COA Youth & Family Services (COA) has the distinction of being one of a handful of organizations that has served Milwaukee children and families for more than 100 years.
First known as the Children’s Outing Association, COA was founded in 1906 by a group of women who were members of a charitable organization called “The Personal Relief Society.” The initial focus of the agency was to provide a positive camping experience to urban children.
COA Youth & Family Center’s mission is to help Milwaukee children, teens, and families reach their greatest potential through a continuum of educational, recreational, and social work programs offered through its urban community centers and rural camp facility.
In 1970 COA moved into its current and expanded facilities at the west end of the North Avenue viaduct and began offering daily programming serving children in the West-of-the-River neighborhood. Years later COA started collaborating with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to open a Community Learning Center at Riverside University High School.
And, in 2001, its Adult Basic Education (ABE/GED) program became one the agency’s core programs. Over the years COA has also expanded its youth services to include a computer learning center and a cultural arts program, while entering into a partnership with five MPS elementary schools to provide Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) programming.
Today COA Youth & Family Centers provides programs and services at several sites throughout Milwaukee including its Riverwest Center (909 E. Garfield Ave.; Goldin Center, 2320 W. Burleigh St.; COA’s Camp Helen Brachman, near Stevens Point, WI; six Community Learning Centers; and through COA’s partnerships with 35 Milwaukee Public schools and a wide-variety of community organizations throughout Milwaukee.
COA has also become known for two well-attended signature events: COA Youth & Family Center’s Parents of the Year Award, which is given to high-profile parents who demonstrate qualities of leadership, community service, and commitment to family, and the agency is Wisconsin’s only Oscar party officially sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. All proceeds from these two galas go to the agency’s life-changing programs.
COA Youth & Family Services, though more than 105 years old, continues to play a vital role and fulfill critical needs in many of our Milwaukee neighborhoods, with the vision and fresh perspective that makes it relevant and noteworthy of recognition.