Making it fun on Friday night
Every parent has heard this from children: I'm bored.
For youth in the Yuba County foothills, excitement can be a long way down the hill, so sometimes you have to make your own fun.
Foothills residents have decided to do just.
Challenge resident Suzy Moore said a community youth center started last month at the Ponderosa Community Center in Brownsville.
Every Friday evening features sports, games, pools, food, bingo and prize drawings for kids from second-graders to high school seniors.
“We try to keep ‘em busy,” said Moore, 44, a recent Bay Area transplant who organizes the weekly center.
A handful of people, mostly parents, comprise a core group who take turns making dinner for the teens. There are more than a dozen people involved, not only parents, but also school principals and church ministers.
For hungry teens, food is the first thing - good food, said Suzy Moore. Friday night's fare was pizza.
After dinner, there are group circles, then football or other activities. Dessert follows, and by 8 p.m., it's time to go.
Perhaps it's the food and games, perhaps it's word of mouth, or maybe just boredom. But Moore said attendance has increased from nine at the first event on Aug. 4 to 40 participants a month later.
Yuba County foothills communities used to have their own Friday Night Live program, similar to Marysville's program, said Margery Moore, Suzy's mother, a longtime resident and former volunteer remedial reading teacher at Yuba-Feather School.
The foothills' Friday Night Live program folded a few years ago, she said, leaving a void in activities for teens. Recreation is sorely needed by teens in foothills communities, who face hours of bus travel once they graduate from elementary school. They get off the bus as late as 7 p.m. and then have to do homework.
All that can lead to social isolation. Margery Moore said she has noticed teens in Ponderosa Park, drinking and smoking. There have also been incidents of vandalism at the park.
“Kids were at loose ends,” said Margery Moore.
Something had to be done, she said. And in the foothills, that often means people taking it upon themselves to come up with self-help solutions.
A number of informal groups exist, she said, volunteering, for example, to take people down the hill for medical appointments. Expenses for the youth program, which include dinners and raffle prizes, are self-funded by parents and organizers, she said.
“We're trying to take care of people here, and with the youth group, we feel we're succeeding,” said Margery Moore.
The idea for a Friday night youth program was sparked when a youth retreat earlier this summer brought teens to the park, who appeared to be enjoying themselves. Suzy Moore said she thought it was something that should continue.
“Here I was seeing all these teens wanting to be there, wanting to have fun,” she said.
A possible side benefit to the blossoming youth center could be a decrease in problems at the park. Suzy Moore said teen smoking and drinking at Ponderosa Park across the street has decreased since the youth center started.
It's too early to say whether there will be a decline in acts of vandalism, such as toilet seats being ripped out, said Dr. William Hoffman, a board member for Yuba Feather Communities Services Inc., the nonprofit which oversees the park and community center. Children in the foothills needed something to do.
“Everybody's really enthusiastic it will be a positive thing for the kids,” said Hoffman.
The nonprofit board has endorsed Margery Moore's request to have the youth center as a subcommittee as long as its nonreligious, said Hoffman.
“Our big push now is going to be for the winter, because kids have nothing to do,” said Margery Moore.
Appeal-Democrat reporter John Dickey can be reached at 749-4711. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.