LCS Resource Center, in partnership with the Crook County Juvenile Department, will be offering free summer classes to at-risk youth

by: JASON CHANEY - LCS Case Manager Karen Bones (left) and Crook County Juvenile Department Case Manager Jill Bonanno (right) will teach free classes for teens and adults during the summer, including a cooking class.

For the past several months, Lutheran Community Services, an organization serving those with mental health issues, has been offering free classes to its clients.

The intent behind the courses, which include art, yoga, and knitting, is to encourage those they serve to interact and participate in constructive activities.

“A lot of people with mental health issues have a lot of problems being in a group and socialization,” said LCS case manager Karen Bones. “So, just having people to interact with can be very good for them.”

Now, at-risk youth from the Crook County Juvenile Department will have a chance to experience the benefits of free classes as will interested members of the public. LCS has teamed up with the department to offer an enhanced selection of the classes throughout the summer.

For six weeks, people are welcome to come to the LCS Resource Center and participate in different classes offered for free Monday through Friday. The hands-on courses will include teen summer cooking and upcycled crocheted rag rugs, as well as art, yoga, and knitting.

Juvenile Department case manager Jill Bonanno is hoping the classes will provide her youth with opportunities they might otherwise lack.

“There are a lot of opportunities in Prineville for youth to do different things during the summer,” she said, “but the families that I work with, the majority don’t have the financial resources or they are not in a position to provide those things. So there is this huge segment of youth who are just left out in the community.”

Bones and Bonanno hope to see the adults who have experience with the LCS courses mentor the teens, while the teens offer the adults some valuable social interaction as well.

“They are choosing whether they want to help the new students with what they are doing or if they just want to be in the group with them,” Bones said.

Along with the social benefits, they hope to provide the youth and adults alike with courses that keep them active and hold their interest. Bones noted that they wouldn’t get the teenagers to come if it was a sit and learn, like school.

In addition, they have chosen classes that will provide participants with life skills that they can rely on in the future. Bonanno highlighted the cooking class in particular, saying that the youth who take the course could go home and utilize what they learned to prepare a meal for their family.

“These are kids who are part of our community and we see them as a valuable asset,” Bonanno said. “So, it’s just providing them the opportunity and the space to grow and gain new life skills.”

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