PASCO — Paris Jessen, 11, of Pasco bobs around, waving his arms and kicking his legs, as two teens try to keep a wavering tower of Jenga blocks from crashing down.
Pop music plays in the background, although it gets drowned out by young voices and the slamming of the front door as more teens arrive to Pasco's PowerZone Youth Center.
On the wall of the nonprofit's office is a paper that shows the heads of two brass brads, one labeled "God" and the other "teens" with the words "Connect the dots."
That is what PowerZone Youth Center is all about, a relationship with God in addition to a relationship with other teens and the adult volunteers, said executive director Carole Schuh, who has been involved with teen ministry since 1979.
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Schuh, of Basin City, said she felt called to help teens discover what she didn't until she was 25 -- God. As a teen, she didn't have a good relationship with her father, and after high school, she partied and drank until she became a Christian.
Now she hopes to help teens stay in school, avoid drugs and gangs, and make good life choices.
The center is a place where kids can do homework, play on the computer and hang out with friends. Schuh also plans outings for Frisbee golf and bowling and trips for camping or snowboarding. Fundraisers make it possible for the teens to participate in the trips, since many don't have extra cash.
About 40 kids from sixth through 12th grade come to the youth center, which is open after school Tuesday through Thursday, Schuh said.
The nonprofit group is openly faith-based, from the giant portrayal of Jesus Christ's head hanging on an all-black wall to the Wednesday night worship that includes the drum set and congas.
PowerZone Youth Center moved into the storefront at 1202 W. Lewis St., Suite B, in November 2010, but Schuh and the group didn't receive the city's special permit necessary to offer a community service at the location until a year later because they didn't realize one was needed.
It is their first home to themselves since they started a decade ago in the basement of the Pasco First United Methodist Church alongside Grace Clinic.
Use of the building is possible because of the support from Milne Power Tool Repair, the nonprofit's landlord, Schuh said.
Schuh said she does her best to keep the overhead low. She and seven other adults volunteer their time. The total budget is about $22,000 a year when the center has a paid tutor, a position that is currently vacant.
Any other funding and grant money the center gets will go toward retreats and camps for the teens, she said.
"We want to expand their world view," she said.
Elijah Petersen, 13, of Kennewick, tried snowboarding for the first time on a trip with PowerZone. Now, the Highlands Middle School seventh grader said he is looking forward to the next time the group goes this year.
For Martin Quintana, 19, of Pasco, coming to the center is better than staying at home after school during the week.
"I was bored at home," he said.
The Pasco High School senior said he also has become more outgoing in the three years he has come to the center.
Paris, a Stevens Middle School sixth grader, said he has made friends at the youth center and is looking forward to his first time snowboarding this year. He is teaching himself how to play the congas for worship and said he likes the center because it is somewhere he can have fun and be himself.
His sister, Deja Alonzo, 13, said she has changed in the year that she has come to the after-school program. Before, she cussed and wasn't always respectful to others.
The Stevens Middle School seventh grader has started to think of herself more and more as a Christian and said she likes learning about God.
Three of her brothers, including Paris, already go to the youth center with her, and she said her fifth-grade brother, Eithen, can't wait until he is old enough to come.
Deja said she likes singing during worship, although she prefers being in the crowd and at this point doesn't want to join the band.
Julian Hinojosa, 19, of Pasco, plays bass during worship. The Pasco High School senior said, like Deja, he has changed for the better in the three-plus years since he started coming to the youth center.
Hinojosa said he used to use drugs and hang out with people who weren't good influences. Now he has become someone other teens look to as a role model.
Donations to PowerZone Youth Center can be sent to P.O. Box 5200, Pasco, WA, 99302 or made online at powerzoneyouth.com.