Area teens will have a new program at the Boys and Girls Club in Kenai, starting in September.
The club is adding two new staff members, Juniper Neill and Keith Randall, who will assist in establishing the program and running it.
Neill, a 1987 graduate of Soldotna High School, will conduct a community needs assessment over the next two months.
"I'll be determining what issues there are that affect teens, what problems they face, what opportunity there is to challenge them with new activities, and what resources are available to design an effective program," she said.
The new program will be developed based on the assessment. Neill will coordinate a youth committee called the Teen Action Team that will meet once a week over the summer to assist with development of the new program.
"These meetings will be for anyone who'd like to help us brainstorm on strategies for the new program," Neill said. "We especially want to hear from the teens themselves and anyone involved with teens. I want this to be a leadership program developed with teens, not for them."
A mailing has been sent out to 600 teens on the club's mailing list, urging them to attend and give their ideas.
Neill will draw from past experience in project development in setting up the new program. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine from September 1997 to November 1999, working as a nongovernment organization adviser. In this capacity, she helped with program development, planning and grant writing.
Neill's main project in Ukraine was setting up a youth center in a remote area of the Carpathian Mountains -- the first such program in that region. Neill will return to school in the fall to complete a graduate degree in International Affairs and Public Policy at Columbia University in New York.
"I'd like to continue international work with youth programs and continue to be involved with teens," she said.
Continuing the new program in the fall as teen activities director will be Randall's job. A former teacher, he currently is serving as executive director of a youth camp in Sterling. Randall will use the information gathered from the community-needs assessment to coordinate and run the newly designed program.
"He is such a caring individual and enthusiastic and has lots of hands-on experience working with kids," Neill said. "I'm real excited for him to get things up and running."
Teen Action Team meetings will be held on Thursdays, starting this week, at 5 p.m. at the club office in Kenai. The building currently is being remodeled to make it handicapped-accessible, with these improvements expected to be finished by fall. Because of this, access to the office will be at the rear of the building, behind the gym.
Those interested in participating in the Teen Action Team should contact Neill at the Boys and Girls Club at 283-2682.
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