The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 30, 2013

Welcome to the Jungle! Teen center amps up programming offerings

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

HARRISBURG — MILTON — The Jungle Teen Center is hoping grant funding will help enhance programming at the facility as the teen hangout unveils a new lineup of activities.

Beginning in February, the Jungle, at 139 S. Front St., will have a monthly lineup of “Friday Night Specials,” with themed nights adding a variety of options. The first Friday of each month will feature Christian dance music; the second Friday will be a “flex” night for special events and fundraisers; the third will be “Zumba night,” a girl-focused health and fitness night; and the fourth Friday will be “Games Night” with tournaments featuring ping pong, air-hockey, foosball, pool and Wii bowling, said George Venios, Milton Main Street manager.

“We want to be a leader in teen programming,” he said.

The Jungle, which attracts 35 to 50 teens each Saturday night, also is hoping to expand its after-school hours from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays to five nights a week, Venios said.

However, in order to do so, the Jungle is applying for grants to help these ideas become a reality. The Jungle has applied for a grant from the United Way, which will be decided in March, Venios said.

“(Without the grants), these programs may have to be scaled back,” he said.

For now, the Jungle is working on planning its Friday Night Specials, with the Christian music night headed by one of the Jungle’s new advisers, Cheri Ward Nicholas.

“I want to give (young people) an outlet that allows them to express themselves in a different way,” she said. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time.”

Nicholas hopes the night will allow teens to see what kinds of Christian music are out there as an alternative to mainstream music.

“I don’t think they realize what kind of variety of Christian music there is,” she said.

The Zumba night will feature themes aimed at providing health and wellness information to teen girls, said theme organizer and Jungle adviser Jessica Hess.

“It’s a good opportunity for teens to come in and have the opportunity to exercise,” she said.

Members of the Jungle’s committee are anxious to see how the new programming will be received by their peers.

“I’m excited to get started,” Abigail Shaw, 18, said.

The Jungle also is in the middle of its “TIME for Tunes & Art” workshops, which allow teens to learn songwriting skills and mural painting with the help of local professionals. The increased, diverse programming is aimed at providing something for everyone to enjoy, Venios said.

“There’s a lot of different kids who have different interests, and we want to capture that,” he said.