Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - Updated: 2:05 AM
Imagine yourself, if you can, as a teenager in today's world. The average school day for a typical teen far too often begins and ends with uncertainty, insecurity and/or conflict. There are a myriad of catalysts for such dilemmas, including parental choices, socio economic situations and physical/biological changes in youth out pacing their mental, emotional and spiritually maturity.
A student's day almost always contains various degrees of challenges including: peer pressure; academic, athletic, and other expectations of themselves and from their families; and love, infatuation and or confusion concerning the opposite sex. Boyfriend/girlfriend issues are especially inexhaustable sources of teenage drama; exacerbated by social media e.g. Facebook, Snap Chat, Instragram, etc.
At the final bell of the school day, students are frequently mentally and emotionally drained, often brimming with energy, and always hungry. Some students have after hour activities throughout the school year, others only certain portions of the year, and many none or almost none. Unorganized after school hours, especially when parents are employed outside the home, can be a fertile time for unhealthy influences to take root and grow. Peer pressure presents far too many opportunities for poor decision making; whether unchaperoned "in home visits" or other rendezvous venues between the sexes, "running" with groups sometimes going in the wrong direction, or a multitude of other temptations. Although the cliché seemingly has become passe in today's society, "idle hands are the devil's workshop" is probably more true than ever.
Continue to stretch your imagination (or in some cases recollection of your own adolescence) of a student at the crossroads of a decision as to how to spend their afternoon before going home. You have the aforementioned options or the positive alternative of checking out what is going on in a new large tan building with a "rustic red" roof just across Lafayette Street directly behind the Trigg County School campus. You have heard various opinions as to what goes on there and who attends, but the things accepted as facts include that there is always food, games and music. As previously alluded to, "hunger and teenagers" are almost synonymous terms, so you start walking towards the building with the big sign reading "The Way, Christian Youth Center" and the three flags waving vigorously in the afternoon breeze -- the USA and Kentucky flags and another large white flag with a red cross on a blue field. Maybe it is pizza or sloppy joe day, you wonder. As you reach the recently painted crosswalk across Lafayette, you hear music coming from a speaker on the outside of what appears to be a gymnasium. You aren't familiar with the song or artists, but it has a good beat. With the modicum of trepidation that accompanies going somewhere for the first time, you enter the large glass double doors and are greeted by a nice lady who introduces herself, welcomes you to "The Way," asks how was your day and compliments your smile or something about your appearance or demeanor. She then asks you to fill out a short survey with your contact information and what you like to do. She says it is so they can better plan for and involve you in upcoming activities. She also gives you a parental consent form to take home for you and your parents to read and sign, attesting everyone understands and are OK with the organization's operations, guidelines and rules. Spending three minutes filling out the survey is not something you particularly want to do. However, you see some friends playing air hockey, hear the sounds of a basketball game and something like skateboarding going on in the gym -- and observe large platters of hot dogs and fruit on the kitchen counter. The lady said everything is free at The Way, provided by county churches and individuals, so you think you will give the place a chance.
The Way, Christian Youth Ministries of Trigg County began in 2011 as an answer to the perennial question/concern of most parents "what is there for our kids to do in Cadiz after school?" The Way, named after John 14:6: "Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me," is an interdenominational (all Christian denominations), nonprofit and all volunteer entity. The Way provides a safe, fun and positive place for all middle and high school students; regardless of a religious affiliation. Operating hours are from 3-6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 3-9 p.m. on Fridays. This schedule hopefully will be extended. While The Way is unashamedly Christ centered, volunteers share, but do not force their beliefs on students. Short daily devotions are provided by local pastors and lay persons and while attendance is encouraged it is not mandatory. The Way is not a church, but hopes to be a conduit between the community and local churches. There is no charge for anything at The Way thanks to the kindness of Christians and others throughout Trigg County and western Kentucky.
