Conan Vandel is executive director of the HUB after school program. He says the nonprofit went to the Capital City Chapter of APOA with a proposal for a program aimed at giving middle and high school kids a safe place to hang out this summer. The HUB estimated the cost of the program at $10,500, or $3,500 a month for the months of June, July and August.
Vandel says he was blown away when APOA agreed to fund the entire amount.
“We were hoping that they would donate a portion of that. Did not anticipate anything like what they offered,” he says. “Didn’t know what to say, just incredibly excited. We get to run the program, and we get to offer something that, so far, since I’ve been in Juneau, we haven’t had.”
The HUB is located in the same building as the Juneau Christian Center, where Vandel is youth pastor. But he says it’s a separate nonprofit that aims to serve all Juneau youth, regardless of religion.
The HUB after school program debuted about two years ago. It offers a lounge, video games, Internet stations, as well as pool and ping pong tables. Vandel says “Safe Summer 2013” will be largely the same, but with more special events.
“We’ll host dances, we have a light show, we’ll have open mic nights, we’ll have video game tournaments, all sorts of things to fill that time,” he says. “So, that Friday night, everybody goes, ‘Hey, what do you want to do?’ ‘Well, I don’t know, what do you want to do?’ ‘Oh, let’s check the HUB website.’ And there’s something that’s actually going to be really fun.”
Dee Ojard is the Public Safety Systems Coordinator at the Juneau Police Department and a member of APOA. She says it’s a natural fit for the organization to give money to the HUB to provide a safe place for teens and tweens to hang out.
“Juneau is pretty limited on some of the things that are offered for that age group,” says Ojard. “So, we would like to see them engaged in healthy activity.”
By healthy activity, Ojard means one that does not involve drugs or alcohol. She says the goal of “Safe Summer 2013” is to have zero preventable deaths among Juneau youth over the next three months.
“Anytime you get drugs and drinking involved, you’re going to have problems,” she says. “And we just really don’t want any fatalities with our teenagers and our kids.”
When he moved to Juneau from Seattle two years ago, Vandel says he was surprised by the prevalence of drug and alcohol use among the city’s young people. Before joining the HUB he worked at Juneau Youth Services, where he saw firsthand the need to provide kids with safe and healthy alternative activities.
He says that’s the goal of the HUB after school program, and “Safe Summer 2013.”
“When there’s a kid who’s motivated to drive out the road and drink,” Vandel says. “And they got to drive back in, we’re providing a safe place for that kid to come, to have fun without having to go out and put themselves in danger.”
The first event of the HUB’s summer program is a middle school dance on May 24th – the last day of school. Other events will be posted on the HUB website.
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