorite part about working at Manhattan Youth is the staff. He commented, “They’re so energetic; they’re all so fun to be around.” He explained that he and the other staff members, “have interesting conversations every day.”

A friend who also works at Manhattan Youth first told Isaac out about a job opening here.

Isaac grew up in Brooklyn, but went to school in Midtown.

When he isn’t working at Manhattan Youth, Isaac likes to play piano or be active outside. He plays handball, bikes and skateboards. In the summer, he likes to do parkour. Parkour is an outdoor activity where one runs and jumps to get from point A to point B as quickly and creatively as possible. It involves using the urban environment as an obstacle course.

According to Isaac, the most challenging aspect of working at Manhattan Youth are the times when lots of people are coming in and he has to tend to everyone’s needs at the same time.

With that said, he appreciates how the job has strengthened his ability to manage his time better. In his job, Isaac must get a lot done in a short amount of time. He said this taught him, “the most efficient way to deal with everyone and make sure everyone is getting what they want.”

Isaac said, “I dabble in computer science.” He is currently working on a program for Manhattan Youth that will eliminate the need to create break schedules by hand. “Instead of taking a couple of hours to do it by hand it can do it in a couple of seconds.”

Nate Andersen & Friends in Concert again — This Friday!

Nate Andersen & Friends are coming back to play another concert this Friday!
Click here for tickets.

We’re excited to see the band play again, but we’re not the only ones. Below is a testimonial from a community member who was in attendance the last time Nate & friends played at the Community Center:

Tribeca is in for a musical treat 6:30PM on Friday, March 10th at the Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center.

The band, Nate Andersen and Friends, is made up of local musicians who either reside nearby or work at Manhattan Youth. Listening to this local group offers fresh interpretations of American classics like Otis Reading’s “Dock of the Bay” and Jim Morrison’s “Light my Fire.”

Audiences can also expect American Song Book standards such as Frank Sinatra’s “Set ‘em up Joe.” The songs are of another era, but the interpretation is thoroughly current.

Appropriate for all ages, the concert provides a splendid chance to sit with your child and let them watch professional musicians show off their hard work and love for their craft. Or just hang out with a friend listening to professionals do their thing. The artisans are so local that there is the real possibility of bumping into one of the band members in the neighborhood grocery store tomorrow. An added dimension is the intimate community mix of children and adults, teens and seniors together in neighborhood spirit and fun, moving to a “tight” sound.

Tickets are $5 in advance or $10 at the door. Bring your family, tell your friends. After all, it’s not just a dynamite band playing, it’s dynamite community spirit.

Nate Friends Poster (March10)

Spotlight On: Marta, Membership Assistant

Marta is the Membership Assistant at Manhattan Youth. She gives tours and communicates with members. “Basically making sure that all of the members are happy,” she said. She has been working at Manhattan Youth for five years.Center_Leadership_Marta

As I interviewed Marta while she worked the front desk, she exchanged hello’s with several members and staff  walking in and out of the building.

At first, Marta was a Manhattan Youth After-School counselor. She explained, “I started with the job because I just really love kids and it worked with my hours at the time.”

Before Marta worked at Manhattan Youth, she was nervous about talking on the phone. When asked what Manhattan Youth has taught her, she said that working here has helped her overcome her phone anxiety.

Sometimes, Marta said, it can get hectic working in the Great Hall. Kids are running around and playing, so it can be difficult to concentrate on work. “Everything’s going on,” she explained.

But for Marta, working here is worth it to be with children. She said, “Kids are so easy to get along with. I feel like I can communicate with them really well, and they just make me very happy.”

Aside from working with kids, Marta likes the atmosphere among members and the staff at Manhattan Youth. “It’s like a big family!” She exclaimed.

Marta grew up in Manhattan. Her biggest inspiration is her mother. “She is very hardworking and she never gives up; she always fights,” stated Marta.

When Marta isn’t working, she likes to paint, read, take photographs and meet with friends.


Spotlight On: Blake, Assistant Director of Membership


Blake is the Assistant Director of Membership at Manhattan Youth. He started out as an After-School Counselor and has been working at Manhattan Youth for eight years.

Blake grew up in Long Island. He started working at Manhattan Youth soon after he graduated from college.

When he first got his job here, he had no idea it would come to mean so much to him. He said, “I knew I needed a job and I started off assomeone needing a job.” However, as he explained, “the experience changed once I got to know the staff, the company and the community.”

Because of this job, Blake learned, “to communicate better and I learned what it’s like to be a parent.” Blake said that through his work helping and communicating with Manhattan Youth members, he has developed an idea of what parents think and worry about.

In his free time, Blake likes to paint and learn new languages. “I speak Spanish fluently, and I’m learning to speak Portuguese and Russian,” he stated.

When I asked Blake his favorite part of working here, Carson, another staff member, jumped in and said, “me, of course!” Blake laughed and replied, “It’s a very supportive place. The staff is very supportive, the community is very supportive,” he explained.

Blake’s biggest inspiration is his parents. “That’s how I was raised,” he explained. He added, “I feel like I live to look after them. To make sure they are okay and to take care of them like they take care of me.”

Bob Townley, Executive Director of Manhattan Youth, comes in second place as Blake’s biggest inspiration. Blake explained that Bob “sees a lot in all of the people who work for him, and he encourages you to pursue finding happiness.”

“He really helps you figure out what you like and what you want to do.” Blake decided what he wanted to do was continue to work at Manhattan Youth. He explained, “I’m happy here, and that’s the most important thing for me right now.”

Ceramics Classes At the Downtown Community Center

Hi! My name is Maya. I’m a guest blogger for Manhattan Youth, and this is my first blog post! For this post I interviewed Rachael, a ceramics teacher at the Downtown Community Center. Ceramics1“I’ve always loved doing clay,” Rachael remarked. Rachael has been working with ceramics since she was in high school. In high school, she worked as an assistant to

Ceramics3Susan, currently Manhattan Youth’s events coordinator, at her ceramics studio. After high school, Rachael went to school abroad. When she came back, Susan had moved her studio into the

Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center. Rachael commented, “She sort of grabbed me. She was like, ‘Are you ready to come back now?’” Rachael has been working at Manhattan Youth for almost four years now.

Rachael teaches both adults’ and children’s ceramics classes. She also uses the studio to work on her own pottery. “I make and sell functional pottery at craft fairs around the city,” she explained. She continued that she has been growing her own pottery business as she teaches here. “Part time and part time,” she elaborated.

Rachael does mostly hand-building projects with the kids. “We start with pinch pots, coil pots, and slab projects, and then we move onto more complicated


things, usually using those techniques,” said Rachael. When students leave Rachael’s class, they know the basics of how to turn a lump into a figure.

The students in her Thursday Ceramics class are currently making baskets out of three individual pinch pots. Students can decorate the basket however they

want. During an interview,Rachael pointed excitedly to a basket a child had made and explained that he wanted to use the three pinch pots in the basket to hold celery, carrots and hummus, so he added a small clay piece of carrot and celery as decoration. “I was like, where does that come from?” laughed Rachael. She said her favorite part of the job is her students’ creativity. She elaborated that teaching kids “keeps clay fresh” for her. She explained, “when they’re interested, it’s really great to watch.”

After students take their work home, they can use it as dishes or containers. “They could use it to eat or drink out of: it’s functional,” noted Rachael.

When Rachael teaches, she does a demonstration first and then lets the students work. She said that to encourage creativity she tries to be as relaxed as possible. She commented, “I try to do projects that they can individualize, so it’s not all going to be the same.”