The entire story was published in The Union on October 26, 2021.
Bright Futures for Youth will open a new NEO Youth Center at the former Silver Springs High School campus near the Nevada County Fairgrounds, providing after-school and occasional weekend activities and events for youth in western Nevada County, a press release states.
The NEO Youth Center, at 12338 McCourtney Road in Grass Valley, is the latest effort by Bright Futures for Youth to connect with children and young adults and expand services, following a successful six-week Summer Day Camp in Nevada City and a Distance Learning Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds during the 2020-21 school year.
The new Youth Center is scheduled to open in early 2022, following a modest renovation to the space that will start in the next several weeks.
“We’re always looking at new ways to connect with youth and expand our mission, and the new Youth Center is a perfect opportunity,” said Jennifer Singer, executive director of Bright Futures for Youth (formerly The Friendship Club). “The Youth Center will offer youth and young adults a place to socialize, make new friends, explore new interests and passions, and even get help with their homework in a comfortable and safe environment.”
The Youth Center is available for 11- to 25-year-old residents and will offer a long list of activities and events, from art workshops to live music and open-mic nights in a supervised setting. Several hundred youth participate every year in the NEO program’s after-school, in-school, summer and weekend activities and events.
The new NEO Youth Center will include three portable buildings, a kitchen, an office area, and 6 acres of sports fields and open space, providing flexibility and the room to grow, if necessary. Bright Futures for Youth is leasing the campus from the Nevada Joint Union High School District.
“After-school programs are critical, and the NEO Youth Center has been a longtime partner and provider of these much needed services in the community for years,” said Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden. “We’re looking forward to the opening of the Youth Center, and giving youth and young adults a place to go and be together.”
‘A SAFE PLACE’
The 22nd annual Lights on Afterschool, a national program that celebrates after-school programs and their importance in the lives of children, families and communities, is Thursday. The NEO Youth Center is an excellent example of the role of after-school programs in a community.
“It’s very important to offer opportunities for our youth to learn new things, and have a safe place after school,” said Zack LaFerriere, school resource officer for the Grass Valley Police Department. “Programs that have adult supervision and structure boost a child’s wellbeing while simultaneously eliminating unsupervised idle time that can lead a youth into further challenges.”
The previous NEO Youth Center closed in early 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived that greatly affected gatherings amid health and safety requirements — and shortly before the merger between The Friendship Club and NEO. Since then, NEO program participants used the Distance Learning Center facility and have been meeting temporarily at the Bright Futures for Youth building on Litton Drive, and some activities have not been held because of COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“Clearly, COVID has created a greater need for additional social activities to help children who are feeling isolated,” LaFerriere said.
The Youth Center will help fill that void. Youth and young adults can register for activities at the new Youth Center at bffyouth.org/neo within the next few months.
“The Youth Center will be a very special place, filled with creativity, energy and enthusiasm,” Singer said. “But, most important, a lot of fun and togetherness.”