Teenagers flock to the relaxed space of the New Paltz Youth Program (NPYP) to hang out with their friends after school.
Last month marked a whole quarter century that the program has been providing service to the teens of New Paltz from their white and blue house on Main Street.
The program provides kids with a safe, supervised environment to hang out after school and a positive influence that stick with them, according to Director Jim Tinger.
Tinger said the NPYP started in St. Johns church across from the SUNY New Paltz Lecture Center, before his time. It then moved to a room in the middle school before making its home at 220 Main St. on Sept. 2, 1989.
According to Tinger, parents sign a waiver determining if their children can come and go from the house.
Kids can play basketball, skateboard the half-pipe, play video games or just chill out, Tinger said. The center also provides counseling and tutoring for students.
But in the end it is the people that make this a great hangout as tenth grader Jade Horton said, “I like coming here because my friends are here. I like spending time with my friends.”
Tinger began working with the program in 1995, after starting up a rec program at New Paltz Middle School called “Games.”
Going on its 21st season, the “Games” program holds Saturday pick-up games for children in sports like basketball and dodgeball, as well as arts and crafts and musical events.
Kelly Jackson became assistant director in 2011 after working with NPYP for two years.
“When I started here I had no idea what I wanted to do in life,” Jackson said. “But after one week in, I knew I wanted to work with kids.”
Tinger said the most popular time is right around the beginning of the school year, when a lot of kids return and bring new friends.
Children from grades six through 12 are allowed to sign up and drop in when they feel like during the programs operating hours of 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.
“Kids who normally might not become friends in school, grow into friends here,” Jackson said.
Courtney Springer, third-year psychology major, has been volunteering there since June and loves to work and play with the kids.
“They are always on the move,” Springer said. “They love to play tag and they’ll ask anyone to join in no matter your age.”
Director Tinger recalled one student who was kicked out of the program for being disrespectful, yet came back to visit a few months ago to tell Jim how much he appreciated the program’s impact on his life.
“I tell all my volunteers, ‘The kids may not thank you and tell you that this helps, but it does.’” Tinger said.