History of RYS

The Municipal Youth Service System was created by the County Legislature in 1989 as an intermunicipal partnership with localities to promote healthy youth development for all young people. The County Youth Services Board and Department provide financial and technical assistance resources to municipal governments that identify local youth needs and priorities and provide matching funds. Local programs are designed to complement services offered by schools, communities, and countywide agencies for underserved populations. Funding is allocated as a non-competitive formula that considers financial need, population and access to other services.

The current Rural Youth Services (RYS) collaboration began in 1995 and now includes local Youth Commissions or Community Councils in all nine rural municipalities of Tompkins County, the 4-H Youth Development program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC), and the Tompkins County Department of Youth Services (TCDYS). Programming is implemented based on community needs assessment data from the TCDYS and under the guidance of the local volunteer commissions or councils. Due to a variety of factors including rural isolation, youth served through RYS are not able to participate in many enrichment-focused activities offered in established institutions beyond their neighborhoods.

Though individual programs operate independently of the schools, RYS staff have developed strong relationships with school administrations and staff. Some municipalities have RYS staff able to have an office within the school and most allow RYS programming to occur within and/or at the school.

RYS Coordinators at CCETC provide program coordination and supervision which ensures program quality and safety. RYS staff benefit from a strong collegial network among their peers and enjoy meeting monthly to share ideas, resources and participate in training.


Shelley Lester
Rural Youth Services Coordinator
(607) 272-2292 ext. 141

Last updated June 1, 2015