Column: A New Adventure Begins

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

How many times have we heard teens in our community complain about having nothing to do? How many times have we heard adults say they wish there was a place for their kids to go that was safe, fun, exciting and new? There is a place for teens to go, and that place is the Albert Lea Family Y.

As a native of Albert Lea, I have been on both sides of this debate. As a child I was in search of things to do as a middle school student, and I found that the opportunities were very limited for us. Yes we have a beautiful lake and beach, but if the weather is bad, where do we go then? Yes we have a great mall, movie theater and city pool, but your allowance can only go so far. As an adult, I have looked at the places for teens to go and have realized that the options have expanded, but as a town we can still do better. We have an opportunity to give back to today’s youth and give them some new and exciting opportunities to choose from. Are we as parents and a community content to see our children sitting in front of a television playing video games all day and turning into the proverbial couch potato, or should we be pushing for more activities for our youth to participate in?

At the Family Y, we have put two new programs into place for the summer, which will provide a quality environment for teens to gather in and enjoy time with their friends. On select weekends in July and August, we will be starting a new Teen Adventure Program for all 2001-2002 students in grades 7-9 of Freeborn County. This program will center on some high impact adventures designed around boosting self-confidence and team building. Parents are well aware that in their early years, teens are all struggling with changes in their confidence, appearance and changes that their bodies are going through. Adventure challenge activities are a great way to help teens cope with these issues and help boost their self-esteem and awareness. The activities planned are a canoe trip, a trip to a high ropes course and a trip to a paintball range. Costs for the activities are based on the fees needed to cover transportation and entrance into the provided facilities. Keep your eyes and ears open for promotional announcements in the Albert Lea Tribune and on our Tuesday morning radio address from KATE/KCPI radio, for dates and times of these programs. Space will be limited, and registration in person will be needed.

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Our second program of the summer is called Totally Friday Nights. This program is open to all current 2001-2002 Southwest School students and will be held at the Family Y. On these select nights, teens will be able to enjoy basketball, volleyball, racquetball, swimming, our game room and much more. Cost for the event will be $5 for non-members of the Family Y and $4 for members.

We also are using this event to help provide goods for the local food shelves. If students bring at least two non-perishable items for donation, they will receive $1 off the price of admission. One of our goals in doing a service like this is to create awareness in our youth, that making a donation to the food shelves is a great way for them to give back to their community. The dates for these events are Friday, July 19 and Friday, Aug. 16. The program will run from 8:30 – 11 p.m., chaperones and lifeguards will be provided and parents need to sign their kids in at each event.

As a child growing up in Albert Lea, and a participant in Family Y activities, I have seen firsthand the positive effects that events like these can have on the teens in our area. We all know that kids need attention. Parents need support. Teens need something to do. Neighborhoods need to be safe. People want their community to be a healthy place to live. With all the negative things our teens can be exposed to on a daily basis, why not give them a place to escape from those possible traps? At the Albert Lea Family Y, we believe that our Four Core Values speak for themselves: Caring, Respect, Responsibility and Honesty. These are the foundations of all programs and services we provide. The Family Y is truly committed to building strong kids, strong families and strong communities. We hope your family will take time and consider these new programs.

Jim Smith is an Albert Lea resident and the Community Program Director at the Albert Lea Family Y, a United Way Agency.