The Way's first two years plus were in a rented store front on main street. When the property sold to make way for a new Dollar General Store, Cadiz Baptist Church generously offered the only other satisfactory and available facility in town, its annex, to be The Way's temporary home at no cost. Although both locations were half a mile from Trigg Schools and not designed as youth centers, attendance by and benefits to Trigg youth made it clear God's work needed to be continued. In early 2015, after much prayer and discussion, The Way's Board of Directors voted to search for a suitable location close to Trigg Schools and to begin construction planning. The Way was able to obtain the parcel of ground arguably the most advantageous for a Youth Center in Trigg County. The location at 197 Lafayette St. is literally across the road on the south side of the school's campus, accessible to students via crosswalk. A Building Committee was formed with Marcus Frye as Chairman, Jerry Schisler as Project Manager, Cliff Carneyhan, Martha Davis, Carl Heckmann, Judy Terrell, Ken Traub and Dennis Whitten.
The committee prayerfully set a goal to raise $250,000 before seeking to borrow the remainder and begin construction. Although The Way had done fundraisers since its inception and always will, it took the effort to new levels e.g. yard sales, pancake breakfasts, cookie and candy bazaars, meals, singings, basketball tournaments, sponsorships, seeking assistance from Rotary and other civic groups. Thanks to fundraising co-chairwomen Martha Davis and Judy Terrell and others including Margaret Moody and Portia Aldridge, these efforts and the continued steadfast support of church partners resulted in the goal being reached in May 2016. Fundraising continues in an effort to become debt free and expand services to students. The next event is a Mystery Dinner Theater to be held in the new facility on the evenings of March 31 and April 1. Tickets can be purchased at the Janice Mason Art Museum during normal operating hours or at The Way's grand opening.
All those who contributed in any way will be recognized on a "Wall of Thanks" to be permanently displayed near the entrance of the Youth Center.
The Way's new home consists of two wings, a gymnasium and an activities area, totaling more than 11,500 square feet. The activities wing consists of a kitchen, multipurpose room, and areas designated for playing games (pool, ping pong, foosball, air hockey, skee ball and video games), eating snacks/meals, and relaxation. The multipurpose room will host arts and crafts, free music lessons, computer access, sewing classes and tutoring. Movies will be shown after 6 p.m. Fridays. Limited size cooking classes will be held in the warming kitchen. Wide screen televisions are conveniently located throughout the activities building; all playing the same Christian music videos or wholesome programming. The gym will consist of a nearly Junior High School size basketball court. An area separated by a curtain on the south side of the gym will be used daily either for kick ball, dodge ball or limited skateboarding on portable boxes, ramps, stairs, rails and a speed bump. A Christian based Tae Kwon Do program will be instructed for up to 90 minutes on Friday afternoons by retired Army Col. Charles Hiter. Most daily devotions will be held in the gym as well; some thanks to Internet access. The gym will also be the site of concerts and other youth events. The building has state of the art fire alarm and security cameras for student safety.
Just as Christ ministered not only to the spiritual, but also physical and mental needs of others, The Way seeks to likewise holistically minister to students. Proactive plans are under way for programs including:
â ¢ teaching life skills such as learning to budget and balancing a check book;
â ¢ providing training to enhance leadership and communications abilities;
â ¢ bringing in successful professionals, first responders, tradesmen and others to provide demonstrations and not only share their expertise, but what Christ has done in their lives and occupations;
â ¢ classes on job interview skills;
â ¢ looking at the Constitution through the eyes of our founders, etc.
There are so many West Kentuckian's to whom God has given talents and who are willing to "give back" to this current generation of youth, that program possibilities are almost limitless. The FBI has already asked to use the facility to provide information on how to combat opiates in the community. Organizers expect further such partnerships with law enforcement and other offices to benefit our youth and community.
The Way's grand opening to sponsors (including congregations of churches and members of businesses and organizational supporters) will be held from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at 197 Lafayette St. After brief times of welcome and general recognition of supporters, there will be a flag dedication ceremony followed by opportunities to tour the facility and ask questions. Light refreshments will be provided. Grand opening for students and their parents will be from 3-7 p.m. Thursday March 16. Regular operating hours begin on Friday, March 17. For more information on The Way, visit www.thewayforteens.org. or check out its Facebook page. Donations may be sent to The Way, P.O. Box 572 Cadiz, KY 42211.