FAMILY MATTERS: Buckley welcomes youth leader

As the latest activities coordinator

Jenney Smith has been on the job as Buckley’s youth activities coordinator for less than a month and she has put together a foosball table donated by REI and met a number of the teens and tweens who wander through the River Avenue center’s doors daily.

In these tough economic times, the 2004 White River High School graduate who grew up in the city, said she is glad the youth center hasn’t had to close those doors.

“Keeping the youth center open is really important,” Smith said.

But with the city of Buckley’s 2012 budget report outlining a 25 percent cut for the youth center, Smith will spend some of her time trying to get grants and donations to keep things running smooth.

Between 15 and 20 youth stop by the center daily. Smith would like to see those numbers and its programs grow.

In addition to its after-school activities, the center bustles with daily activity. It houses the Village Tutors program, White River Community Outreach, Auburn Youth Resources substance abuse classes and Play-Dayz preschool. The facility is also available for groups to rent.

For the new year, the youth center will offer its popular drop-in program from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, dropping Saturday from the schedule. Smith plans to keep kids at the center busy with science experiments, craft projects, holiday and birthday celebrations, a book club and Friday movie nights. She’s trying to round up a Wii or Xbox donation to satisfy the kids’ request to play Guitar Hero and other video games. Also on her list, if there was interest, would be finding a volunteer to provide music lessons.

Smith earned her bachelors degree in social welfare from the University of Washington-Tacoma in 2010 and was working at Enumclaw’s Starbucks and volunteering at the center while searching for a job in the field.

She officially started Dec. 13. She replaces Will Foster, who is playing basketball with the NBA D-League Idaho Stampede. Foster in turn filled a vacancy left by Ellen Boyd, who took over the leadership position as the city’s Recreation Services Director and as the senior center leader after Jennifer Bacon left. Boyd opened the center in 2008.

Smith said Buckley’s part-time youth center position is a perfect fit. It dovetails into her job with Starbucks; it lets her draw on the skills she learned during her internship at Remann Hall Juvenile Detention Center and, “it’s close to home,” she said, mentioning the house she purchased down the street.

Smith sees mostly middle school-age kids using the facility, and more and more are bringing younger siblings with them.

Buckley’s youth center runs on a shoe-string budget, relying heavily on donations.

Smith said she is grateful for the food bank’s contributions that keep hungry teens snacking, and the free lunch program offered to anyone under 18 during school breaks and summer vacation.

When spring rolls around, Smith plans to move programs outside, but she also is trying to schedule what kids want. During nice weather, the skate park draws a lot of youth.

“I’d really like to know what the kids want,” she said.