Teen programs strong at both Clubhouses
- March 15, 2016
- Posted by: Andrew Cunningham
- Category: Happenings
The teen programs offered by Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County at the Downtown Clubhouse and Shoreline Middle School in Live Oak are both engaging places for members ages 12-18 to hang out after school. And the programs are tailored to meet different needs.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County Teen Club, soon to be incorporated into the Live Oak Clubhouse that officially opens March 28, has an average daily attendance of 52 during the school year and 31 in the summer. Attendance is expected to rise with the new 10,200-square-foot center, which replaces a portable classroom at Shoreline Middle School.
Presently, all the Teen Club members are Shoreline Middle School students, with students from Harbor and Soquel High Schools visiting as volunteers.
There is a free snack for any member who wants it and participants gather daily for assembly and announcements. Students then work on homework, or if their homework is done, they do accelerated reading assignments.
Members are allowed 30 minutes each on computers and also take part in daily exercise, which can include soccer, football, basketball or other activities. The future Live Oak Teen Club located on the second floor of the new Clubhouse will give members access to more technology, like video editing, animation and coding, as well as expanded creative arts and music space.
“We really utilize the outdoors — we have to,” Jennifer Sherry, who has served as unit director for six years. “Currently, when we want to do a kitchen project, we have to use the nearby Simpkins Family Swim Center. With the new building, we will have our own kitchen to do classes.”
“The teen program is important because it is a place for kids to go that is about moving forward with a plan for their lives,” Sherry said. “We help families by providing a safe place for their children to learn and grow.”
Elli Gandolfo, 15, a sophomore at Soquel High School, has volunteered at the Live Oak Teen Club because she wants to be a social worker and enjoys working with younger students. She was member of the club throughout her time as a student at Shoreline Middle School.
“I had troubles throughout middle school, and it was nice to know people were there for you,” she said.
Lesley Baretto, 15, the Live Oak Youth of the Year and a Cypress Charter School student, also chose to volunteer after graduating from Shoreline.
“The program definitely helped me develop critical social skills I still use today,” she said. “I love the community here. The staff members are always super supportive and there is something here for everyone to enjoy and participate in.”
At the Downtown Teen Center, after members complete their homework through “Power Hour,” then the teens delve into deep discussions about contemporary social issues, including race relations, the Electoral College and other hot topics, said April Ochoa, teen director.
“They are a really young group of teens but they are functioning on a high intellectual level,” she said. “You always get people who disagree with each other, but these discussions help them hear other people’s positions, listen respectfully and not get upset when someone doesn’t agree with them.”
The Downtown Teen Center, which has an average daily attendance of 30 after school and 40 in summer, features programs specifically designed for boys and girls. Passport to Manhood helps teenage boys build bridges between school and home, leading to better relationships with adults. Smart Girls teaches teenage girls about how to make smart decisions, get into the best colleges and navigate difficult relationships.
Jessica Rizo, 12, a Mission Hill Middle School student, has been attending Boys & Girls Clubs programs for six years and likes participating in Smart Girls.
“We talk to each girl in the program to see if they’re OK, or if there are any problems at school or home so they can be here and be happy,” Jessica said. “I’ve met many new friends attending Smart Girls.”