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Where every teen is cool
City's Teen Lounge rising to new peak of popularity in sixth year
The night Adam Goeken was crowned prince of the senior class at the winter formal at Lake Oswego High School, Cydny Winslow felt like she was getting her own crown.
It was a shining moment for everyone, said Winslow, who is teen program coordinator for the city of Lake Oswego. I was proud to be there.
Goeken is a shining success for Teen Lounge, a program that has been built from the ground up by Winslow since the day she showed up. Goeken is a quadriplegic and is confined to a wheelchair, but in all important ways he is not confined at all. Teen Lounge is the big reason why.
Adam has gone off the charts, said Cheryl Goeken, Adams mother. Teen Lounge has been his lifeline.
Goekens story has been truly heartwarming, but he is only one of many success stories turned outby McKenzie Teen Lounge since 2007, and the program is reaching a peak this year. This has Winslow practically gleaming with enthusiasm.
Weve had a 53 percent increase in attendance this year since weve incorporated sixth-graders into our program, Winslow said. In our sixth year it has just exploded. It takes five years to build a program like this, and now it is being used as a model by other teen programs in the state. Weve established a template for a good, solid teen program.
A strong teen program has been created in Lake Oswego, and it will continue to grow and evolve, said Jan Wirtz, city recreation supervisor/cultural division. She loves the awesome feedback surveys she receives from teens.
Wirtz said, Cyds creation of multi-layered teen programming is essential to attracting and meeting the needs of a variety of teens.
The term at risk has been used to describe a segment of the teen population that is especially prone to bad influences. But Wirtz noted that all children can be at risk if they are not given after-school activities that encourage confidence, knowledge and skills. And also give them a heckuva lot of fun.
Winslow has done it, for several reasons. One, she is very fun herself. Two, she is young, easily fitting in with any gathering of teenagers. Three, Winslow is wise. The wisest thing she ever did was hire older teens as counselors, often with only a few years of Teen Lounge experience under their belts, to work with the younger teens who are flocking to the program in ever-greater numbers.
At first I was the skeptic of all skeptics when it came to hiring high school students for this program, Winslow said. But younger kids respond so well. When a 12-year-old comes in and finds that a 16-year-old is going to be working with him and that they are friendly, funny and cool, it helps them take ownership and pride in their program. Ive found kids working with kids to be exponentially successful.
It was the counseling job application forms that really turned Winslows way of thinking. The forms she received from adults were quite stern, promising to keep the kids strictly in line. The applications Winslow received from teens were different.
The high school kids who applied said they wanted to make sure the kids who came here were safe, had a good time and that everyone was welcome. I thought, Yeah, yeah, yeah! I want that!
Emily Liu is example No. 1 of the teens who transformed Teen Lounge into such a success. She just turned 20, but she started going to Teen Lounge at age 15. Whether its crafts and clubs and homework, summer camps, art or dodge ball, Liu is on the scene with all the teens.
As soon as I met Cyd we really hit it off, said Liu, who now studies photography and printmaking at Portland State University. When the counseling job opened up, she said, You should apply for the job! and I did.
It has been awesome. I started when I was so young and I have seen so many kids grow up and succeed. Theyve taught me more than I teach them. This is a place to go, a really positive activity where kids can be active and creative.
Once quite a shy kid myself, Liu continues to find Teen Lounge a place to grow. In fact, she schedules her college studies around her Teen Lounge work.
I only take night courses, Liu said. I love this job too much to give it up.
Walk up to just about any kid at Teen Lounge and you find someone whose life has been changed. People like 15-year-old Zach Stephenson, a freshman at Lakeridge High School. He has been coming for three years.
Some of my friends invited me here for a summer party, Stephenson said. I really liked it. Theres a great staff here, and the whole ambience is kid friendly. I would love to keep coming until I can work here.
Another possible future Teen Lounge employee is Andrew Carcamo, an eighth-grader at Lake Oswego Junior High School.
I got all excited by the video games, then I got close with Emily and Cyd, Carcamo said.
His ties became stronger when he became active with the Teen Service Corps.
People tell me I should work here when I turn 16, Carcamo said. Ive been training to be a counselor.
When Winslow began the new program, it was something Lake Oswego never had before. At the beginning, the program had a mere trickle of attendance, and it did not help that its location, the West End Building, was mired in controversy at the time.
But failure was no match for Winslows burning enthusiasm. Now her horizon is crowded with teenagers. The program has more than doubled this year because it was opened to sixth-graders for the first time. Up to 800 teens a month have been showing up on weekday afternoons.
This program is set so these kids will rise and rise, Goeken said. Cyd has done this in a very natural way. She cares about every single kid.
In developing the program, Winslows main reference point may have been herself.
When I was a kid, I was artsy and overweight. I wasnt big into sports or academics like the other teenagers, she said. I had not decided on the one big thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This wouldve been the place for me. I wouldve said, I can be a kid here. Theres cool people here. Now my goal is for everyone who comes here to have a good time.
McKenzie Teen Lounge events and activities can be followed on Facebook and Twitter. It is located on the first floor of the WEB at 4101 Kruse Way.