Connect Center Opens S.T.E.A.M. Lab with Music Studio and Connect Classroom:
Cohoes, NY (February 17, 2021) – With the snip of a ribbon, Executive Director of the Connect Center, Ben Williams, today joined with Chairman of the Cohoes Housing Authority Mark Pascale, Program Leader of Grace in Action Bill Minchin, and other government, business, and community leaders to celebrate the opening of the new expansion of the Connect Center in Cohoes.
“Our vision is for the Connect Center to serve as a community hub for connection, empowerment, and innovation, with a mission to break the cycle of poverty by connecting youth to their full potential,” Ben Williams said. “We have reached this important milestone today because of the growing number of people and organizations who understand the need, share our vision, and are committed to make it a reality.”
Today’s opening marks the completion of the first phase of the Connect STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Lab including the Connect Classroom located in a Black Box Theater, and the Music Studio. Future plans include a technology workshop, media room, commercial kitchen classroom, and recreation space.
The Connect Classroom is a program aimed to alleviate some of the technology access challenges intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. This school day and after-school program will provide access to computers, mentoring, and homework help for students in public housing in Cohoes, NY. The program capacity is ten students, per session, with computers currently available to serve six students per session. The Center is recruiting volunteer supervisors and homework helpers to assist between 9-12 and 2-5 Monday through Friday.
Mark Pascale, Chairman of the Cohoes Housing Authority and member of the Cohoes School Board, said, “While education and youth development are always a priority, we are currently faced with unprecedented challenges both in the delivery of instruction and providing a level playing field for all students. I believe this Connect Center expansion will help fill a serious void, supporting those most in need.”
The Music Studio is an innovative space for exploring and learning about music and recording, featuring a sound booth to record music or podcasts, digital audio workstations, live instruments, and a central engineering and teaching station. These two spaces allow the Connect Center to both meet community members’ immediate needs as well as explore their creativity.
The Music Studio was constructed with the generous work of the Grace in Action team, a volunteer construction crew who recently donated two+ months of labor including painting, providing carpentry and electrical work, and installing flooring.
Bill Minchin, Program Leader of Grace in Action, said, “The Music Studio project presented an ideal opportunity for the volunteers of Grace in Action to make a meaningful investment for the youth of Cohoes. We look forward to seeing the space become a resource that blesses and enriches many lives.”
The Connect Center has been a labor of love over the past ten years. Revs. Wendell and Dona Williams began construction on the Connect Center in 2012, aiming to bring about a place where community youth could thrive. After much progress and community support, Rev. Wendell Williams passed away in 2016 just a few months before the expected opening of the Connect Center. Progress on the Connect Center was halted until his son, Ben Williams, took over as Executive Director.
“I’m honored to be able to continue the vision that my dad began here. This building is being restored to serve its original purpose: to serve the community. Momentum is building rapidly both here and in the city of Cohoes. It’s a very exciting time”, Williams said.
The opening of the Connect Center is bringing new life and purpose into a building that has been a part of the heart of the Cohoes community for more than 130 years. The Center is housed in part of what was originally the St. Agnes Church, built by resources and labor of immigrant millworkers in 1891.
Over the past year, the Connect Center has garnered financial support from the Golub Foundation, Stewarts Shops, the Uniform Fire Fighters of Cohoes IAFF Local 2562, and the Seymour Fox Foundation to fund this expansion and has been constructed with the volunteer support of JM Precision, PPG Paints, and Grace in Action Fellowship.