EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The Hazleton Integration Project is marking a milestone in Hazleton.

Now ten years old the hip center has become a very important part of the community.

The center is a community-based effort that seeks to unite the people of many different cultures who call Hazleton home.

Its mission is to celebrate diversity and teach acceptance to current and future generations.

Vibrant art can be seen all around the Hazleton One Community Center.

The facility is home to a variety of educational, athletic, and cultural activities known as the Hazleton Integration Project.

“We teach GED classes, we teach ESL for adults, and of course, we have many education courses for children. The after-school program is from kindergarten through grade seven, we have 87 enrolled,” said Bob Curry the founding president of Hazleton Integration Project.

The project is the brainchild of Hazleton native and philanthropist Joe Maddon.

Its main focus is operating a high-quality community center that serves economically underserved children and families.

“We’ve recently begun an initiative that is really driven towards eliminating food insecurity in the greater Hazleton Area, and that has many components,” added Curry.

There’s always something happening at the center.

The “Steam Studio” is a state-of-the-art lab where “STEM” learning opportunities are endless thanks to a partnership with Penn State.

“It’s been a joy for us and also for them. their students, juniors, and seniors in college, get the opportunity to work with a diverse population,” continued Curry.

Dedicated staff members and volunteers make it all possible.

Executive Director Rossanna Gabriel came to Hazleton from the Dominican Republic and started here as a volunteer.

“My son had the opportunity to participate in different activities and improve his English language allowed him to participate in activities and even have a full scholarship to college when he had the opportunity to enter,” says Gabriel.

In June, the center celebrated its 10th anniversary. It is a vital community resource for many people who move to the area.

“Everybody here is a family. We invite everybody when they come, you are depressed in a different country, come here because you’re gonna find friends, you’re gonna get help, you’re gonna feel comfortable,” Gabriel explained.

Helping newcomers feel and understand that they are valued members of the community is a top priority here.

“You’re here in this country because you are looking for a better future for your family, and that does not happen in one day. They start coming here, then you can see that person in a couple of months, telling you thank you, thank you for the advice, thank you for opening the door for me or for my family,” said Gabriel.

The Hip Center offers many volunteer opportunities for people in the community.

They also have a number of programs for everyone in the Hazleton Area you can keep up on what they are doing at the Hazleton Integration Project website.