Latrobe’s Adelphoi celebrates success of former at-risk youths, opens center
Alex Yawitz, 21, is pursuing a two-year business degree at Westmoreland County Community College with plans to open his own small business.
Aayla Beck, 20, is studying fine arts at the college and intends to pursue further university courses in animation or web design.
Their futures didn’t seem so bright several years ago when Yawitz, of Delmont, made poor decisions about substance use and Beck was a 14-year-old student at Derry Area School District who was struggling with panic attacks and mood swings.
Among 400 graduates of the program who have received two-year college scholarships and support services through the Adelphoi Promise initiative, the pair returned to the campus Thursday to take part in Adelphoi’s Showcase of Stars and to help inaugurate the new 7,000-square-foot Youth and Family Center.
Yawitz told those attending that Adelphoi “gave me hope that I still had a chance to be a successful, functioning member of society even when I was at the lowest point in my life.”
Beck noted she used to be an “emotionally unstable, angry girl who hated her life and herself.” But, she said, the Adelphoi staff “didn’t give up on me.”
Graduating in a hot gymnasium in Adelphoi’s Scalise Recreation Center, the pair returned to speak in the air-conditioned Youth and Family Center that was added to the building at a cost of about $1.8 million.
Students of Greensburg’s Stage Right! performing arts school and theatrical company joined Adelphoi students for a production number on the new center’s stage.
The new building also offers comfortable surroundings where Adelphoi youths can meet in privacy with visiting family or social workers, said Blair Kucinski, Adelphoi board chairman and former CEO.
Such visits used to occur “in a conference room at the school or in a living room of one of our group homes,” he said. “We just didn’t have a great facility to do it in.”
The new center also can function as an overflow site for recreational activities at times when gym space on the campus is at a premium.
It includes a coffee bar/kitchen, lounge areas, casual meeting space, conference rooms and an outdoor patio.
Adelphoi, started in 1971 as a group home for troubled boys, now provides services to more than 2,500 abused, neglected, delinquent and other at-risk youths and their families from a 30-county area.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .