Santa Fe Community Foundation Funds Healthy Choices For Teens

Teens engage in a giant game of chess during a field trip. Courtesy photo
Teens from the Espanola YMCA Teen Center participate in a robotics competition last spring in Albuquerque. Courtesy photo

YMCA News:

ESPAÑOLA – The Santa Fe Community Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to the Española YMCA Teen Center in November to support the Center’s healthy living initiatives.  

According to Teen Center Director Ben Sandoval, the grant will support tutoring, health education and life skills classes offered at the Española Teen Center.

“Our goal is to influence youth behaviors that enable healthy choices,” YMCA Executive Director Linda Daly said, “We aim to build personal skills, enhance positive values, connect youth to their community through service and outreach opportunities, and support education. This support from the Santa Fe Community Foundation, which we are so grateful of, will further this important work. By hiring positive adult role models who counsel and befriend youth, this ‘safe haven’ helps teens to reach their full potential.”

The Center addresses health through programs that include preventative and behavioral health classes on teen-age sexuality, substance abuse, psychological health (depression, suicide, bullying), and addiction prevention.

“Adult mentors play a key role in supporting the teens,” Sandoval said. “We’re there to help them cope when personal, family, or school crises interfere with their well-being, and when necessary, we refer the teens to professional counselors.”

The Center also hosts arts and crafts classes to support mental health and creative expression including jewelry creation, woodworking, welding, diorama making, model car building, mural design and creation, he said.  

The award was granted through the Foundation’s 2014 fall giving cycle and is the first to the Center through that application process. In 2012, the Center received a $5,000 award in conjunction with the Foundation’s Buckaroo Ball.

The Española YMCA Teen Center is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and available to all area teenagers. It has a recreational wing, classroom section and computer center. Staff members use mentoring to build supportive relationships with youth. They also use skill building classes to engage youth, and programming and discussions to address teen pregnancy, substance abuse, alcoholism, and mental health issues. Additionally, staff tutor youth for current classes, help youth who have quit school en-engage, and also support students to study for and obtain their GED.

The Center is partly funded by the City of Espanola, Rio Arriba County, Santa Fe County and United Way of Northern New Mexico/Los Alamos. In 2013, the Center served 644 unique youth. In 2014, the Center has supported 655 youth.

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