Ocean County Youth Center Hosting Summer Activities For Young People In Need

Approximately 450 young people find a safe space through the Ocean County Youth Center each month. This fully-funded center offers countless services for at risk or disadvantaged youth in Ocean County.

“The Youth Center is tremendously successful during the school year in terms of personal, educational, and social growth amongst the youth who frequent the center,” said Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly, who serves as liaison to the Juvenile Services Department.

Over the summer the facility continues to create opportunities for youth in Ocean County to enjoy themselves while building connections. The Center hosts mini summer camps for 9 to 14 year olds, which are all supervised with lunch provided. Some of the activities available this summer include arts and crafts, kickball and basketball, ping pong, computer gaming, and gardening.

“The Youth Center is a valuable resource for children, teens, and young adults throughout the County,” Kelly said. “Since opening the facility in 2020, we have seen great successes.”

The center opened in 2020 at the precipice of the pandemic. Despite not being able to open the way they had originally planned, once health officials deemed it appropriate, the coordinators of the Youth Center opened up a safe space for outdoor recreation.

“Since then, the services offered at the Youth Center include mentoring, tutoring, High School Equivalency Exam preparatory classes, access to computers and gaming, and many more,” Kelly said.

The adult mentoring program is a volunteer opportunity that occurs over the school year. Through this program, volunteers are paired with a child aged 8-11 years at a local school. The mentors and mentees meet once a week for an hour each time. Mentors have the opportunity to spend time with their mentee and chat with them about how school is going, talk about their friendships, and provide support for the mentee.

Through the R.A.I.S.E. (Reasonable Alternative to Incarceration through Self Esteem) Program teens are able to take courses to prepare for the High School Equivalency Exam and then take the exam. Alternatively, teens are offered the opportunity to take classes with Ocean County Vocational Technical School staff in Culinary Arts, Construction Trades, or Auto Mechanics.

“The Youth Center has a great relationship with Ocean County College and the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools,” said Barbara Jo Crea, Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. “After completing their training many teens attend either of these institutions to seek out further education.”

“The benefits I have seen firsthand include teens who are able to attain their High School Diploma through our programming and who are then able to move through the doors that education so often opens,” said Ed Turnbach, supervisor of the Youth Center.

“I see children, who may not regularly socialize with other kids their own age, thoroughly enjoying themselves in the safe space our programming provides,” Turnbach said.

The staff at the Youth Center consists of six full-time staff members, one part-time employee, and around 10 volunteers. These employees, along with the Ocean County Human Services Department, work to develop programming with the specific needs of Ocean County Youth in mind.

“I like the fact that the Youth Center can meet the needs of children and young adults who have not always had an easy go of things. We play a role in helping people move forward. That is personally satisfying to me,” said Turnbach.

“The people that work and volunteer for the Youth Center are committed to providing enriching experiences that yield benefits that will last a lifetime for those who attend programming put on by the Center,” Crea said.

The Center is always looking for more volunteers, especially people that would be able to tutor teens in math. Please email ocyc@co.ocean.nj.us to speak with someone about potential volunteering opportunities.

For any parents or teens interested in registering their children or themselves for any programming please call the Program Coordinator at (732) 288-7703 or the Program Director at (732) 288-7780.

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