New Oregon Youth Center director

Precious Woodley

Precious Woodley is wrapping up her first five weeks as director of the Oregon Youth Center, and said she’s spent most of that time connecting with the community — even though most interactions are virtual.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges for the new director, as Woodley said it was difficult she wasn’t able to previously see what programming looked like at the center in person. She’s also had to become more tech savvy since she started her position May 11. Woodley said that includes launching OYC’s online programming, which she calls “virtual connections.

She’s also developed daily themed online activities which are hosted through Google Hangouts. The themes are Minecraft Monday, Art Exploration Tuesday, Science Fun Wednesday, Cooking Club Thursday, and Young Wild Free Friday.

The new director said her next step is to begin emailing members and canvassing around Oregon to collect surveys, to better meet the needs of the community.

“I’m really big on data-based decisions,” Woodley said. “Connecting with families, connecting with partners, it’s really big to build those foundations and connections in the first year.”

Woodley took over duties from interim director Elisa Kaether. She comes to the youth center from the Goodman Community Center in Madison, where she was assistant director of children’s programming.

Woodley, who attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said she’s focused on bringing her background in Trauma Informed Care to the center, and wants to create a “welcoming, safe space, supporting our students,” which includes a focus on color coordination.

“We’ll have calm colors like blues and greens and tans, and less red and orange, which can be alarming colors,” she said. “I’ll be mindful of what the space looks like.”

Woodley said her overarching goal for the center is to become a one stop location for families to turn to for food security, housing and community connections.

“If we don’t have answers, we’ll have access to provide answers through lists of resources we’ll have on hand to share with participants to support them in an overall holistic manner,” Woodley said. “Knowing who the resources are, who to go to, to go out to meet the people and bridge the gaps between the people and resources, those are my goals.”

But at this time, Woodley said there is not a plan in place for when or how to reopen the center for in-person programming. She said safety is the top priority.

Once open again, she said she wants a balance between safety but still having fun at the center. She said she will consult with other area community centers and neighborhood centers rather than reinvent the wheel.

“As director, I’ll be leading with no stop signs and understanding there’s going to be bumps and people need you to support them, and you need people to support you, we’ll support each other effectively and work as a team to get the job done,” she said.

Still, even though a lot of Woodley’s work has been online, she is starting to get recognized around town, she said.

“I’ve been very humbled by my welcoming and have humbly accepted my small celebrity status,” she said.

Neal Patten can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.