TWIN FALLS — After one year of development started to bring a youth center to Lincoln County, the new Lincoln County Youth Center celebrated its grand opening earlier this week.
While board members were anticipating several children being enrolled into the youth program, it started even better than they thought it was going to.
“We had 55 kids come in. That was our enrollment for the week. We were expecting 20," said Ellie Dalton, the site manager for the Lincoln County Youth Center.
Having gotten off to a better start than initially anticipated, the excitement continued throughout the week as kids came to explore a new educational resource and a place to have fun.
“It has been crazy getting open, but it feels absolutely wonderful to have the kids inside the building," said Dalton. "There has been so much help from the community. Donations, physical help, the mentoring, and there are just so many resources that it takes to get this put together.”
Many of the kids have also felt this way as they were able to finally step foot in a building that had been discussed for months on end.
“It’s been really fun because we get to do really fun stuff when my parents have work or something, so yeah super excited,” said 10-year-old Cash Noel.
With the chance to make new friends and participate in several activities, the excitement grew.
“It’s actually really fun because there are lots of toys in there, and we’re making some pizza right now,” 8-year-old Elie Lopez said.
While this week has been filled with fun, it has also had its challenges that the staff is attempting to adapt and get used to.
“You’ve got to get to know your students and what works for them," said Rena Fuller, the educational director for Lincoln County Youth Center. "What they’re interested in, and how to plug them in. So, that’s kind of been a challenge because it’s like a new classroom.”
The youth center offers four central areas of education that kids of all ages get to experience. They are STEM, Enrichment, Art, and Lifesport. As time continues, educators are planning more activities for all age groups and soon hope to give kids the chance tell them what really want to learn.
“We try to sit down and brainstorm with each group," said Fuller. "What do you want to do? What would you like to do? What are your interests? Because we want this, hopefully by Christmas, we have a couple of months of activities planned out, but by Christmas, we want this to be a student-led learning experience.”
Although the priority is about education for children, there are some other outstanding long-term projects that the staff and board members are having to focus on.
“We’re trying to get that gym floor done, I think is our biggest thing," said Dalton. "Then we’d like to work on the outside area and make that more kid-friendly and usable for them.”
The youth center does offer a preschool program but the after-school program operates 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.
If anyone would like to register, you can either head to the youth center's website, call the office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or walk-in during office hours and pick up a registration form.