NEWBERG — As one of this city’s largest churches, Newberg Christian Church has long been a busy place. But because of a big, new commitment it is making to the local community, the church since early last month is pretty well guaranteed to see tons of fresh energy released every weekday afternoon.
As reported by the Newberg Graphic, the church is now meeting a large local need by providing a safe after-school outlet for middle school students of the city. On April 4 the church launched MyZone, a middle school drop-in center open to all students of that age in Newberg weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m.
Pastor David Case told the newspaper the program is not designed to be evangelistic and will not have a religious agenda, but is simply offered as a community service and aims to involve qualified people from within and outside the church.
Newberg Christian Church is ideally located for such a program. It is centrally located between the city’s two public middle schools — Chehalem Valley and Mountain View — and is also within walking distance of two Christian schools — C.S. Lewis Academy and Veritas. Homeschooled students also are welcome to take part in MyZone.
Transportation is provided from the public middle schools to the church. Students can then get a ride home at 4 p.m. on the school district activities bus or can be picked up their parents at 5 p.m.
The process that led to the new program began with a group of teachers at Chehalem Valley Middle School who expressed concern to Principal Karen Pugsley and the school’s community council about the lack of free after-school activities available to middle schoolers.
One of those council members is Jodi Hansen, executive director of Love INC (Love in the Name of Christ) of Newberg, She took the teachers’ concern to Case, whose church already had a strong relationship with the school district.
Case told the Graphic that the church facility is well suited for the program. He said the church also was strongly inclined to show its support for local youth after recently hosting some seminars focused on the problems facing young people, including depression and drug abuse. Case said he was particularly struck when
Rod Robbins of the First Step Adolescent and Adult Treatment Center in Newberg said that research shows 80 percent of teenage drug use takes place between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
MyZone takes its name from how the church is divided for the program into various zones, including the gym for sports and physical activities such as basketball and volleyball, a media zone with movies and entertainment, a video-game area, a hangout area in the lobby and a study zone for homework and quiet time.
The program features a punch card system. For example, attending the StudyZone will be worth two punches, and students will earn a reward when they tally 10.
Tom Stram, a longtime member of the church who took over the church’s sports and recreation program 18 months ago, is directing MyZone. The program relies heavily on volunteers, who must go through an application process and pass a background check.
Support from the community also is strong, said Case. He said Robbins is providing an intern from his treatment center on a weekly basis and Newberg’s two Rotary Club groups have pledged funding to purchase equipment. Tutoring is provided in the StudyZone by several former teachers and it is anticipated that additional manpower and learning opportunities can be arranged with local schools.
The program will run through the end of the school year and then cut back to a one-day-per-week schedule during the summer. For more information, phone the church at 503-538-3104.