Thanks for 2013, a wish for 2014 from the Hangout |

Thanks for 2013, a wish for 2014 from the Hangout

With 2013 past, we at the high-school Hangout find ourselves reflecting on another terrific year — terrific students, terrific staff and terrific support from Grace Lutheran Church and other agencies/businesses that enabled us to do what we do and have great fun doing it!

So, what do we do? Well, we, as the premiere after-school program for local high-school students (next door to Nevada Union, 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily), provide protection from the elements, free refreshments and entertainment via ping-pong, billiards, air hockey and video games (Wii entertainment system).

Recently, we wrapped-up another tournament (billiards, ping-pong and air hockey); $140 in cash prizes was awarded. Competition, fun and good sportsmanship were abundant. Taking first place was Colby; second place, Fox; third place, Romie; and fourth place, Bryan. And, yes, we'll do it all over again this coming semester. All students are encouraged to participate. It's not just a guy thing. Romie put that notion to rest. Everybody really got into it, including my other staffers.

When it comes to my other (all-volunteer) staffers, the word "awesome" always comes to mind. A huge shout-out to Mike H., Virginia, Tom, Sue, John, Mary. Ken, Maria, Diane, Marilyn, Gaye and Carolyn (who helped secure the funding through Grace Lutheran Church) for the tournament. Another huge shout-out goes to our fearless, wise, loving leaders Pat and Gary Novak.

The staff and students make every day I'm there a true joy. Then, there's the church itself that provides the facility, funding, etc. Such a blessing!

We've also been very fortunate to get help from outside agencies, such as the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County, Republican Women's Federated, Grass Valley Soroptomists, the Nevada City Methodist Church and the Nevada County Food Bank.

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Then, there were local businesses that came through big time when we had our Walk4YouthPeace1 walk-a-mara-thon last spring — BriarPatch, Walker's Office Supplies and the Record Connection, with a special shout-out to Dena of the Friendship Club. We raised money, awareness for the Hangout, the Overtime Program, KARE Crisis Nursey and the Friendship Club. And, yes, we'll do it again in Spring 2014. It will be called Less Talk … MORE WALK!! and, again, cash prizes will be awarded to the top student walkers.

So, obviously, we have some great plans for the new year, but there is something we need from you, our supportive public. We need you to let everyone who is a parent, grandparent or guardian of local high school students know about us. And one thing I've learned from living in this town most of my life is that it's word of mouth that brings about the best results. Of course, we'll still do our part via PSAs (KNCO, Star 94.1), Nevada Union High School etc.

It will take a combination of all of the above to do what we're aspiring to do — increase our attendance figures. And no, we don't need a certain average daily attendance for some grant. We just love having a building full of amazing students — some of whom have been through incredibly difficult times.

But what makes them amazing is that despite all of the heartache, intense peer pressure, abuse, etc., they've been through, they join together and light up the room with intense energy and love. It's one of the most powerful things a person can experience. I cherish every day I'm with them, which is nearly every day.

I wouldn't trade the experience of being with these students for anything in the world. They, along with the three very special ladies in my life — Emily, Kaylee and Lisa, whom I'm blessed to be friends with — inspire me to be a better person in all aspects of my life.

So, to recap — Hangout students — awesome! Hangout staff — awesome! Outside agencies and businesses that have been there for us — awesome! 2013 — awesome!

As for the desire to boost attendance in 2014 — please help us. If you have any suggestions as to how we can better do this, call me at 530-615-8312, or Pat or Gary at 530-273-0932.

Once again, may God continue to bless and protect all of His amazing children!

Mike Craig lives in Grass Valley.

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