Research shows that the highest crime rate among juveniles occurs after school hours, between 3 and 6 p.m.
The Boys and Girls Club of Utah County aims to make a difference.Since opening in October of last year, the Boys and Girls Club, the only one in the county, has been serving kids ages 10-14 every Monday through Friday afternoon at the Clubhouse Building at 1060 E. 150 North.
The group's mission is to provide a wholesome atmosphere where youth can make friends and learn to develop skills and character.
On Wednesday, the Boys and Girls Club, in conjunction with the Utah County Sheriff's office, celebrated the start of a new prevention/intervention program in preparation for the opening of a teen center Friday for youth ages 14-18.
A dunking tank and a rock wall for climbing were part of the entertainment provided by the sheriff's office. Deputy Shawn Davis and his dog Ahco paid a visit from the K-9 unit.
The youth will meet with members of the sheriff's office on a bimonthly basis. The concept is to build a positive relationship between the kids and police officers, as some of the youth involved in the program come from underprivileged backgrounds.
"They think the police are bad," said program director Shanni Call. "By teaming with the police, they build a rapport with them, to help them realize that the police are good."
"Kids hear and see the police arrest their parents, which puts us in a negative light in their minds," Davis said. "We teach them that our job is to help people too."
Yet the club is not exclusively for latchkey kids or youth from troubled situations. About half of the 112 enrolled in the program come from unstable families while the other half come from strong families, Call said. Between 20 and 30 kids attend every day. Volunteers help the youth with homework, teach skills and crafts, take them on field trips and service projects.
"All kids are invited. We have a good mix here," Call added. "By putting them all together, they have broken down a lot of barriers. That's what we want to accomplish."
In addition, the Boys and Girls Club emphasizes the importance of schooling and finding a career.
"We will teach them how to get a job, how to prepare for an interview and how to get money for college," Call said. "Many of these kids don't think there is any way they can go to college. We want to help them."
For the older youth, a variety of subjects from teen pregnancy to lifesaving skills to gun awareness are taught.
Cost is $15 for one year. Scholarships to the program are available. For more information, contact Call at 370-4615.