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Boys & Girls Club not just for little guys

Teen Center gives older members a place of their own
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal features editor
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There comes a point when the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn becomes “The Club.” For Auburn-area members, this happens when they start seventh grade and gain access to the Teen Center. “It gives them a place to go that’s safe,” said Danté Weaver, Teen Center coordinator. “It gives them a place to be comfortable and come out of their shell and feel important.” Teens in grades 7-12 are welcome to spend after-school hours at the Teen Center, which takes over the top floor of the Mullin & McAdams Clubhouse on Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn. Anywhere from 10 to 14 teens spend their after-school hours at the Teen Center on any given weekday, and there’s always room for more. “We really want the community to know that we’re there for them, the littlest things to the biggest things,” Weaver said. “I want them to have the opportunity to take advantage of what we have. We’re open for them and we’re here to help them succeed.” Weaver designs and implements a weekly schedule so there’s plenty to keep teens busy Monday through Friday. “Power hour,” mandated homework time, takes over the first hour of the schedule Monday through Thursday. “Homework is always first, we get that out of the way,” Weaver said. Weaver tries to keep the schedule packed with diversity in activities, everything from crafts and cooking to community service and field trips around town. “Basically we try to teach them things but have fun too,” she said. “I want them to learn something new, and in a fun way.” Jana Iversen, Boys & Girls Club of Auburn director of programs and training, said the Teen Center serves an important purpose for its members. “We have a lot of programs that focus on getting ready for a career, getting ready to graduate from high school,” she said. “A lot of these kids don’t think beyond today. Even to have them focus two years in the future… sometimes there’s no other encouragement for them to look forward.” Iversen said the goal is to make a positive impact in the lives of all members, including teens. “We want them here, we want to have a positive impact on them, to make sure they’re making the right choices, and give them the tools to make the right choice and to make sure they know someone cares about them,” she said. “It’s really not that different than what we offer for the younger members. It’s a positive place to be, where you’re cared for and there are clear boundaries and high expectations.” It doesn’t take much to get in the door — joining the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center requires a permission slip, a $10 membership fee and $10 monthly dues. Weaver, who has been with the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn since August, said she really enjoys working with the club’s older members. “I’ve always loved working with youth. It’s been my passion to help them out in some way,” she said. “When I come here, it makes me not think about anything else. Seeing them just brightens my day. They’re characters.” Daelin Arney-Johnson, 14, has been coming to the Teen Center for about a year. The Forest Lake Christian high-schooler spends an average of three afternoons a week at the center. “It seemed entertaining and interesting, and I wanted to check it out,” he said. “It’s a nice place to concentrate on my homework.” Cassi Van Zandt, 17, of Auburn, has been a Boys & Girls Club member for 11 years. “I personally like the teen center because we get to hang out with our age group and we get to know different types of people,” she said. Van Zandt doesn’t think enough of her peers are aware of what the Teen Center has to offer. “It’s made a big impact on my life, not only in school but in choices,” she said. “They see more in me than I see in myself. It’s like a family, and it’s something I have a passion for, that I need in my life.” __________ Check it out To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center, 679 Lincoln Way, call (530) 889-2273 or visit www.bgc-auburn.org.