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Nevada County youth organizations adjust to public health requirements

Victoria Penate
Staff Writer


NEO: To contact, volunteer, or find out more about NEO, visit http://www.neoyouthcenter.org

The Friendship Club: To contact, volunteer, or find out more about The Friendship Club, visit http://www.friendshipclub.org

4-H: Contact or find out more about Nevada County 4-H at http://www.ucanr.edu/sites/nevadacounty4h

Nevada City Little League: Find updates regarding the league at http://www.nevadacitybaseball.com/home

As COVID-19-related restrictions on large gatherings remain in place, local youth organizations have adjusted their plans accordingly, moving some into a virtual space and canceling others.

New Events and Opportunities, known as NEO — a youth center and empowerment program — is working hard to bring social activities to teens and young adults who are struggling to stay connected while schools employ distance learning.

“One of the goals of the organization has always been to reduce youth isolation, and we never foresaw the isolation that youth are facing right now, so we’re doing all we can to address that,” said Lynn Skrukrud, cofounder and director of operations at NEO.

Skrukrud, alongside fellow cofounder and director Halli Ellis-Edwards, has organized a variety of activities for youth who would normally be able to frequent the NEO youth center.

They are currently offering regular virtual hangouts, some with a set topic of conversation and others simply for unstructured social time, as well as more involved activities like an online open mic night for the youth to share their talents.

Skrukrud mentioned that in light of a recently canceled fundraiser and uncertainty as to event opportunities for the rest of the year, donations from the community go an especially long way at this time.

With the help of donations from Grass Valley Rotary Club, NEO recently delivered around 30 care packages to some of the youth involved in the program, providing them with snacks and materials such as worksheets to keep entertained.

“We wanted to let the youth know that we’re still here thinking about them and caring about them,” said Skrukrud.

The Friendship Club, a long-term program dedicated to helping at-risk girls in western Nevada County, also continues to provide support to members while maintaining physical distancing.

“We had to pivot quickly into virtual operation, and all of our programs are still up and running through virtual meetings,” said Cassie Robertson, community outreach director of the organization.

According to Robertson, The Friendship Club is providing support for a wide variety of needs when planning its current programming. Cohort meetings have ranged from the show-and-tell of pets to discussions on how the current inability to be at school can affect mental wellness.

A stay-at-home highlight for the organization was a grad night celebration held last week, honoring its nine graduating seniors in the program. Each girl was invited to either write or record a senior speech, which was then featured on-air by KNCO radio.


As of mid-March, Nevada County 4-H has moved all youth enrichment activities online as well, including project groups, meetings, and instructional workshops.

“All in-person activity has been canceled, but some of our 4-H projects have been able to design creative ways to continue learning,” said Jill Simmons, community education specialist at Nevada County 4-H.

According to Simmons, youth involved in the program have still been able to connect with adult group leaders for instruction in activities, including a Mother’s Day flower arrangement workshop and a take-and-go quilting kit to be worked on at home.

Some youth organizations have had no choice but to fully stop activity, including Nevada City Little League, which has canceled this year’s spring season.

“We know it’ll really help the kids to get back into playing, but we are at the mercy of what is possible for our local parks, so it will be dictated by the city of Nevada City, health department, and CDC,” said Josh Van Matre, president of Nevada City Little League.

VanMatre added that Nevada City Little League specifically relies largely on permissions granted by local parks and school districts, whose baseball diamonds are used for practices and games.

Due to the spring cancellation, the league has offered refunds to all members and is waiting for further guidance to determine whether the season can be replaced later in the year.

“When they give us the go-ahead to resume youth sports, we’re going to do whatever we can to have a season, whether that’s in a Fall Ball season form or a regular Little League season,” said VanMatre.


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Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union.

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