YMCA Teen Director Brent Gaither (in blue) and room full of youth leaders scramble for a chair during a recent leadership exercise at the Y in Gig Harbor. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

The Tom Taylor Family YMCA recently completed a 10,500 square foot expansion project. Project cost was approximately $1 million, which was was funded entirely by donations.

Major donors included Tom and Jackie Taylor, the Names Family Foundation, the Schreiner Family Foundation and Ken and Nancy Keiter, according to Renee Quinn, community relations director for the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

The project included construction of a new teen center, a youth gym and an adventure zone where children and their families can play together.

The expansion enables the Y to offer additional programming and reach out to more people on the Key Peninsula and throughout Gig Harbor, Quinn said.

According to Brent Gaither, teen and outreach director for the Gig Harbor Y, the new teen center has already become a popular spot for local high school and middle school students.

“Brent has been working to develop teen leadership opportunities and really reaching out to the Key Peninsula,” said Kirstin Stave, branch marketing director. “We know that transportation can be a challenge so we’re working on solving some of those problems.”

The expansion is really exciting, Gaither said. “It’ll allow us to do more programming for teens and adults. Our teen center is a great facility for teens to come and just hang out or participate in structured activities after school and on Friday Late Night when the Y is open til midnight,” he added.

Another after hours activity is 678 Night which takes place the first Saturday of each month from 9:30-11 p.m. for middle schoolers.

“It’s being received pretty well and we’re looking at the possibility of offering it more frequently,” Gaither said. “We’re also looking at offering every 12 year old in our service area a free three-month membership.”

A new program for grades 7-12 is Youth Leadership Development (YLD). It meets every Thursday and will culminate in a trip to a big conference in Canada in May, Gaither said.

In January, a group of energetic teens gathered in the new teen center for an evening of fun and learning during their YLD program.

Some 20 youth circled their chairs around Gaither, their director, and played a hot-seat like game to learn each other’s names.

Fourteen-year-old Natalie Pierson, a Key Peninsula Middle School student, has been part of the popular group since November.

“It’s super fun, and we play lots of cool games. Once we come here, all our stress from school and problems in life disappear. We’re learning leadership skills to help take care of our lives,” she said.

There’s also a Youth in Government program that will include an overnight trip to Olympia in which participants will create a mock legislature. “They’ll elect their own governor and lieutenant governor and pass their own legislation so the kids can understand how our state government works and get involved in it,” Gaither explained.

Here on the Peninsula, the Y already has several before-and-after-school programs at KPMS.

“Right now I spend time two days a week at KPMS mentoring and tutoring a group, and I have a Brotherhood group with kids out there,” Gaither said. “It’s just in its infancy right now and I’d like to expand it.”

Gaither would also like to bring more Y programs out to the Key.

“We want to go wherever there’s a need. We can serve more schools, if they’re interested, with the YLD club, tutoring or the Brotherhood Club.”

Meanwhile, at the Gig Harbor Y, “…we have a home or activity for almost every teen –– from academic based programs to recreation programs,” Gaither said. “And with any program we have that has a fee attached to it, we offer family assistance.”

For information on any of the Y’s teen programs, contact Gaither at bgaither@nullymcapkc.org or call (253) 535-7864.

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