Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Beg pardon Roger, but what are you talking about?

Youth Center Draws Growing Crowd

July 2--Less than three months after opening, the YAPAtorium at the old Central High School has become a hit with middle-school kids in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The Youth Adult Partnership of Aberdeen, formed in 1998 under the oversight of the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry department, opened the doors of its new youth center on April 9. The YAPAtorium operates from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. to midnight on weekends. The center is open to all teens, and 30 or more go there every day to participate in its free activities. The center has Xbox systems, other video games, Internet-equipped computers, pool and foosball tables, and refreshments for the teens. Josh Andrews, YAPAtorium supervisor, said that considering the limited promotion YAPA's done for the center, it's a smashing success. "We're seeing 30 to 75 kids a day -- that's better than expected," he said. "It's going really good." He said YAPA initially wanted to concentrate on using the center to build relationships with those in the 12- to 19-year-old range, without an emphasis on how many youths actually attended the center. The large attendance numbers, Andrews said, are an unexpected success. Trevor Fontenelle, 12, of Aberdeen, has been coming to the YAPAtorium just about every day at 3 p.m. since its start. He usually stays till 9:30 p.m. "It's the only place I can go to hang out with my friends," Fontenelle said. Fontenelle and most teenagers who go to the center say their favorite part about YAPA is being able to do what they love with all of their friends. "I like to play video games," Fontenelle said. "This way all my friends can play right along with me." Roger Baker, 15, a resident of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, who is visiting family in Aberdeen for the summer, began coming to the YAPAtorium this week. He said he likes the center because it is like one back home. "It reminds me of a similar place in my hometown," Baker said. He said he enjoys playing computer games and playing pool at the center. Baker's friend Weston Mills, 13, of Aberdeen, has been coming to the center for close to two months. Mills said he goes there because it is better than playing video games at home. New alternative: Jesse Schliebe, 14, of Aberdeen, said if he weren't at the YAPAtorium he would be out skateboarding. He then admitted he still spends the remainder of his day skateboarding, but the YAPA center offers a new alternative. "I like to just hang out," he said. "It is something different than skating and I can still skate half the day."

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