In 1984, Brother Danna Gauthreaux, OMI, was concerned about the high number of young people congregating on the downtown streets with “nothing to do.” After speaking with a group of concerned citizens and his own church, he opened the Children’s Crisis and Rescue Center, renamed a month later to the St. Mary’s Youth Drop-In Center. The center became a refuge for night youth, a safe haven, a source of counseling and support, and a place to eat.
Within two years, United Way began funding the Center, and it rapidly and lovingly became known as “The Dungeon.” In 1989, Brother Danna moved the center to West Commerce Street in a larger facility, the old Toudouze Market Building, and became the “Downtown Youth Drop-In Center.”
For years the center operated on a shoe-string budget and with a “short-term” lease. In 1995, the center faced a permanent closure because of a lack of funding and lack of space. However, a dedicated board, staff, and community transformed the struggling agency, calling for support from city leaders, funders, and individuals.
Not only was the once-struggling center able to keep its doors open, but it was able to move into a much larger, nicer facility on Poplar Street, later renamed the “Dan Cook Youth Center.” From there, the center continued to grow and by 1999, became “San Antonio Youth Centers” (SAYC).
In 2010, because of the broad impact we have on youth of all ages in San Antonio, we became simply SA Youth. With a strong and dedicated Board of Directors and a professional staff dedicated to creating core competencies around educational objectives, SA Youth has become a drop-out prevention and recovery program targeting the most disadvantaged children in our community. Our focus on providing a quality learning experience for those most at-risk is our distinguishing trait as a community organization.
SA Youth received the 2018-2019 Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Cycle 10, Year 1 Grant from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to support the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The organization is one of only two local groups to be selected to receive this grant.
Today, SA Youth operates several Out-of-School Time (OST) site in the South San Independent School District and San Antonio Independent School District for school-age youth and one alternative campus and training center for young adults ages 16-24 who have left the traditional school system.