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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Santee Teen Center Turns 13

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Santee Teen Center is now a teenager.
Some current members of the Santee Teen Center

Thirteen years ago, the city opened its first teen center at a former retail space in a shopping center in central Santee. Five years later, in 2006, it moved to a cottage-sized building at the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve.
Although the move put the teen center in a less accessible area of town, the city partnered with the Santee School District to provide affordable after-school transportation for students in grades 6 to 8.

“Santee Lakes is an excellent location for our teen center because of the access to nature and outdoor recreation opportunities” said Recreation Supervisor Aliah Brozowski, who oversees the city’s programs for teens and seniors. “Having our teen center located at Santee Lakes allows us to provide recreation programs to our teens in a pleasant, safe and well-maintained park setting.”
The city’s cooperative relationship with Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which operates the Recreation Preserve, proved invaluable in early 2012 when the teen center was threatened by closure due to budget cuts.

Padre Dam’s board of directors agreed to lower the district’s rent for the teen center building to $1 per month, saving the city more than $12,000 annually.  The action spared the teen center from being closed, and a valuable community resource was preserved.
The teen center follows the classic model of an after-school drop in recreation program. But it’s more than a place to play ping pong or toss a Frisbee. It’s also an incubator where young people can mature and learn leadership skills under the Junior Leader program.

Some current staff members began coming to the center as middle school students, then graduated from Junior Leader training before returning as part-time aides in their college years. Teen center staffers must pass a background check, are first aid and CPR certified and receive special training for working with adolescents and teens.
“Our staff members are passionate and dedicated young adults who take their role as mentors very seriously,” Brozowski said. “They are the most important amenity the center has to offer.”

“The center uses a low staff-to-participant ratio to ensure safety and personal connections with each teen,” she said.
Activities at the center are geared toward students from grades 6 to 9.  A typical after-school session includes homework time, an indoor activity, such as a pool tournament, and an outdoor activity, such as bicycling or fishing.  Teens are encouraged to help plan and implement the daily activities, ensuring their engagement and interest in the programming.   

When the opportunity arises, high school students are recruited as volunteers to help younger students with their homework and to serve as a role model while they navigate the teenage experience. The city would like to entice more high school volunteers to fill the “junior staff” positions.
“We’re trying to recruit 11th and 12th graders to be tutors and mentors,” said Brozowski.  “It’s one component where we have room for growth, and it would add a lot to our program.”

Editor’s Note: Annual membership is $41 for Santee residents and $55 for non-residents, or $5 per day. Parents can register online or at Santee City Hall.  Financial aid is available. After-school transportation also is available during the school year for Santee School District  students in grades 6 to 8 for $46 per month or $15 per week.

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