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Our View: Welcome home NEO

On Thursday night, Grass Valley celebrated the grand opening of NEO’s new youth center on Joerschke Drive.

Beginning April 7, the NEO youth center will be open from 2:30-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; teens can drop in during those hours to receive homework help, participate in arts and crafts, play video and board games or just hang out. The center will also host weekday evening and weekend concerts, movie nights and dances.

Tonight, NEO will host its free grand opening concert 6-10 p.m. at the 139 Joerschke Dr. location.



And although western Nevada County teens now have a new place to hang, the efforts of this nonprofit organization aren’t exactly new to our community.

And now with a permanent home to host such events and opportunities, we look forward to NEO’s continued growth and the positive impact it makes on young people in our community.

In fact, a look back through The Union’s archives shows one of the earliest references of the group mentions their efforts at alleviating issues with teens loitering in downtown Grass Valley.




Following a fight among teens in 2008, The Union reported, “Working with the Grass Valley Downtown Association, the police department has helped design the layout of downtown events and ramped up police presence to discourage misbehavior. Changing the summertime Friday Night Market to Thursday nights also helped. Representatives from a teen drug-free program called ‘Neo’ also have made a presence at the market.”

“We came up with the concept of NEO,” co-director Halli Ellis wrote in a 2010 piece published by The Union. “Its name comes from the prefix meaning ‘new.’ It’s a new choice, a new way of thinking, a new lifestyle, where we give our youth fun alternatives to boredom, drugs and alcohol, encourage them to be themselves, to be creative and to make their own fun.”

Ellis, who today is a member of The Union Editorial Board, and Co-Director Lynn Skukrud helped get NEO off the ground while they were still students at Nevada Union High School and remained involved through their college years to keep the momentum moving forward.

In their early days, the “for-youth, by-youth” group said its name stood for “Not Even Once” in being a youth-centered component of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Nevada County. Today, though still focused on drug prevention efforts, the group’s acronym stands for “New Events and Opportunities,” which speaks directly to what they hope to provide to young people in the Grass Valley and Nevada City area.

But truth be told, NEO has been providing events and opportunities for local teens for quite some time. Skukrud said the organization has hosted more than 70 youth events over the past six years at various locations throughout the community. Those events have ranged from “Guitar Hero” video game competitions to screenings of the Twilight movie series to actual concerts featuring multiple bands. Those efforts helped lead to more opportunities for NEO to expand its offerings, such as eventually hosting the NEO Youth Stage for young musicians at Grass Valley’s Thursday Night Market.

Howard Levine, who today serves on the Grass Valley City Council, saw the positive impact the group was making when he served as director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, and helped get the group’s youth stage started at the Thursday Night Market.

“NEO has worked hard with the local drug free community to provide an opportunity for youth,” Levine said in 2009. “They continue to provide alternative solutions to many who say there is nothing to do in Nevada County and we applaud them. Working for this result is positive and productive! We should consider it meritorious as we all may enjoy our community, the market and our stores.”

We agree. And now with a permanent home to host such events and opportunities, we look forward to NEO’s continued growth and the positive impact it makes on young people in our community.

Our View represents the opinions of The Union editorial board, which is composed of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.


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