Easton Family YMCA Teen and Family Center Meets Community Need

Dinner time at the Easton Family YMCA has never looked more appetizing. The YMCA’s Dinner Table Club, one of the many teen programs now offered in the new Easton Family YMCA Teen and Family Center, has gotten a boost as the club now meets in a state-of-the-art cooking studio. Coordinated by Jennifer Parks, this unique afterschool club meets twice a week, offering teens, ages 11 to 15, the opportunity to experience mealtime preparations, including cooking, setting the table, eating together and cleaning up.

Jennifer Parks, who has worked at several area restaurants, comments, “Not only does our club encourage healthy cooking and eating, but it recreates a family environment at the dinner table. The teens learn to listen and talk with one another. Table manners are reiniforced.” She adds, “The new Teen and Family Center offers a safe, healthy and productive environment for teens to hang out. This is critical to developing their character and teaching self-respect.”

Participants of the Y’s Dinner Table Club bring in family recipes to try out with their peers. Many of the recipes used encourage them to try out alternative cooking techniques, healthy ingredients, and exposure to new flavors and foods. Local chefs have demonstrated for the club and some of the alternative meals have included lobster night and fusion cooking.

According to Emily Lantz of Trappe, a student at Easton Middle School, “We are like a family here in this club. Not only do we cook and eat, but we talk about how our days have been. It’s really fun.”

Bobby Neal of Trappe, a student at Easton High School adds, “I enjoy this club. It keeps me out of trouble and doing better things. I have learned to like cooking.”

Club members, who previously met at the Church of the Brethren in Easton, are enjoying the state-of-the-art cooking facility and the other options of the Center, including ping pong and the climbing wall in the Center’s gathering space.

The new Center was founded as a tool to build assets in youth. The framework for this asset development program identifies 40 Developmental Assets®, which are positive experiences, relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.

According to Nikki Swann of Cordova, YMCA Hang Time staff member, “I think the Teen and Family Center is for teens to figure out what they are good at and then to apply what they learn to actually develop their attributes.”

In addition to the Y’s cooking studio/classroom, the 9,600-square foot Center features a 38′ high climbing tower, a computer lab/classroom with 12 new iMac Computers, a music studio/classroom, a new group exercise room and a new multi-purpose room, and the Gooch Family Play Structure. Program offerings will include teen event nights, indoor family camp outs, monthly family night activities, healthy cooking for families, teen dances/climbing and karaoke, teen movie night, open mic night, and table tennis.

Tom Hill, chairman of the YMCA’s Capital Campaign, adds, “What greater proof of its utility than that one person a minute comes through the Y’s doors. We simply ran out of room and our gratitude for the community support and this extra space is unbounded.”

The YMCA’s new Teen and Family Center will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 13, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. at the Easton Family YMCA in Easton. For further information about the Teen and Family Center, call 410-822-0566.