During the pandemic, teenagers have leaned more and more from Lee’s Summit’s only free after-school teen center.
They were seeking support for stressful situations both inside and outside the home. Despite the pandemic, Pro Deo Youth Center has continued to meet their needs by providing free services five days a week. The center, a small local non-profit, saw a decrease in donations but a 23 percent increase in families being served. The need for in-person connection was higher than ever before because of the feelings of isolation associated with the pandemic. During quarantine, Pro Deo staff saw teens struggling to connect with others and stay positive when they felt their worst. When restrictions started to ease and the world started to get a little safer, staff decided it was imperative that in-person programming start again with parameters.
“Through all this, Pro Deo staff has been monumental in sustaining healthy relationships and keeping our teens hopeful for their future," said Executive Director Elaine Metcalf. "Pro Deo staff dealt with changing plans, closures, mental breakdowns, and much more, but they did it with a smile because the vulnerable teens needed us most.”
Summer 2020 was the busiest Pro Deo had seen in a long time. More teens, more connections and more hours of keeping teens safe, active and engaged. Pro Deo did a lot of outdoor activities like swimming, water relays, hiking, and more. The teens thrived and our connections grew stronger. Fall 2020 was filled with uncertainty of in-person schooling or online, the connections Pro Deo built during 2020 were vital in keeping teens motivated to succeed. With frequent grade checks and after school tutoring, our teens grew to understand the importance of resilience and grit during the pandemic.
As Pro Deo looks to 2021 and beyond, there are plans to expand operations to include learning gardening projects, middle school programs, leadership development, and more hours of free tutoring. To meet the needs of teenagers, Pro Deo will be hiring a lead site coordinator to help the center run more efficiently. The staff maintain healthy relationships with the students through daily check-ins and encourages them to make healthy choices. More details can be found on at the Pro Deo website.
“The year 2020 will be remembered as a difficult year, but we are grateful for the opportunity we’ve had to build our relationships and grow as a team," said youth program director, Tiffany Weyant. "We couldn’t do the work without our amazing community and our phenomenal staff! Thank you for helping us stay on track and encourage the teens in our community to be their best selves!”