Youth program leader eager to help older teens

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Children grow through the Rusk County Boys & Girls Club. Unfortunately, Lakesha Hall says, in time they also outgrow it.

Adding a satellite program at Kilgore Middle School helped extend the reach a few more years, but the director of the BGC – Kilgore Unit looks forward to the day she and her staffers will be able to continue to support students as they draw closer to graduation and adulthood.

It’s one reason she’s excited for a new Boys & Girls Club Teen Night sponsored by Kilgore Men of Alliance (KMA). Set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, the event is open to children in eighth grade through 10th, free with a student ID or $2 without.

“With our program, the way that it’s set up, once our members go to high school we no longer have a program for them,” Hall said. “For me, that’s a crucial age when we need to keep them involved. My hope is to one day have a program for teens to keep them engaged and get them involved.”

The upcoming event will be the second this year – the initiative hosted a ‘teen social’ in the spring to close the 2017-2018 school year, reaching out to kids beyond the program’s standard 5- to 14-year-old clientele.

“We had a grant that was basically to promote more teens in the Boys & Girls Club,” Hall noted. “With my joining the KMA organization, my goal and their goal went together,” mentoring youths. “We decided to partner together with the approval of the Boys & Girls Club Board.”

Refreshments will be served at ‘Teen Night,’ and KMA has been very clear in its initial announcement of the event – they’re ensuring a safe environment.

“No misbehavior of any kind will be tolerated,” according to an early flyer. “KPD will be present.”

The alliance is taking the lead on the night out – “The members of the organization will be chaperoning and facilitating the event.” – while BGC provides the venue, Hall added. It’s one that will likely be familiar to many of the guests, those who attended the program when they were younger.

At the spring social, “We were able to see some ex-BGC members and some new faces,” she said. “They loved coming back to the club and having it to themselves.

“When they have use of the facility on their own without the smaller, younger kids, they maybe feel a little more comfortable, are able to take a little more ownership of the space.”

That’s a good seed to plant if future events oriented to older-teens come to fruition.

“We’re just hoping to be able to move forward in future events. Hopefully it will become more frequent,” Hall said, “trying to reach out to the teens, give them a place to come and visit and feel safe. Keep them from getting into the other things they may get into.”

For more information about the Rusk County Boys & Girls Club – Kilgore Unit, call 903-984-6071.

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