SYRACUSE — Syracuse Park Department recently notified Rock Solid it was severing its relationship after five years. Pastor Mark Eastway, Rock Solid Teen Center board president, said the Rock Solid Board was informed of the decision Sept. 8 via email and the final day Rock Solid met at the Syracuse Community Center was Thursday, Sept. 10.
Eastway said he and the board would have preferred to be given time to find a new location. At press time the Rock Solid Board was looking at several positive possibilities for a new location.
Chad Jonsson, park superintendent, said the decision to ask Rock Solid to leave the community center was due to issues around the kids in the program misbehaving and there not being enough adult supervision. Jonsson said the problem began about a year ago as there has been a slow increase of kids. “In the past there were more volunteers than there have been recently,” he said.
Eastway said he understands from the community center’s staff perspective but wished park department staff had expressed their concerns. Jonsson said he was in communication regarding the issue multiple times, with Eastway and the Rock Solid board both in person and in written form.
Eastway explained Rock Solid Teen Center started with similar guidelines used by the Baker Youth Club. He noted there was some confusion by volunteers on how to discipline the kids. Volunteers felt “You need to witness the infraction in order to enforce it.” Last year a stronger stance was taken as about 60 kids participated in the program.
“My preference would have been if they (park staff) heard something they would have said, ‘these are the Rock Solid guidelines and you have to leave,’” Eastway said. In regards to supervision, Eastway said the program can always use more adult volunteers. He himself has come in from North Manchester several times in the last few months to help oversee the gym area. He also thought all the rooms Rock Solid was using in the community center had adequate adult supervision.
Eastway also said he feels the program has been “publicly besmirched,” as the board was preparing a PowerPoint presentation looking at the big picture for Rock Solid Teen Center’s future. He hopes the center will eventually find a home in Syracuse Elementary School after the new elementary school is built.