‘A direct need’: NEO celebrates 10 years, plans to expand its center | TheUnion.com

‘A direct need’: NEO celebrates 10 years, plans to expand its center

Sam Corey
Staff Writer


What: NEO at the Thursday Nigh Market in Grass Valley

Where: NEO’s teen section is on South Auburn Street between Caroline’s Coffee and Packard Discount Carpet

When: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights

In high school, Lynn Skrukrud was noticing some insidious trends.

At Nevada Union High School she encountered peers who were making unhealthy choices. A few were developing drug habits.

Skrukrud chose to invest herself in organizations that incentivized teens to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but she grew concerned with the organizations: the “Just Say No” motto wasn’t helping kids, she said.

With Nevada County grant money and help from her friend and cofounder Halli Ellis-Edwards, Skrukrud later developed NEO, a nonprofit encouraging interactive programming, leadership opportunities and avenues for empowering youth.

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This month, the organization is celebrating 10 years of service.

“Having something that came from youth for youth was really important,” said Skrukrud.

NEO saw a 30% increase in the number of kids that engaged with their center from 2017 to 2018. A total of 4,849 youth visited the center that same year, and a number of them attended the 55 skill development workshops offered.

Now NEO’s youth center, opened four years ago, will be expanding. The project will convert a 1,500-square-foot space into 5,000 square feet, and will include a soundproof music studio, kitchen and art studio, as well as an outside garden and basketball court.

The organization saw “a direct need,” which stimulated the creation of the addition, said Skrukrud.

While the cofounder believes NEO has grown partly because it incorporates both stable and at-risk youth (Skrukrud says the entire teen population is vulnerable to entropic change), she also acknowledged a growing need for services that particularly assist precariously positioned young people.

Skrukrud said teens are spending more time on their phone screens, often luring them to social media sites that create streams of endless bullying long after school hours end.

“Young people have a hard time limiting it,” she said.

Although the cause is somewhat unclear, anxiety, depression and suicide are on the rise for teenagers nationally, according to a Vox report.

NEO is trying to combat this trend by teaching youth at the center, and Nevada Union High School students during health week, to be mindful of their phone usage, and adopt different habits to mitigate stress and anxiety that can flood their lives.

Skrukrud has led students through meditation activities and outdoor walks, and hopes that NEO’s physical expansion and emotional bonding techniques will contract the mental and emotional problems plaguing young people.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

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