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Angie Johnson prepares lunches for students at Talent Elementary School during the Boys and Girls Club. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]

Just for teens

Program options are expanding at the Talent Boys and Girls Club, where a new, free offering for teens will begin in March.

The club holds daily after-school sessions at Talent Elementary School but will host the teen program at Talent Middle School.

After teens asked for their own separate program, new Executive Director Greg Roe and new Talent Program Director Shannon Monning put together the opportunity. Donations are covering the initial cost, and the organization has submitted grant applications for support.

“It was started most importantly to get some activities for teens,” said Monning.

In addition to the Talent site, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley operates programs in Grants Pass and Cave Junction. Records show steady growth at the Talent site over the last five years, said Roe.

During school days, the club’s program operates from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m., with expanded hours during holidays and summer. A total of 226 students from 5 to 18 years old are enrolled in the Talent program. Daily attendance varies from 120 to 135 students, with about 60 of those bused in from Orchard Hill Elementary or Phoenix Elementary. Parents pick up kids at the end of the daily sessions.

Program goals include furthering of academics and support for students and their families.

“We are trying to make it a family center,” said Roe. “You can’t just focus on the kids without looking at the whole family.”

Activity choices are left up to each student, said Monning. Among them are a Power Hour study session and a Book Club for readers. Students amass points for participation in the two activities, and at the end of the school year the top student in each will receive a tablet.

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities also have been increased. Katherine McCredie, who was STEAM coordinator last year as a volunteer, has been added to the Talent staff as a regular employee.

“STEAM is a critical part of the education programing with kids,” said Monning. Preparation in the areas is important for future success, she said.

Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood programs help students learn about issues such as alcohol and drug use, self-esteem, health and hygiene.

Each student is provided a supper meal in the mid-afternoon and a snack before going home. Following supper at 3:45 p.m., there’s a daily assembly.

Activities at the elementary school are held in a dedicated classroom, the choir room, the cafeteria and a covered outdoor play area. At the middle school teens will use the small gym, a classroom and the cafeteria.

“If the weather is favorable, we use the outdoors as much as possible,” said Monning.

A yearly membership costs $40 per student, and there is a $25 per month charge for attendance. But scholarships are available, and a quarter of students pay no fees, said Roe.

Many of the sites' 10 employees are Southern Oregon University students who work part time. There are four volunteers.

Boys and Girls Clubs of the Rouge Valley has a $1.8 million budget for all three sites. Special events and individual and corporate donations total $685,000. Grant funding is $330,000. Major grants come from the Oregon Community Foundation, Gordon Elwood Foundation, Carpenter Foundation and Cow Creek Tribe Foundation. Reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for meals totals $315,000. Fees and memberships bring in $370,000.

Roe was executive director for United Way of Linn County for 15 years before taking his new position in August. He is a third-generation graduate of Southern Oregon University.

Additional information can be found on the club's webpage at begreat4kids.com/talent-club/.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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