--- Issued May 27, 2014

Cherie Kinem, recreation director at the YMCA of Greater Erie, was named the Youth Worker of the Year at a ceremony Thursday for the inaugural Youth Work Awards, which honor people in agencies throughout Erie County.  She was given the award in recognition of her work with youths who live in residences owned by the Erie Housing Authority.

John Horan, executive director of the Authority, nominated Kinem.

The sponsors are the Erie Unified Youth Violence Reduction Initiative, the United Way of Erie County, and the Erie County Policy and Planning Council for Children and Families.

The sponsors received 29 nominations from youth, parents and co-workers. The sponsors presented nine unique awards, including the Youth Worker of the Year award, the top honor, at the ceremony at Brewerie. Erie Police Chief Randy Bowers presented the awards.

Kinem's work with public housing residents through the YMCA Kids Clubs includes everything from theater, to horseback riding, to sports, to helping youths build entries for the Bayfront Maritime Center's Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta.


Here is the 2014 Youth Work Awards for Youth Worker of the Year, as submitted by John E. Horan, executive director of the Erie Housing Authority.

Who are you nominating: Cheryl (Cherie) Lynn Kinem

What organization do they work for? The YMCA of Greater Erie

Why are you nominating them? What makes this person a great youth worker?

Cherie Kinem has been the mentor, mother, friend, program innovator to the school-age children of the Housing Authority of the City of Erie since 1989. Ms. Kinem is a Program Director for the YMCA of Greater Erie and oversees youth programming in several Housing Authority Public Housing neighborhoods. These include the on-site year-round youth programs and libraries/art centers in the John E. Horan Garden Apartments and Erie Heights/Pineview Family Developments, summer playground programs in our Bird Drive and Agnes Priscaro Apartments Family Developments, and the Rodger Young Pool and Playground adjacent to our Harbor Homes Family Development.

To say that Cherie Kinem is a youth worker is to not fully identify the impact she has had on our young residents for the past twenty-five years. She is a life-changer for our youth. If you go into any of our neighborhoods and ask the children who Miss Cherie is, they will all have stories to tell you! To walk into a room full of children with Cherie is a very lonely experience because it is as if you are invisible because all they see is their favorite person Miss Cherie.

From the beginning, Cherie Kinem has partnered with the Housing Authority to give our children opportunities that other children are born with and take for granted. First and foremost, she provides them  a safe and stimulating environment where children have the opportunity to grow into positive and productive young adults. The Youth Centers are positive environments for children where you see program boards that recognize birthdays, accomplishments in schools, photo’s of adventures they have had, and upcoming activities they can sign-up to participate in. In other words, the refrigerator or bragging area we all had in our homes. Cherie knows every child’s name and in most cases has given them nicknames that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. In many cases this includes her staff who work for her and often first met Cherie as a child in one of her programs.

Cherie Kinem is an innovative youth programmer. Youth in her program perform in live theatre productions serving as actors, stage hands, artists and set builders. Several of the children who started in the YMCA Kids Club Future Stars Theater productions have performed with the Erie Playhouse. In total, the Future Stars Live Theatre Program has performed seven live theatre productions, the most recent of which played to a packed house at the Hirt Auditorium in the Erie County Public Library.

Cherie understands the importance of exposing our youth to activities throughout their community. She takes children on a monthly trip to local restaurants where they learn how to order dinner and socialize when eating out. At one recent outing, a woman who observed their behavior quietly left the restaurant and on her way out anonymously paid for the entire group’s meal because she was so impressed with their behavior.

On any given day, youth in the Housing Authority of the City of Erie YMCA Kids Clubs participate in Art Classes, Therapy Dog Reading Programs, Environmental Education, Sports, Educational Incentive Programs, Swimming, Music, Computer Classes, Instructional Programs including Golf, Fishing, Horseback Riding and Sailing along with providing all of the children in attendance that day with a healthy hot supper, sometimes serving over 100 children.

Cherie Kinem gives children the opportunity to feel special and to have experiences that will stay with them as they move through life. When Cherie’s kids go to college, as many of them have, they will have multiple experiences to share with their friends and colleagues. Children succeed because of the experiences they have and the people in their lives who challenge them to succeed and take risks. Cherie Kinem is exceptional in her desire to find the positive in every child and to give them the opportunity to find what their dream is and to have an outlet in which to pursue that dream.

In one of several examples, a young man who participated in Cherie’s programs for several years and had every reason to fail has succeeded on a very high level. He came from a highly dysfunctional family where the mother was absent and the father ultimately passed away and all of his brothers and sisters have struggled. Cherie Kinem saw something special in this young man and encouraged him to continue his education and employed him part-time while he attended college and fulltime during the summers. He has since graduated, moved out of Erie and is employed fulltime overseas. Another young man participated in the Future Stars program and is now an honor student at the Collegiate Academy. In a full circle story two young sisters who came through Cherie Kinem’s programs graduated from college and are now the site supervisor of the YMCA Kids Club at the John E. Horan Garden Apartment and a Family Self-sufficiency coordinator for the Housing Authority. Success stories like this are common for the youth who have gone through programs overseen by Cherie Kinem.

The common theme is that she makes all of the children in her programs feel special and that they are valued as individuals. When you are in any of Cherie’s programs you do not hear profanity, disrespect toward staff or witness children being aggressive toward each other. Housing Authority staff and volunteers interact with Cherie’s kid’s several times throughout the year at Housing Authority and community functions, and are always overwhelmed with how well behaved Cherie’s children are.

In closing I have attached several photos that will give you a feel for Cherie Kinem’s programs and just some of the unique way she interacts with children.

Your Name:    John E. Horan, Executive Director Housing Authority of the City of Erie

Your Role:    Other – The Housing Authority is the funding source and the program partner.

Your Phone Number: 814-452-2425

Your e-mail Address: jhoran@hace.org

For more information, contact John E. Horan at 452-2425