Peer pressure. It is a powerful thing that teens struggle with daily. And for those who find themselves with nothing to do following the long school day, peer pressure can play a significant role in what path one follows. Fortunately for Sandpoint area teens, there is a place where the youth in our community can gather, interact with friends, learn life skills, play games and even give back to their community.
The Sandpoint Teen Center, located at the corner of Division and Pine, welcomes students of all ages from seventh through the twelfth grades. With both supervised and self-directed activities, the staff and volunteers create an atmosphere of respect.
The center is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30pm to 5:00pm and 1:30pm to 5:00pm on Wednesdays. Here, the teens not only have fun but gain valuable experience as well. According to Director Joan Avery, the center provides light meals and healthy snacks each day.
“This is a great area of student involvement. The teens are offered opportunities to prepare the meals and share them with the other teens,” said Avery.
The staff and volunteers instruct the teens on the basic skills of meal planning, shopping and food handling practices and help guide them when it comes to making healthy choices. “A culinary art certificate is offered to the teens for working in the kitchen. By preparing six meals for the others, including passing three food handling tests and clean up, they are offered $25.00 and a food handling certificate,” explained Avery.
There is something for each teen to enjoy at the Sandpoint Teen Center. The activities offered include ping-pong, Wii tournaments, foosball, air hockey and board games. The Sandpoint Teen Center hosts checker tournaments, Geocaching and bowling team practices throughout the week. The bowling program offers award certificates and trophies for the most improved bowler weekly.
But there is more. “With a great variety of craft projects offered, it provides opportunities for the teens to explore their artistic talents,” said Avery, adding that they also have the benefit of demonstrations from the community that include the Sandpoint orchestra program, which visits the center sharing with teens information on lessons, programs and musical instruments.
What is perhaps most intriguing about the Sandpoint Teen Center is their community outreach program. Designed to teach the teens the value of giving back to their community and working together to achieve a common goal, the projects include shoveling snow for homebound people or raking leaves at assisted living homes. Avery explains that the Sandpoint Teen Center staff shares life skills with teens as needed, facilitates problem solving techniques and provides an ear when the teens need someone to talk to.
“Our plan is to meet the teens where they are in life and encourage them to reach for higher goals,” said Avery. “We are forming relationships and developing trust. This is a wonderful safe, warm, helpful place helping many teens to stay out of trouble.”
There are certain policies that are enforced at the center, such as no bad language, put downs or threats. Above all, respect of one another is what the staff requires.
With a check in and check out policy, the center keeps track of those in attendance. They limit the use of cellphones, iPhones, iPods and other electronic devices. “It’s so important today to encourage personal interaction, problem solving face-to-face and responsible use of technology,” said Avery.
With easy accessibility from most schools, the Sandpoint Teen Center has grown in popularity since it opened in 2004. At that time they averaged anywhere from 10 to 15 students each day. After becoming a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization in 2010, they have grown to having a paid director, two employees and six to eight regular volunteers. Today they average 25 students per day. Roughly 80% of students who attend are middle school students and 20% are freshman and sophomores.
What is next for the Sandpoint Teen Center? They have a unique opportunity to purchase the property they have been renting for the past eight years. “This is an answer to prayers so that we can extend our hours and programs to meet growing needs of the teens,” said Avery.
To learn how you can help toward the purchase and maintenance of the property or if you would like to volunteer, please contact Joan Avery at 208.946.1087.