Off The Press

January 26, 2010

By Greg Farrar

Community center’s youth mentors shine

Greg Farrar Press photographer

There’s nothing like wading into the frenetic craziness of more than 500 newly minted teenagers at districtwide middle school dances, like the one held Friday night at the Issaquah Community Center.

Hundreds of gyrating, cheering, talking kids crowd the dance floor. Rock and pop music is being played loudly enough to bust an eardrum. Rainbow and mirrored disco balls and strobes turn the darkened floor into a spectacular light show for the students. Music videos by their favorite bands generate screams that remind an older generation of Beatlemania!

It presents a timely opportunity to express appreciation to the people with Parks and Recreation, who put on events all year. Wonderful folks like Cathy Jones, Stephanie Shimek, Brian Berntsen and Ross Hoover have been working with kids as long as or longer than I’ve been working at The Press.They put on annual events, such as Glitz and Glam, dodgeball tournaments and Beat the Heat Splash Day; bring kids from the school district together for Issaquah Youth Advisory Board meetings; and run events listed in the quarterly Parks and Recreation program.

It takes a lot of energy for adults to work with so many young people, and I sure don’t know where they get it. But it sure is a great place to be, and it must keep one young, because I don’t think they’ve aged a day since I met them.

For years, the center staff has been cultivating young people to be volunteers, to get involved in the community and take on leadership roles. They provide a safe and stimulating after-school social environment, recreation, a computer lab and homework space.

If you are a parent who currently has or once had children who regularly attended events or dropped in on the teen center after school, or if you’re a young adult who was using the center when it first opened more than 10 years ago, you know how special a place it has been.

The people at the center keeping an eye on our young people are some of the most caring and compassionate around, and it’s their teaching by being living examples that is one of the main reasons the young people of Issaquah have matured to be among the best there can be.

If it moves you to show your appreciation for the work they do, here are some ways to help the Parks and Recreation staff serve our youth.

The youth center has a wish list for tools and materials, and right now they need a sewing machine, fabric and thread, scrapbooking supplies, art and school supplies, pool cues and computer software.

There are three middle-school dances every year, and the staff needs about 25 adult volunteers to chaperone and monitor the events. The last one this school year is from 7-10 p.m. Friday, April 30.

Jones would love to hear from you. E-mail her at cathyj@ci.issaquah.wa.us or call 837-3317.

And if you’re ready to join in the constant parade of fun, upcoming events include the Father-Daughter Valentine Dance on Feb. 13, and Family Friday on April 8 with a magic show and fantasy theme.

The community center is an awesome place to be young, thanks to the awesome people who are there on our behalf.

Greg Farrar: 392-6434, ext. 235, or gfarrar@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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