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Teens feel comfortable & safe at Boys & Girls
Players from the Huskies and the Sparks play in the newly created all girls basketball league at the Manteca Boys & Girls Club. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
Keeping teens busy is the key to preventing them from getting into trouble or setting out on the wrong path.

And nobody knows this more than Boys and Girls Club of Lathrop Teen Room Director Mark McCool.

With school out of session and many kids finding an abundance of free time, McCool came back over to the Manteca location to run the teen room and work directly with the kids that are content just hanging out with friends of the room’s oversized couches.

Rather than waiting for a spot at a pool table to open up or a challenge at a game of Madden on the room’s flat screen, 13-year-old Charles McClain spent his Wednesday afternoon painting pieces of corner molding that will accent the education center that will soon be located in the space that currently houses the teens.

“I like hanging out with friends and getting the chance to see people that I haven’t seen for a long time,” McClain said. “I feel safe and comfortable when I’m here – like I don’t have to look over my shoulder for somebody who might have bad intentions.”

According to McCool, the teens seem to have a different outlook on how they want to spend their time – finding solace in just kicking back on the couches and watching people play Madden, or watching a movie and talking with friends.

But there’s also the combination of the Keystone Club and the Smart Moves Program that both aim to set positive examples on how to act for teens  that can easily come off of the rails and start something negative just out of sheer boredom.

“We’ve got Keystone which is a leadership program here, and that does a lot to show the teens how to become natural leaders and help others stay on the right path,” McCool said. “And we also have Smart Moves, which is the anti-drug, anti-alcohol, and anti-early sexual involvement course that aims to educate teens on the risks of some of the behavior that they’ll likely run into one day.”

Sierra High student James Gray says that he enjoys playing basketball and video games with his friends. He noted that the club offers something to do when the summer doldrums finally kick-in.

“I like coming here and playing basketball and Madden,” said Gray, 15. “It gives you something to do during the summer, and that’s one of the best parts.”

The Manteca Boys and Girls Club is located at 545 W. Alameda Street. For additional information, call 239-5437 (KIDS).