The staff of the Pasco main branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties wants to offer more to teens struggling through the critical transition of adolescence.
That’s why the nonprofit’s holiday wish is to transform its relatively new teen program at the main branch from basic to stellar.
The ultimate goal is to help teens make healthy lifestyle choices in fitness, eating right and positive peer relations, said Brian Ace, the nonprofit’s executive director. The nonprofit also wants to prevent teen substance abuse and pregnancy.
There has been a dedicated area and a staff member for teens for a couple months, even though the main branch expanded from focusing on elementary school kids to serving teens about two years ago, Ace said.
The teens look up to the new teen coordinator, Rudell Crim, who is a defensive back with the Tri-Cities Fever, Ace said. He joined as teen coordinator in September.
A grant from United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties helped the main branch add Crim and create a teen room, which features an Xbox One, a few computers, a small library and a handful of board games.
But more is needed to make the room more welcoming and better serve the teens who come to the main branch after school. For example, although about 30 teens use the center, there is a single couch. There’s plenty of floor space for more couches, bean bags and area rugs.
The room also lacks blinds.
More wireless controllers, and sports and Kinect games, also are needed. Teen-appropriate board games are in short supply as well.
“Teens learn best by doing,” Ace said.
Also helpful would be school supplies, including notebooks, markers and pens; and art supplies, such as canvases, paintbrushes, digital cameras and thumb drives.
But high on the main branch’s wish list is a 12- to 15-person passenger van specifically for teen services. Ace said that would let the nonprofit pick up students at school to bring them to the club, as well hold field trips. Gas cards also would be appreciated.
It’s important to help teens broaden their horizons by giving them experiences outside of the Tri-Cities, Ace said. Some field trips could focus on college tours and fairs, and job sites. Others might be service related.
Teens start out afternoons by getting homework help and participating in games and activities that tie back to learning, said Bob Lopez, main branch director. They also have programs, including the Council for Boys and Young Men and Girls Circle, that are meant to help build relationships with peers.
They also recently added a Keystone Club at the main branch, where teens participate in community service projects and outreach, Lopez said. Part of the group’s goal is to help promote good character development, citizenship and leadership skills.
Teens involved in the program also will be competing in the agency’s Youth of the Year scholarship program. That involves writing essays, giving speeches and being interviewed, Lopez said.
The teens also have an opportunity to mentor younger kids through Club Crew, Ace said. They are accepting applications from the teens now, and each teen will go through an interview process and background check, much like they would if they were applying for a job. Those the program accepts will then volunteer in the club, helping them gain work experience.
“It provides a much more multigenerational feel to the club,” Ace said.