An after-school program for students in Westfield is planning to expand its current building beginning next month because of continued growth.
Student Impact, at 536 N. Union St., is in the midst of a fundraising campaign that will go toward the construction of a 2,000-square-foot addition to the existing facility, said Danyele Easterhaus, executive director of the organization that serves students in grades five through 12.
The current 2,000-square-foot building commonly known as The Rock is designed as a house. It has administrative office space upstairs and also includes a kitchen, a general area where students can play games or do homework, and a garage that has been converted into a gaming room.
“It feels like home because it’s like going to your best friend’s house,” she said.
The addition at the rear of the building will be designed as an open space area and will include a breezeway, space for arts, seating area and a game room for students, according to Easterhaus. The project is estimated to cost $550,000, although it has secured $125,000 of in-kind donations so far, she said.
The organization, which was launched in 1999, started with six students and has since grown to serving 5,000 to 7,000 students annually.
“The growth has been enormous, and we’ve been struggling for space for about seven to eight years. But post-pandemic, particularly, people were feeling isolated, people were feeling alone, and people didn’t have a connection with people and we provided that space even in the pandemic,” Easterhaus said. “We pushed through it and been able to keep kids connected.”
There is no application process to attend Student Impact, although the organization works with teachers and has also gotten a boost through word-of-mouth, according to Easterhaus. It also works closely with the Westfield Youth Assistance Program as well to connect students to the opportunities at Student Impact, she added.
Groundbreaking on the project is expected to take place May 1, with a targeted completion date of Sept. 1. Easterhaus said she looks forward to the upcoming addition, especially as Student Impact works to meet the needs of students it serves.
Many students have attended Student Impact for several years, and Easterhaus said it will be a major benefit as it moves forward.
“What they really want is a space to hang out with their friends, and their new space allows them specific space to do that,” she said. “We exist to build relationships, so the more spaces that we have available for the kids, for one, that gives us an opportunity to build a relationship and have ongoing mentorship with them.”
But for students who are a part of Student Impact, the new space will provide several benefits.
MacKenzie Whitesell, a junior at Westfield High School, has been coming to Student Impact since fifth grade and attends four days a week. She said she particularly enjoys seeing other students enjoying themselves in activities such as playing video games and being able to make new friends.
Whitesell also said the people that she encounters are only one reason why she decided to return each year and said the new addition will be a major benefit moving forward, especially as she continues to grow as an individual.
“I like being able to (make) friendships where I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” Whitesell said. “Coming to Student Impact has definitely given me leadership skills and how to bond with people.”
Student Taylor Wilhelm, who is in sixth grade and has been coming to Student Impact since last year, is also looking forward to the expansion.
“It’s going to provide more space and probably with more space, there’s going to be more things to do, which means there will be more people to come here,” she said.
How to help
Individuals and organizations interested in making in-kind or monetary donations toward the upcoming building expansion are asked to visit therockwestfield.org/. For questions, call 317-693-4366.