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Haley Settling In To New Escalon Youth Center Role
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Escalon Youth Center’s new manager, Nathan Haley, visits with El Portal seventh graders Athena Quiroz, Lizzy Castro and Rachelle Barker as the girls stopped in after school on Friday, April 8. Marg Jackson/The Times

Now nearly six years in operation, the Escalon Youth Center recently gained a new manager, with Nathan Haley taking on that role earlier this year.

The center, 1328 Escalon Ave., at the corner of Escalon and Yosemite avenues, was formally dedicated and opened in mid-August of 2016. It offers a place for local teens to go for a chance to socialize, get some homework help, buy snacks, play basketball, video games, pool and more.

Haley, who lives in Ceres, said it was a chance meeting with Pastor Arney Corbin of Trinity Church – both involved in a project in Turlock – that started the discussions regarding the need for a center manager.

“I was in between jobs at the time,” said Haley, who previously worked in tech support for 10 years.

The discussion went well and Haley came to Escalon to get a look at the center and learn more about the operation. From there, he made the move in to the position.

“We just made it official a few weeks ago,” he said of taking over as the manager.

He said the philosophy behind the Youth Center – giving kids a safe place to be – is something he can appreciate and was the goal for the late Jim Davis, former pastor at Trinity, who had the initial vision for the center.

“I’m loving it and the kids keep coming back,” Haley said.

The Youth Center is open Monday through Friday while school is in session, open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Some students from the high school come in on their lunch break; both EHS and El Portal students often come after school.

Last year, there was a trial run with some summer hours but officials don’t anticipate having that option this year.

“We also use the building on Tuesday nights for (church) youth groups,” Haley said.

Former site manager Todd O’Neill continues his work as Youth Pastor with Trinity Church.

“I lean on him a lot for guidance,” noted Haley.

A trio of seventh graders were sipping some drinks and eating snacks on Friday afternoon, April 8.

“I like to relax here and be with friends,” said Athena Quiroz.

For Lizzy Castro, visiting is fun but she also likes playing pool.

“It’s fun to be here with my friends,” added Rachelle Barker.

There are definite guidelines and Haley said they make sure students follow them in order to be able to continue utilizing the center.

Haley also said he is buoyed by a crew of volunteers who help out in a variety of ways.

“My volunteers are awesome,” he said. “They are amazing … this place does not run without them.”

Among those volunteers is Tammy Swanson, who has been helping out for about a year.

“I belong to Trinity Church,” she said of originally getting involved. “I think it’s a great place for the kids to come to hang out.”

Freshman David Rodriguez, playing a game of pool with friends on Friday afternoon, enjoys using the center as well.

“I like the games and the people are nice,” he said.

There is always the need for more volunteers, as well as donations, and the Escalon Youth Center can be reached at 209-691-8191 for more information.

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The pool tables are always a popular spot for teens utilizing the Youth Center in Escalon. Here, freshman David Rodriguez lines up a shot during a game. Marg Jackson/The Times
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Volunteer Tracy Swanson makes sure the snack bar has plenty of items ready for kids to purchase when they stop by the Escalon Youth Center. Marg Jackson/The Times