A winding staircase climbs two floors towards an arena of hope and success. Inside, youths pour over their homework with the help of expert tutors, an aura of hard work and aspirations drifting through the quiet. Though the corridor takes the guise of a series of offices and an open study space, its occupants are leveling the playing field for many of the area’s students. Chautauqua Striders is celebrating 35 years of service to the community, looking forward to many more years of providing athletic programming, tutoring and mentoring services, and more.
Chautauqua Striders started out as a track and field club in 1979, founded by Ron Graham and Dan Feather. “After a year or so of organized track practices, and working with the kids in that capacity, there were college coaches who were interested in the kids who were in the program. But, when the recruiters from the colleges started to make phone calls, we got our hands on the kids’ grades…there was no way these kids were going to go to college based on their grades,” Ben Lindquist, Executive Director of Chautauqua Striders, explains. “That led to the tutoring portion.” In 1981, the program introduced the “Lighted Schoolhouse Tutoring Program” to help their students achieve greater success in the classroom. A larger need in the community was identified and the tutoring program was opened up to all students, regardless of athletic involvement.
Lindquist began his journey with Striders in mid-July of 2013. “I spent the previous eight and a half years at Jamestown Community College in the athletics department, at both the Jamestown and Olean Campus– This was a nice, gradual change to continue to do things that I love and dealing with youth on a daily basis.” He explains, eager to get to work helping students succeed both on the track and in the classroom.
The tutoring portion has now become a familiar component of the Striders Program. The program offers homework help in a variety of locations, aside from the center at the Jamestown YMCA. “We are in a multitude of local schools and after school programs providing tutoring services,” Lindquist said. With the new Common Core Standards in place, Striders staff members are more than ready to help. “We do continuous tutor trainings to keep our tutors up to speed on the learning modules and the way that the teachers are teaching.” Homework help is offered to children age K – 12, with extra help available for high school age students studying for the NYS Regents Exams, PSAT and SAT college entrance exams.
Another important service offered by Striders is their Mentoring program. With one hundred mentoring matches throughout the Jamestown and North County area, this program is helping children in a big way. “Often, these kids don’t have a positive role model,” Lindquist said. “They might not have somebody in that capacity.” Filling the gap, mentors either visit schools for lunch with the kids or spend time with their mentees in the community, attending community events.
Striders also participates in outreach to the community through Project Reach and Hispanic Outreach. These programs focus on those in crisis, making resources available to families and children in immediate need. “Often, school counselors don’t have time to meet with these kids,” Lindquist said. “So, we have an outreach advocate who is able to meet with these kids and discuss their problems and the situations that arise in their daily lives.”
In the next few months, the athletic season begins at Chautauqua Striders, bringing many exciting races and events. “We have a community program called our ‘Striders Athletic Club’,” Lindquist said. Community members can join for a small fee, gaining discounts at local stores, camaraderie and the knowledge they are supporting a younger generation of runners. The awaited ‘Dan Feather 5k’ is slated for Labor Day weekend, while the second annual ‘Lucy Town Half Marathon and 5k’ is scheduled for Columbus Day weekend. Registration forms and results for previous races are available on their website.
Chautauqua Striders is located at 101 East 4th Street in Jamestown, NY. The on-site Lighted Schoolhouse tutoring program is open Tuesday through Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information or to give donations, visit their website at: http://www.chautauqua-striders.org/index.html, find them on Facebook, or give them a call at: 716-488-2203. “I feel blessed to be part of an organization like this,” Lindquist said with a smile. “To have any part in helping to develop the kids in the community is an honor.”