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Sewickley YMCA offers teens afterschool program

| Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, 4:35 p.m.

Four days a week, students are invited to unwind after school at the Sewickley Valley YMCA's oasis program for teenagers.

Middle and high schoolers can relax, study, play pool or video games, chat and snack at the OASIS Teen Center on Blackburn Road after school Mondays through Thursdays. Volunteers assist the kids with homework or engage them in any of the activities.

All OASIS — which stands for Organized Activity Space In Sewickley — activities are under the direction of Bre Gleason, youth development coordinator. Most students who attend are sixth and seventh graders, she said, with a few ninth graders.

“We see about 15 to 20 students a day,” she said.

Most of them come in drained from school, Gleason said, but after 30 to 45 minutes of downtime, a little TV and a snack, their energy is restored enough for craft making, swimming or other physical activity.

Sometimes, an out-of-Y event is planned for a minimum charge.

Gleason, who had been Lara part of the past two summer camps at the Y, is new to the program herself.

“That was putting me on the right path,” she said.

She works closely with Floyd Faulkner, the community youth coordinator involved with the Quaker Valley School District, and other adults to help students have a fun yet productive time each day after school.

Vince Russo, 21, a junior at Robert Morris University, has volunteered with OASIS since the spring. As a member of the Delta Tau Delta, he honors the fraternity's bylaws by spending 15 hours a semester doing community service.

But for Russo, it's become much more. He's become friends with a student from Venezuela who participates in the program.

“I was blessed enough to take Spanish for two to three years in middle school and high school,” said Russo, who remembers enough of the language to hold a simple conversation. “(The student) seemed overwhelmed.”

But encouraging the students is a part of Russo's time along with a few other fraternity brothers there.

“We're to set a good example, be good role models and show them responsibility,” he said.

Even on the basketball court, lessons can be learned.

“It's a cool opportunity to teach teamwork and problem-solving skills,” he said.

While his future may be set on a career in communications with a focus on journalism, Russo has added value to young lives.

Gleason is pleased about the volunteers and local businesses and people have donated to provide OASIS students with daily snacks or small meals.

Sometimes, she makes homemade trail mix.

“It's hard to sneak healthy things in without them knowing,” she said.

The program is growing, and the YMCA would welcome new volunteers for the afternoon hours.

“There's no typical volunteer,” she said. “They just have to connect with kids, have an open ear for them and join in some of the physical activities.”

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