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Shipman Youth Center turns 20

Staff, board, students to celebrate June 6 with open house

May 31, 2019
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - "At a little after 2 p.m. Sunday, June 6 when the yellow ceremonial ribbon crossing the front entrance of the building was cut, and the doors of the Thomas Shipman Sr. Memorial Youth Center were opened, the youth of Lake Placid were given a place of their own."

So started the story about the Shipman Youth Center's ribbon-cutting ceremony in the June 11, 1999 issue of the Lake Placid News.

This year, on Thursday, June 6, the center invites the community to celebrate their 20th anniversary at an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will be tours of the building, free food and non-alcoholic drinks and a chance to meet the people who keep this facility open.

Article Photos

Shipman Youth Center regulars pose with Executive Director Jason Hooker Thursday, May 23 at the Lake Placid facility, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on June 6 by inviting the community to an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. From left are Nick Glass, grade 8; Alida Carlson, grade 6; Owen Hayes, grade 6; Hooker; Kelsey McKillip, grade 6; Malia Morford-Hunt, grade 7; and Alivia Baillargeon, grade 6.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"It's a hangout area for a lot of the kids where they come in here and will participate in sports, video games, computers, tutoring after school, mentoring," said Executive Director Jason Hooker. "We do a lot of community service activities and different various trips in the community. We also participate in various indoor activities where we play pool, ping pong and arts and crafts."

During the 1999 celebration, then board President Tina Leonard read a plaque dedicating the building to Thomas Shipman Sr., a former Lake Placid police officer and the village's first juvenile officer who died April 13, 1995. That plaque still hangs in the lobby of the youth center and greets every visitor.

"From 1985 until his death, Tom spent endless hours creating and organizing events such as the Haunted House, the Halloween Dance, trips to professional basketball and hockey games, the summer Youth Fair and the largest event of all, the Youth Games. Every age was touched by Tom's efforts."

It was Shipman's goal to create a youth center in Lake Placid - a place where students could socialize and build personal relationships in a safe environment. And that is still the goal today.

"It's a safe place for them to hang out where they're not on Main Street hanging out at various other places, where they can actually be in an organized, safe setting," Hooker said.

The building includes a game room, computer room, kitchen and activity room. Outside in the ample parking lot, students play games. There's even a garden.

Hooker's philosophy?

"My biggest thing here is the bullying issue," he said. "The kids come in here, they have different personalities. They have different cliques. They have different friends. When they come in here, the big thing is I want every child to feel like they are safe, that the can come here and it's a welcome place."

That's one reason Hooker does not allow any swearing, bullying, wrestling, fighting or drugs of any kind.

"If I'm going to walk in someone else's home, you expect to be treated nice," he said. "I expect the same thing. You come in here, and we treat everybody with respect."

As an after-school program, the Shipman Youth Center is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year and 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the summer. It is designed for students in grades 6-12. Winter is the busiest time, with about 20 to 30 students hanging out per day, and in the summer, about five to 10 students stop by, according to Hooker.

"Some kids wait to get picked up because they don't have access to the house or they are not allowed to be left home alone," he said. "Some of it is they're waiting for sports or play practice. I think it's a combination of everything."

When the News stopped by for a visit on Thursday, May 23, sixth-grader Owen Hayes said the youth center is a fund place to go after school "because Jason, when it's nice out, brings us outside to do activities like Wiffle ball, basketball, football. And inside, we can do sit-down ball, ping pong, pool."

Hayes started coming to the youth center in March and has been visiting every day since. What does he like the most?

"Probably going outside and playing Wiffle ball because it's with a tennis ball, so it's real easy to just hit the ball hard," Hayes said.

Hooker grew up in Rochester. In a previous job, he was working as an advocate, doing one-on-one mentoring with troubled youths.

"So to transition to work with more kids on a larger scale was definitely something that I was interested in," he said.

Hooker has been working at the Shipman Youth Center for 14 years, first as the assistant director and then executive director when Jon Fremante left that position about three years ago.

"When I did take over, I knew (Thomas Shipman's) vision and what he was looking for in the community. And it was always a passion of mine to work with kids and see them mature in a positive light."

Picture Lake Placid without the youth center. What would happen to the students who visit the facility?

"Unfortunately, I think a lot of the students might hang out on Main Street," Hooker said. "Some kids might get into some mischief."

Hooker takes pride in the mentoring he provides. It's not always easy, though.

"I've had kids who were at the brink of getting in trouble at school or not going to school that often where there's been some mentorship between the previous director, Jon Fremante, or myself," he said. "I've seen kids where they need that small environment type of care. Some of these kids that come through here are not the best with the social settings. And when they come here, they feel a little more comfortable than they would if they were maybe at school, where it tends to be more organized and rigid. Here it can be a little more laid back."

There are many ways the Shipman Youth Center raises funds to keep the building open and provide programs for local students. The biggest fundraiser is the I Love BBQ and Music Festival, held this year on July 5-7 at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. Proceeds from the raffles help pay for trips, such as the ones to New York City and Virginia Beach, at no cost to the children or the families.

Randy Quayle at Red Fox Maple in Lake Placid donates money to youth center from the sale of his maple syrup, which can be purchased at the youth center. The facility has also received grants from the Lake Placid Education Foundation, Uihlein Foundation, United Way and Hannaford. And there's currently a banner at the returnable bottle drop inside the North Elba Recycling Center saying that part of the proceeds go to the youth center.

In turn, the staff, board and students at the youth center take part in a variety of community-service activities. For example, they help out with the Can-Am Rugby Tournament, Lake Placid Marathon and Half, Ironman Lake Placid races.

For more information about the Shipman Youth Center, stop by the open house at 61 Cummings Road on Thursday, June 6 or visit online at



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