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On Aug. 14, 2018, the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center opened at 1401 E. Center St. in El Dorado. There are currently 88 registered teens participating.

Statistics show that the most dangerous time for teenagers to become victims or perpetrators of crime is between 3-6 p.m. This includes participation in risky behavior, such as trying drugs. Participation in after-school programs has been associated with reduced drug use, improved classroom behavior and attendance, and reduced student dropout rates. This is significant to Union County because, although the local dropout rate is lower than the national average, it is still at 1.7 percent for El Dorado.

Approximately 75 percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. Many research results state that many students are contending with significant social, emotional and mental health barriers that prevent them from succeeding in both school and life. The Teen Center seeks to address some of these barriers by helping students develop better skills and creating a safe, caring and well managed learning environment that encourages positive decision making and academic success.

The Teen Center’s goals are to:

• Ensure that all Club members graduate from high school on time.

• Prepare teens to make a decision for their future career path, whether it be college, a technical school or the work force.

• Connect young people with available opportunities by giving them the skills employers are seeking.

• Provide teens with the opportunity to develop positive behaviors that give them a foundation to prevent juvenile crime and violence.

To obtain these goals, the Teen Center currently provides the following opportunities for participants:

• College Tours: Teens have gone on tours to visit two nearby colleges and a technical school since opening day. There are plans to take six tours in 2019.

• Financial Literacy Classes: BancorpSouth visits the Teen Center twice a month to teach about financial literacy. They plan to set up a three-month long mock bank to allow them to get a more in-depth look into finance.

• Sexual Integrity: Teens are visited every week by Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center to learn about the importance of sexual integrity.

• College Preparation: Teens are regularly counseled on college and career readiness. Andy Turner, Union County College & Career Coach at SouthArk, regularly assists the teens with developing a plan for the future.

• Mentoring: The Center collaborates with local agencies and businesses, including the Eagle Foundation, to provide mentors and role models, provide the development of supportive relationships, encouragement, healthy beliefs, and clear standards of positive behavior to offer an alternative to criminal tendencies.

• Speakers: The Teen Center hosts speakers weekly covering various topics from careers and goals to STD’s and bullying.

In the future, the Teen Center plans to advance these areas by providing even more college and technical school tours, tours of local industry plants and businesses to introduce career options, and provide a part-time job fair for teens.

The Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP) was developed in order to make available a network of area supports, opportunities and activities focused on best practice strategies for a community committed to changing the odds for young people and families in need. The VIP can be viewed at www.sharefoundation.com or you can call Debbie Watts, SHARE Foundation VP of Community Impact for more information at (870) 881-9015.

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