Valley Youth Center lets kids play first, then grow

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.22.22 PM In the basement of Laura MacArthur Elementary School lies a center for troubled youth.

The Valley Youth Center (VYC) is an after school program for kids ages 5-18. When school ends for the day, students are bussed in from all over the Duluth School District.

“The center was started in the 1970s by caring parents wanting a safe, supervised and structured place for their kids,” said program director Angelo Simone. “I have been working here for the past 30 years but started coming to VYC when I was 7 years old.”

The VYC provides a safe and nourishing environment for kids who are living in unsafe situations.

“I wanted to make sure that kids were getting the right opportunities like I had, just because of where they grew up -- I grew up in the projects -- people look at you differently,” Simone said. “Growing up without a father, I came here looking for something to do. (The VYC staff) were kind of like big brothers growing up and taught me things like right and wrong. Those were the things that we always looked forward to.”

The VYC offers students a free meal and other activities -- such as games, puzzles and sports -- to keep them busy.

It has been a struggle for the VYC recently as its funds have decreased, according to Simone.

“Over the years a lot of things have grown and a lot of things haven’t,” Simone said. “There are more kids now but less money for funding -- less staff, so it has made things harder to maintain, having a smaller space has really hurt our programming.”

The VYC’s motto is, “Play, Grow, Succeed”. By encouraging play, they watch the youth grow as each day passes.

“We really don’t want to shove homework down their throat,” Simone said. “We want them to play first, and they grow from play.”

With any inquiry about Valley Youth Center, contact Angelo Simone at or (218)348-6539.

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