Teen center’s programming options keep expanding (By Eric Schwartzberg)

Teen center’s programming options keep expanding (By Eric Schwartzberg)

EDGE Teen Center is expanding its after-school offerings with new programs led by community volunteers from various backgrounds.

The Liberty Twp. non-profit, which opened its doors eight years ago to serve area youth, now averages between 95 and 105 students a day, the most in its history.

Over the course of a school year, the center serves more than 500 students from Lakota East, Lakota West and Butler Tech with programming that focuses on leadership, healthy living, life skills, community service and the arts.

Many activities are led by adult volunteers from the area.

“One of the biggest trends we’ve seen over the last two years is the level of engagement from business people and other adults in the community who are volunteering at the center,” said EDGE board member Brenda Yablonsky.

Community member volunteer to lead weekly sessions on a variety of topic including healthy cooking and eating, proper exercise techniques and learning how to draw Japanese cartoon animation Anime. Also launched this year is a creative arts initiative that has students creating a “Wall of Happiness” with an item that represents hope or happiness to that individual.

Students also get sessions on college planning, tutoring from University of Cincinnati students, lessons on how to interview for a job, volunteer visits from area youth pastors, and monthly spa days aimed at enhancing well being and self-esteem.

EDGE Director Annie Droege also is launching a “Fishbowl” conversation series, where she schedules one-time visits with subject matter experts on a variety of topics of interest to teens. The small-group discussion topics will range from basics of investing and basic car maintenance to depression and stress management.

Nia Butts, a Lakota East freshman, said EDGE’s after-school programming is “very helpful” and allows students to find an interest and stave off boredom.

Whacky Wellness Wednesday, which aims to make healthy eating and exercise an enjoyable endeavor, is an after-school favorite, Butts said.

“As an athlete, I learn how to feed myself correctly and how I can work out to be a healthier person, have a healthier lifestyle,” she said.

Upcoming sessions will teach students everything from how to make jewelry and knit to training sessions preparing teens for running a 5K.

In February, EDGE will partner with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s health education team in its division of adolescent and transition medicine for a six-week Fun & Fit program emphasizing exercise and physical health.

Yablonsky said EDGE Teen Center is more than just a fun place to be, it’s also a way for teens to form their own community.

“The many opportunities the teens have to interact and be mentored by adults in their community support the center’s overall mission of empowering teens to impact the world,” she said.

A focus group last year helped the center plan its offerings, an important aspect to an ever-changing student population, Droege said.

“They’re the ones who are guiding us with all this programming,” she said. “It was evident that they wanted a voice in what was going on here, so that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

While students pay a $50 annual fee to use the center, that covers less than 10 percent of the annual budget, Yablonsky said. Grant funding is used to support specific programs.

Volunteerism is critical to the center’s survival, as its budget allows for one programming director who would not be able to carry out programming without volunteer manpower, Yablonsky said.

“There is no one individual or organization that funds EDGE,” she said. “We rely on donations from local businesses, churches and individuals to keep the doors open.”

Lakota East sophomore Koy Bentley said he likes getting volunteer hours via service work at the teen center, but also enjoys fun programming options like Whacky Wellness Wednesday.

“I think that’s really helpful,” Bentley said, taking a break from playing a guess-the-ingredients game with freshly-made fruit smoothies. “I don’t really know how to cook except for like, Hot Pockets.”

–Article originally posted at http://www.journal-news.com/news/teen-center-programming-options-keep-expanding/eCfx1rUEHwJhJUnwKyAspM/

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