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Illinois Parks & Recreation
May/June 1995 Volume 26, Number 3

Hi-Y Club Experiences High Success
by Carrie Karl, CLP
Thirty-three percent of the Jefferson School student population registered for the Hi-Y Club in its first year.

When asked who the most difficult age group is to program, most recreation professionals will answer in unison, "the teens!" I personally know many programmers who have pulled their hair out, or gotten a little gray, from attempting to develop a program that will entice, interest, and entertain teens. Most of us have experimented with "teen councils" or other such groups in an attempt to involve the teens in what types of programs are offered. We have joined forces with school student councils and administrators, and have even appealed to teens' parents for ideas and support. Despite all of these and numerous other efforts, we just don't seem to get the overall support of our programs that we would like or expect.

The Villa Park Recreation Department knows firsthand the frustrations associated with teen programming. Through the years we have conducted "drop in" programs, offered a variety of trips, general interest classes, sports activities, dances and other programs. We have had limited success with most of these, but none compare to the success we experienced with our newest program, the Jefferson Jr. High School Hi-Y Club.

Resulting from a cooperative effort with the Villa Park Recreation Department, the Lombard YMCA and Illinois School District 45, the Jefferson School Hi-Y Club is a supervised two- hour weekly program during the school year, consisting of gym activities, arts and crafts, holiday parties, and special events. The teens must register and pay a weekly fee, plus they must adhere to a code of conduct including a zero tolerance for gang activity.

All of our expectations for the first year (school year '93- 94) were conservative, and we quickly surpassed our hopes. We averaged 39 teens per night with a total Hi-Y club attendance for the year of 1, 150. Even more overwhelming is the fact that 33% of the Jefferson School student population registered for the Hi-Y Club. Regarding this first year, Greg Gola, Program Supervisor for the Villa Park Recreation Department, remarks, "We really didn't know what to expect. We've gotten pretty good support from the Jefferson teens for our dances, and we were hoping for the same with Hi-Y. Honestly, though, we did not expect 33% of the student population to register. It was great!"

What makes the Hi-Y Club successful? Rich Escutia, Director of the Lombard YMCA, states, "The Hi-Y Club is a non-threatening place for the teens to gather and socialize, and the club's makeup allows them to make choices about their activities. This type of decision making will be helpful throughout their lives."

More than a drop in program, the Hi-Y Club staff include leadership skills and community involvement in their weekly activities. Members from the group comprise a leadership team responsible for taking the daily admissions and selling concessions, deciding how to spend the Club's money and working with the staff on other Club decisions. This year, the Club has volunteered their time to assist with a Villa Park service organization's food drive and are discussing other community projects.

"Staff is critical to the success of the program," states Kathryn McCarver, Hi-Y Club Site Director. "The staff is respectful to the teens and understands their attitudes. Consequently, the teens are respectful in return and are not discouraged from attending the program because of a staff that is too rigid and intimidating."

Program successes are measured in many ways, and thus far the Jefferson Jr. High School Hi-Y Club has received high marks in all categories. The Hi-Y Club is now enjoying its second year with weekly attendance of 50 plus teens. For information on the Hi-Y Club, please call Carrie Karl, Villa Park Recreation Department, (708) 834-8970 or Rich Escutia, Lombard YMCA, (708) 629-9622.

Carrie Karl, CLP, is the Superintendent of Recreation with the Village Park Recreation Department.*

36* Illinois Parks & Recreation* May/June 1995

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