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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 2, 2002 - Issue 73


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New "Teen Center" in North Rapid

by Dottie Potter Lakota Journal Staff Writer

Juke BoxRAPID CITY, SD – There's a new place to go and things to do for middle school students in Rapid City—especially those who live on the north side.

Chad Catron, Associate Outreach Director of the YMCA in Rapid City, has started a new program that gives the 6th, 7th and 8th grade youth a fun alternative for after school activities.

He and Shawn Hayford, Outreach Director, developed the idea for the YMCA "Teen Center" that's located at 1314 North Maple Street, directly across the street from the North Middle School.

"We looked for several months trying to find a place and the Bethel Assembly of God heard about it and let us use their basement," Catron said. "They were absolutely incredible in helping us."

He said they opened the center in early May of this year and that they've had kids there from day one. "It was slower this summer, but now that school has started again, we continue to have more kids come and I expect it to keep growing."

Catron said they have a Saturday night program they call "Midnight Alternative" at the main YMCA building downtown that's for youth 12 to 18 years old. It runs from 8:00 p.m. to Midnight. They had such a good response that he wanted to get something started for the youth in North Rapid.

"The Saturday night ‘Alternative' is for all the youth, but we wanted something that would be in the neighborhood for the kids on the North side," Catron said.

The "Teen Center" is open from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They offer a variety of activities for the kids. There's a pool table, carpet ball, ping pong, air hockey, two complete computers with Internet access and a sound board with speakers that allows for break dancing.

"I enjoy working with youth and I love the challenge they can give me," Catron said with a laugh.

He said that for the most part, discipline is not a problem. "My philosophy on discipline is that if you're out there with the kids, then discipline takes care of itself."

Snacks are available at the "Teen Center" with one free snack given to each child, and additional items, such as candy bars, chips, fruit and juice can be purchased for a small charge.

There is no charge at the "Teen Center" for members of the YMCA and non-members can purchase a punch card for $2.00 that can be used for any 10-day space of time.

"They can bring a friend if they want to and use the one punch card. It figures out to be .20 cents a day," Catron said.

He explained that the YMCA does a campaign in the schools each year where teachers can help them determine students from low-income families who can't afford the membership fee, which is $63.00 a year. A scholarship can then be offered to the student so there is no charge to them.

Catron said that local organizations, businesses and individuals all contribute to the scholarship fund that enables youth who are interested in a membership to have the opportunity to enjoy what the YMCA offers.

For the "Alternative Midnight" program on Saturday nights at the main YMCA, there is a $3.00 charge for non-members and $1.00 for members with a "Y" card.

"They get to take part in everything and we feed them for that amount. We usually have pizza for them," Catron said.

He added, "We're not in this to make money, but to give the kids ownership and to get them involved in something."

They do have an Outreach Program budget. Catron said that they plan to apply for grants in the spring, but for the present time, they are managing to get by with the funding they have.

He said that 95 percent of the youth who use the center are Native American and that there is a good mix of boys and girls.

"It's been great to watch the kids open up to other kids and help them out when they need to," Catron said.

He added that parents have called or stopped by to check out the facility and find out more about their program and how their kids can get involved.

"Word of mouth is the best way to spread that news about what we have. We did do a mass mailing to every student at North Middle School and Paula Long Fox there has been just great help. She's used the PA system to make announcements for us and to let the kids know that we're here," Catron said.

Some of the youth come and do community service hours that have been mandated by the court. He said they currently have three young students doing certain chores in the center, but they also get to participate in the activities. They are exposed to alternative activities and a way their time can be used, other than for getting in trouble.

"It's great for them—they get to interact with the other kids while there and it's more than just cleaning and other jobs," Catron said.

Catron was born and raised in Montana and attended college in Kansas where he studied psychology for one year. He had some friends in the Rapid City area, came here, liked it and stayed.

He's been working at the YMCA for two years. During that time he has supervised the "Wellness Center and Weight Room," but he wanted to get more directly involved with youth.

In addition to his work at the main downtown YMCA, Catron runs the new YMCA "Teen Center" with help from one part-time staff member, Leslie Zimiga.

Zimiga is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and from Pine Ridge. She said that her work with the young students is interesting and she plans to start college at OLC in another semester.

One of the next things that Catron plans to add as part of the program at the "Teen Center" is a Sioux pottery class for any of the kids who are interested in it. He's in the process of trying to find someone who will teach the class and hopes to start offering it in the next month.

"We're looking to grow with this and the sky is the limit," Catron said with excitement.

For more information about the "Teen Center" in North Rapid City, contact Chad Catron at 718-9622 or 431-0993.

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