Teen center granted $10,000 for afterschool program

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As the school year ends, secondary students in the Battle Ground and Hockinson area will log out of Zoom and step away from their computer screens. Meanwhile, Rocksolid Community Teen Center volunteers and staff members will continue to offer programs for those teens throughout the summer and fall, in part thanks to a grant.

Executive Director Marcy Sprecher said the center received a $10,000 grant from the Taco Bell Foundation to support their efforts to further education outside of the classroom.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted student’s ability to connect with peers in-person, but the center continued to offer virtual activities twice a week and off-site meetings once a week.

Rocksolid Community Teen Center, an afterschool program in Brush Prairie, accepts students in grades 5-12 from about 12 different schools in Battle Ground and Hockinson.

“This is a place where kids meet kids from other schools that they may have never met before,” Sprecher said.

The nonprofit will use funding from the Taco Bell Foundation to encourage community service projects, leadership and healthy lifestyle habits. Recently, students traveled to Mallard Landing Assisted Living to plant lilies and give letters to the residents.

“That was a great day of giving back,” Sprecher said. “It teaches the kids that they can make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Guest speakers occasionally visit to talk about prevention and awareness, as well as financial literacy through Chase Bank. Volunteers also promote productive homework habits.

A $20 fee for the year covers trips to the pumpkin patch, hikes to Lewisville Regional Park, baking projects and other activities focused on life skills. Fundraising efforts provide scholarships for students who can’t pay the fee.

The nonprofit will host two summer camps this year in July and August. About 22 students will stay at Camp Hope for two weeks. It is free for participants, but they must register through the center to attend.

Depending on COVID-19 regulations, Sprecher said she plans to welcome students fully in-person once classrooms open in the fall.

“There definitely is Zoom fatigue,” she said. “The kids have been so thankful to still connect with their mentors.”

Before the pandemic, over 100 students were involved in the center’s program. About 25 teens decided to continue virtually. Sprecher said she hopes to increase attendance in the coming months.

The Taco Bell Foundation, a nonprofit that gave out $10 million in grants this year, invited the center to apply for the funding.

“We were so excited to know that financial piece was coming in and that we can continue to do good work with kids,” Sprecher said.

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