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Escalon Youth Center Sees Uptick In Interest, Attendance
Taking some time to work on their pool skills were Josh Murga, 14, and Leo Marrufo, 12, both students at El Portal Middle School. Murga is in eighth grade, Marrufo in sixth. Marg Jackson/The Times

Experiencing a bit of a resurgence since being able to reopen their doors, the Escalon Youth Center is definitely helping to fill a need in the community.

Currently, the center on Escalon Avenue, across from the Escalon High School campus, is open Monday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m.

Summer hours – after school is out for the year on June 4 – will be Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m.

“Things are going good,” confirmed Youth Center Director Todd ‘TJ’ O’Neill. “We were able to open in mid-March and we are slowly seeing the kids working their way back in here.”

On Friday afternoon, May 21, the center was full of youngsters, many playing video games, others forming teams for cornhole or taking on friends in pool and foosball battles. Others were reading or working on computers, with a wide variety of activities available.

There is also a snack bar and the Youth Center was developed as part of a project championed by Trinity Church in Escalon.

O’Neill said the Youth Center and Trinity Church will work cooperatively at a fundraising Fireworks Booth from June 28 through July 4, some of the proceeds benefitting the center. Also planned during the summer are events including a June 18 Apex Legends Tournament starting at noon and a Movie Night set for 6 p.m. on July 16.

“I like just coming and hanging out,” said Josh Murga, 14, an eighth grader at El Portal.

Playing a game of pool with Murga, sixth grader Leo Marrufo, 12, agreed that having a place to hang out with friends and play some games, making the Youth Center the place to be.

“I mostly like talking with people, seeing my friends,” said 12-year-old Abigail Snyder, an El Portal seventh grade student.

“I love playing pool or foosball,” added 13-year-old Jaycee Coy, a fellow seventh grader.

For 14-year-old Tayden Huntsman, a 14-year-old eighth grader, there are many reasons to make the Youth Center a regular stop.

“Video games and hanging out with my friends,” he said of what he enjoys the mots. “And the food is pretty good, too.”

O’Neill said he anticipates that attendance will stay steady over the summer.

“There has been renewed interest from the community as well,” he noted, with more people now aware of the Youth Center and how it provides a safe place for youngsters.

The facility is open to students of El Portal Middle School and Escalon High School and O’Neill said they recently had a field trip for Collegeville Elementary fifth grade students to tour the site, since they will be at El Portal in the coming school year.

“We are starting to see pre-COVID numbers,” O’Neill said of the climbing attendance. “We are also always looking for volunteers.”

O’Neill can be reached at 209-662-9314 for those interested in learning more about the volunteer opportunities.

Sending the bag toward the cornhole board is seventh grader Abigail Snyder, 12, while Jaycee Coy, 13, watches the action unfold. The two were playing the game Friday afternoon at the Escalon Youth Center. Marg Jackson/The Times