J.B. Young, a long-ago superintendent of Davenport schools, might be surprised to see what the school bearing his name looks like in 2017.

Young died in 1918, a year before the historic structure opened. Today, the first floor includes 12 social-services agencies and educational programs that aim to serve the Davenport community.

It is now known as the J.B. Young Opportunity Center.

John Border, community education specialist for the Davenport Community School District, was one of those advocating for the project. He emceed the program Tuesday to officially open the facility.

"You're excited!" he said to the crowd of about 200 supporters. "I'm excited, too!"

Neighbors deserve the services in the center, he said, describing it as a "place that cares about the people, and the neighbors, in the neighborhoods."

Border's enthusiasm was echoed by students working at the grand opening event. Rykevius Edwards, 18, of Davenport, is with the Safer Foundation. The people at the Opportunity Center make Rykevius feel comfortable, he said, and he appreciates the renovated facilities and access to areas like the gym.

The Safer Foundation moved to J.B. Young from The Center, 1411 Brady St. It has been in Davenport since 1978 and helps teens in the court system, ages 16-21 years old, to get academic tools and job readiness training needed to succeed in life.

Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch spoke to the crowd, noting while his four children attended Williams Intermediate School, the family spent a lot of time in the gym at J.B. Young. 

Many children, Klipsch said, have the potential to achieve if they have a chance. He described the center as "urban revitalization" and said it will give the neighborhood children the support they need to succeed.

The former school was a central part of the Hilltop Campus Village, organized eight years ago, executive director Scott Tunnicliff said.

While it is difficult to close a school, Tunnicliff said officials will applaud the center if services are promoted and accessed by the entire community.

"It's a new set of assets here," he said, and it can be used by multiple generations. He also cited the new parking lot, which is parallel to Locust Street, and said the design will add a park-like atmosphere with walking trails.

"We'll cherish the legacy of J.B. Young, but this is a significant asset for our community," he said.

Rex Hutchinson worked at J.B. Young for almost 29 years, as a teacher, associate principal and principal. When he arrived in 1970, the school had 1,200 students, he said.

Hutchinson saluted the 2017 renovation and said it has roots in the former Stepping Stones program located at the site. "I am excited about this place," he said, adding that all things, including schools, run their course.

Fans of the new Opportunity Center included Kendrick Lee, 17, Davenport. Kendrick is with the Safer Foundation today but a few years ago he was in eighth grade at J.B. Young K-8 School.

"I like it," he said of the center. "I like being here and it all looks new."

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