Youth center extends hours

It is aimed at helping a program that empowers and educates kids.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The J. W. “Blind” Boone Center will have extended hours from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. for the rest of the summer to provide a safe environment offering space for recreation, educational activities and empowerment to local youths. The project is the result of a partnership between the Moving Ahead Program and the Youth Community Coalition.

“This program will be for teens who want a drug-free, alcohol-free and violence-free place to go,” said Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus. “It is based around building developmental assets in youth.”

The program aims for the 40 Developmental Assets identified by the Search Institute, a non-profit organization that provides resource material to aid developing children.

“These are 40 elements that successful youth have in their life,” Steinhaus said. “We serve to encourage youth to understand that there are tools for success out there to gather.”

Those teens who take part in the program will do 15 minutes of empowering lessons every day they attend. The lessons are part of a large curriculum developed by the Positive Action company.

“It is designed to be K-12 curriculum, with community and family components,” said Becky Markt, coalition coordinator for the Youth Community Coalition. “We are still in the process of determining which components we will use, but our ultimate goal is to give the kids the skills they need to make healthy choices in their community.”

The program also strives to help kids take an active interest in their future.

“If our kids can set positive goals, they can become positive and successful citizens,” said Carrie Brown, resident service specialist for the housing authority.

In the fall, the Positive Action Program will be expanded to include children attending Jefferson Junior High School’s drug and alcohol prevention program.

“We will be working with some of the youth groups after school,” Brown said. “The Positive Action coordinator will come in and instruct 15 minutes of curriculum once or twice a week. Our goal is to help get positive thoughts and goals into our children.”

The program is funded by a grant the Missouri Department of Mental Health gave to the Youth Community Coalition. The grant works on a broad community strategy to reduce substance abuse among teens. Steinhaus thinks the key to success lies in a community helping youths realize their potential.

“If we can help the community understand these assets, they can help our youth build as many of these as possible,” Steinhaus said. “Even you as a neighbor can befriend a child and make a difference.”

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